By Leo Gura - January 22, 2014 | 3 Comments
The essentials you must know about your negative thoughts. By following these techniques you will finally be able to reign those negative thoughts in.
Hey, this is Leo for Actualized.org. Let’s talk about negative thoughts. In this quick self-help segment, I am going to cover negative thoughts, what they are, set your expectations for how they work, and give you some techniques that you can use to cope with them, deal with them, and eliminate them.
Automatic Negative Thoughts
So, starting with negative thoughts or, as many of us call them, “automatic thoughts” – because that’s what they are – what we don’t realize is how many of these thoughts we’re actually having and how unconsciously, spontaneously, and automatically we’re having them throughout our days.
Whether it’s a negative thought about your girlfriend or boyfriend, a negative thought about what somebody did to you while you were driving to work, or a negative thought about having to go to the gym, or a negative thought about what’s going to be happening to you next month when you can’t pay the bills, your mind is really good at taking your greatest fears and projecting them and catastrophizing them. It just creates the worst possible case scenarios and then puts them right before your eyes and flashes them right before you. So, no matter what your greatest fears are in life, the chances are that you’re having a lot of negative thoughts around that fear.
Your Greatest Fear
I do tend to find that it’s one or two main fears. This is probably something like an issue that crept up and kind of stuck with you from childhood or early adulthood. These things tend to be centered around, for example, the fear of failure. Maybe you have a fear of winding up poor and homeless. Maybe you have a fear of not winding up in a good relationship and being lonely and dying miserable and unloved. Maybe you have a fear of really getting rejected by somebody if you put yourself out there, whether it’s in a relationship or a business context. Maybe you have a fear of failure in going and trying some sort of goal and then not succeeding at it and having everybody point fingers at you and say, “Well, we told you so. We told you that you couldn’t do that.” So, you have a fear of failure of that kind of embarrassment or humiliation.
There are many different types of core or fundamental fears, but whatever yours is, it’s going to be like a filter that you look and filter your whole day through. This will tend to happen again and again and again. So, one first step to starting to eliminate negative thoughts is to become very conscious. Become very aware of when you are having negative thoughts and what is the topic that it’s revolving around. I guarantee to you that you’ll be shocked if you have not done this exercise.
Increase Your Awareness
Spend the next three days just being very aware of what it is that you’re thinking. What you might want to do, practically, is just randomly stop for five minutes three times a day and ask yourself, “What am I feeling right now and what am I thinking?” What you’ll notice is that if you’re feeling negatively or if you’re feeling anxious or stressed or worried or overwhelmed, there’s an associated thought with that and that thought is going to be some sort of negative automatic thought that you might not have even realized that you were having.
It might be something like, “Well, I’m feeling overwhelmed right now and the reason I’m feeling that way is because I’m thinking that I have a hundred things that I need to do before the end of the week and if I don’t do that, then something bad will happen.” That’s usually where your subconscious mind will fill in that blank with your worst imaginable fear. You might think, “Well, if I don’t get all this stuff done this week, then I might get fired and I might not be able to pay my mortgage and then the bank will repossess my house and then I’ll wind up on the street and I’ll never be able to recover from that and I’ll be homeless and poor for the rest of my life.” So, maybe that’s what your brain is projecting into your mind.
Or maybe it’s something like, “Well, if I don’t get all of this stuff done, then my spouse or my boyfriend or my girlfriend will think less of me and they won’t love me anymore. Maybe they’ll leave me and I’ll not ever be able to replace them and get into a good relationship. So, I’ll wind up alone and miserable and nobody will ever want me because I’m unlovable and not successful in their eyes.” So, maybe it’s something like that.
Become aware of that. Do a little bit of analysis and spend the next three days really tracking your negative thoughts and maybe record them. In fact, make a list of all the negative thoughts that you’re having throughout the next three days and just see what are the categories? Are they based around money? Are they based around relationships and people? Are they based around humiliation or the fear or failure? Are they based around something else, like maybe your diet or how you look or the level of confidence in your life? Maybe they’re based around the things that you think you can and can’t achieve.
Start to notice that because awareness is the first step. Honestly, you’re not going to be able to eliminate your native thinking in a week. That’s not going to happen.
