You’re going along, living your life, and feeling pretty good about it when – BAM! A negative thought weasels its way into your brain, triggering a downward spiral of negative self-talk. Now, you feel hopelessly lost in the sea of negativity.
What do you do?
Before I dive into that, I want to talk about what negative self-talk or negative thoughts look possibly like.
Negative thinking is a thought process where people tend to find the worst in everything, or reduce their expectations by considering the worst possible scenarios. This approach can allay disappointment in some situations; but, negative thinking tends to manifest into a pattern that can cause tremendous stress, worry, or sadness over time. (Source)
You’re having a good day – all the lights were green when you were running late; the cake you were making turns out perfectly. Then it happens – someone makes an offhand comment that wasn’t intended to be negative; the icing for the cake doesn’t spread right. That’s when the first thought pops up. “This doesn’t look as pretty as I want it to.” Then it begets another thought. “It’s not right.” Then that snowballs into an avalanche of negativity. “I can do nothing right. I’m such a loser. Nobody likes me.”
The spiral has started.
Here are 3 strategies I use to “talk back” to the negative self-talk.
1. Say “No.”
Tell that negative voice “No, that’s not true” because the reality is that you are not what your thoughts say you are. (“Stupid” is a common thought.) The situation is whatever. (“That was a stupid decision” vs “I’m such a stupid person.”)
2. Practice Mindfulness
Mindfulness in its totality has to do with the quality of awareness that a person brings to everyday living. Learning to control your mind, rather than letting your mind control you. Mindfulness is the process of observing, describing, and participating in reality in a non-judmental manner, in the moment and with effectiveness.
Take a moment to Observe, Describe, and Particpate. Take a walk and be in the moment. Don’t fret over the future or the past. Be aware of your feeling about where you are (e.g. a park, a neighborhood, etc.), or your thoughts about your location, or the sensation of each foot striking the ground.
You can practice mindfulness anywhere you are just by showing up in the moment and observing, describing, and participating. And don’t worry if it “doesn’t work” the first time. It is a practice, after all.
3. Radically Accept
What does it mean to “Radically Accept”? It means that your acceptance is complete and total. It means that acceptance is in the mind, heart, and body. It’s when you stop fighting reality, stop throwing tantrums b/c reality isn’t going the way you want it to go, and start letting go of bitterness.
Here is what to be accepted:
- Reality is as it is
- There are realistic limitations on the future for everyone
- Everything has a cause
- Life can be worth living even with painful events in it.
One big reason to accept reality is that the path out of hell is through misery. By refusing to accept that fact, you fall back into hell.
Don’t get discouraged if the “magic of positivity” doesn’t work the first time you practice it. I have been practicing these skills – and many others – for over a year now and still have times where the magic doesn’t happen.