I have always been drawn to top 10 lists of any topic. You know David Letterman’s Top 10 or the Top 10 Reasons lists. I can easily wrap my head & heart around something if it’s distilled into a short list of actionable items. We are all moving fast both in our lives & in our heads, so here is a top 10 list of ways to handle your Stinkin’ Thinkin’.
First let’s define what is Stinkin’ Thinkin’?
It’s that noise in your head that runs like a ticker tape all day long. The thoughts that keep you awake at night. In fact, the newest information explains that each of us have between 2500 and 3500 thoughts per day, each from 12 to 14 seconds long. Stinkin’ Thinkin’, otherwise known as thinking negative thoughts, is a common but unhelpful pastime. Did your Mom ever tell you, “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything? She was right and talking nicely also applies when you’re talking to yourself, especially inside your head.
Top 10 Ways to Recognize Your Stickin’ Thinkin’:
1. Self-Awareness: Pay attention to your thoughts so that you can identify those that are distorted. Once the distorted thoughts have been recognized, you can think about them in a more positive and realistic way and begin to turn them around.
2. Look Deeper: Instead of making an assumption that a negative thought holds truth, look for the “proof points” that point you to the positive. For example, if you feel that you never do anything right, try making a list of all the things you have done successfully.
3. Switching It Up: Instead of putting yourself down in a harsh and condemning way, do the complete opposite. Talk to yourself in the same compassionate and understanding way that you would with a friend struggling with a similar problem.
4. Testing, Testing: Perform an experiment to test whether your negative thought is valid or not. For example, if you are afraid of making mistakes, go ahead make a mistake on purpose and see what happens. Did the world come to an end?
5. Half-full vs. Half-empty: Instead of thinking about your problems in an all-or-nothing perspective, evaluate them in a range from 0 to 100. When things don’t work out as well as you had hoped, think of it as a partial success instead of a complete failure. See what you can do to learn from the outcome and work on moving your success number up.
6. Ask for Help: Ask your friends questions to find out if your thoughts, beliefs and attitudes are realistic. For example, if you believe that your anxiety about going out in public is abnormal, ask your friends if they ever feel nervous leaving the house.
7. Self-Labeling Messages: If you give yourself a label like a “fool” a “loser” and “idiot” or anything else unflattering, go one step further and define what that label really means. For example, what is the functions of a “fool”, a “loser”, or an “idiot”? Nobody is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes. Better to label the action rather than the person.
8. A Matter of Semantics: Substitute any language that is unflattering and emotionally charged with more flattering and less charged language. For example, instead of saying “I should not have gone in that direction,” say “it would have been better if I had not gone in that direction”.
9. Avoid Making Assumptions: Instead of making assumptions like you are “bad” and blaming yourself entirely for a problem, think about all the factors that may have contributed to it. Focus on solving the problem instead of using your energy blaming yourself and feeling horrible about it.
10. Advantage vs. Disadvantage: List the advantages and disadvantages of feeling a negative thought. For example, if your doctor is running late, what is the advantage of becoming angry? There isn’t one. Now on top of your doctor running late, you are also angry.
Your brain is a photo album of both positive and negative images and you can treat it as such. Keep the images that lift you up and let go of the ones that tear you down. Imagine all the extra energy and creativity we could muster if we weren’t bogged down by thoughts of doom and gloom.
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Holistic Health & Wellness Coach, CHHC