EVERY DAY I REMEMBER TO FOCUS
my thinking on the good things I already have!
PREVIOUS: Negative Thinking (Part 3)
SITE: The science of Happiness (“Happify” Website)
CONSEQUENCES of Negative Thinking (NT) (Cognitive Therapy Guide)
● leads us to assume that any mistake is a failure, which will expose us to criticism/ judgment, like in our family
● causes many personal, health, social & work problems
● tells us we should be able to make big strides quickly & easily, & that since we can’t – we lazy, stupid or hopelessly stuck
● can easily lead to depression, assuming we have to be perfect, & to being trapped by our own unrealistic standards
● can cause anxiety. Because the NTs are so painful we can easily turn to addictions (food, money, sex, alcohol/chemicals, relationships….) to escape
● is an obstacle to personal growth, making any change feel too overwhelming & painful
● it makes it hard to see & acknowledge the small steps in progress we DO make
● prevents us from relaxing and let our guard down – always second guessing ourselves
OUTGROWING – change/modify things that contribute to NT:
● start with AWARENESS of what you’re saying to yourself, what’s causing the ‘stinking thinking’, & the harmful effects it has on your life (& on others)
● if you’re depressed, get the help you need to overcome it
● slowly clear up practical problems that you have some control over (changing college course, job, spouse…., pay off debts, go to 12-Step meetings, do something creative/artistic….)
● try not to actually speak any negative thought (develop personal boundaries instead of giving in to S-H). If you feel the urge to criticize or get angry about something, shift to another topic if you NEED to talk
● accept/believe that positive thinking/speaking is a big plus, personally & socially. It does NOT mean being mushy, drippy, girly, sacrificing your opinions/tastes/values, or never objecting to something ‘wrong’
● slowly become more in touch with emotional aspects of topics you want to talk about with others. Rationally, you may think a subject is ok, but when it’s inherently unpleasant (illness, jail, abuse, death, loss, war, politics, putting anything or anyone down….) it can easily sour the mood of a group, be a buzz-kill or hurt someone’s feelings
● notice how you feel when around another person who’s always a ‘downer’. Be willing to admit if you sound like that, & work on changing your own pattern – from the inside out.
WRITING EXERCISE – Steps to HEALTHIER THINKING
Keep a Thought-Record every day for a few weeks & start to see a change in your thinking. NTs can be spotted more quickly & corrected with better alternatives. #1-6 help to understand the NT, & the last 4 to develop & incorporate better thinking:
1.The situation. Briefly describe a situation you wish you had handled better – so you can review it at another time
EXP: “I made a mistake at work. It made me anxious & reminded me of all the other times I messed”
2. Initial thought. What popped into your head first? Probably an automatic thought that you’ve had many-many before
EXP: “I feel like a failure. If people knew the real me, they wouldn’t like me. I can never do anything right”
3. Thought distortion. Identify the CD behind your initial thought. #2 is a combination of Self-labeling and Disqualifying the positives
4. Source of toxic belief. Trace it back to a situation or person (family , school, religion….) Try to connect with the fear, sadness & hopelessness
EXP: “I can hear mom or dad saying that I’ll never amount to anything,
I’m a failure, a disappointment, dumb….”
5. Challenge your thinking. Stand back from the inner drama & list the pros & cons of your thinking. Have you learned from similar experiences? How do other people handle the same situation? What strengths & experience do you have as well? Make sure you see the whole picture.
EXP: “I’m way too hard on myself but I feel overwhelmed when I try to be perfect. I don’t always succeed, but I do sometimes. People have complimented me on my work”
6. Consider the consequences. What are the short- & long-term results if you continue to think like this? Look at the physical, psychological, professional & emotional one – some which may already have happened
EXP: “I’m damaging my self-esteem. If I continue to think like this it will affect my relationships and possibly my health. I’ll become exhausted.
7. Alternative thinking. 1-6 helps you pay attention to what’s actually going on in your head, & makes you more receptive to corrections. Now you can write down a healthier way of thinking. Get help if needed.
EXP: “I’m being hard on myself. I’m not a failure. I don’t have to succeed at everything. My mistakes can become my lessons, not my downfall. I am capable of modifying & changing my NT.
8. Positive belief & affirmation. Write down the healthier beliefs you want to grow into. In the beginning you’ll have to act-as-if you believe them
Keep repeating all thru your day until they come more naturally.
EXP: “A mistake is not failure. I am successful in many ways. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, & the wisdom to know the difference.”
NOTE – ACoAs get these 2 positions backwards – then wonder why we ‘fail’. Instead – we need to do what we can & NOT what we can’t!
9. Action plan. What action can you take to support your new thinking? Make a point of going to others for positive mirroring & encouragement!
EXP: “The next time I make a mistake, I won’t obsess about it. Instead I’ll focus on what I can learn – if anything – & remind myself of my past successes. I’ll call a sponsor or good friend for reinforcement.
10. Improvement. With repetition, notice if you feel slightly better or more optimistic. Allow yourself to appreciate & validate any improvements – no matter how small. Keep a record so you won’t forget them. This step reinforces the idea that if you change your thinking, you will change your mood & eventually your actions.
NEXT: Parents blaming us