Your Higher vs. Lower Self
All of us have negative thoughts. It’s totally natural. It’s the human condition. Our mind is geared this way.
Our mind really has a lower self and a higher self. The lower self is literally and physically in your brain. You have a reptilian brain. It’s that part of your brain that evolved when there were no humans on Earth. It’s that part of the brain that evolved when we were still just mammals and even more than mammals, when we were really at the reptilian phase. This was millions of years ago.
Then, there was no higher consciousness thinking. There were no ideals such as beauty and excellence and truth. There were no goals. There were just the “fight or flight” response and “survival of the fittest.” In that kind of ecosystem, your reptilian brain, which is the brain stem – the lower part of your brain – really evolved to ensure that your survival is taken care of.
So, when your survival is threatened, everything else in your life shuts off. Nothing else can take priority. You can’t honor values and goals like beauty, honesty, love, truth, and excellence and act towards them in your life if you’re worried about your physical survival, for example. Additional examples include the worry that you’re going to be humiliated and ostracized and the worry that you’re not going to be loved.
These fundamental fears are grounded in your reptilian brain, but nothing is more powerful than your prefrontal cortex and your mammalian and human brain. The prefrontal cortex is where you get your conscious thought form and there, we have these bigger ideals. We have these goals. We have these visions for ourselves. We have this amazing life that we want to live. We have the contribution that we want to make to the world.
Quieting the Reptilian Brain
However, to actually honor that in your life, what you need to do is kind of quiet your reptilian brain and make sure that your reptilian brain is mellowed out, calm, and not too overstressed. That means taking a look at the negative thoughts that you’re having. It’s not going to be that easy to recondition your reptilian brain to stop having these negative thoughts because you have a lifetime of history of having these negative thoughts. You have these negative thoughts habits that you really need to reshape and then, of course, even then, your reptilian brain is still always going to be very sensitive to any kind of dangers in your environment or perceived dangers.
So, the way to start is through awareness, but then, of course, you can build in habits that will help you to reshape your negative thought patterns. One way to do this is to do affirmations. I have other videos that talk about how to do affirmations effectively. There are some important tips about how to do affirmations, but doing just five or 10 minutes of affirmations in the morning is a really effective way to eliminate negative thoughts.
Another way to eliminate negative thoughts is with meditation. Meditation is all about quieting the mind and shutting off all of that chitter chatter that’s going on – especially the negative chitter chatter – and just quieting your mind and being happy in the moment. I have other videos to talk about really how to do meditation effectively as well. Setting up a meditation habit can be a really powerful strategy for eliminating negative thoughts.
Other ways to eliminate negative thoughts are to have something creative that you’re doing in your life. Have your life not be focused on yourself, but be focused on other people. It’s not in the sense that you’re a Mother Theresa type of person, but in the sense that there’s something that you want to contribute and something that you’re doing that’s outside of yourself.
So, maybe you are really interested in some sort of cause, like you have a charity that you’d really like to contribute to and that’s important to you. Maybe your family is your cause. Maybe your work is your cause. Maybe your church or some other organization is your cause. Maybe you’re a scientist and your cause is to discover something new and to add something to humanity and do something positive. Maybe you’re an inventor and you want to create something that’s going to help people out. Maybe you’re an entrepreneur and you want to make some sort of business that’s going to have a positive impact on the world.
Focus on that rather than just sitting alone in your room, dwelling on yourself and your own thoughts. That tends to be just a negative spiral and pit of despair that you go down, whereas if you start focusing your attention outwardly and you start giving and focusing on what you can be doing, then, all of a sudden, you reverse that trend and you start moving upward.
So, those are my thoughts on negative thoughts. Negative thoughts are really a pernicious thing and you want to start to get a handle on them. It is a deep topic and there are a lot of more advanced techniques that I cannot share with you in this quick self-help segment. I’m going to refer you to my site for those.
I’m going to wrap up here. So, go ahead and share your comments. I want to hear what you guys think about this. Please “like” this and share this. Then, of course, check out Actualized.org for more advanced personal development videos, just like this, where we talk about issues like mastering your emotions, success, personal development, mastering your negative thoughts, and all the different techniques involved with meditation, journaling, and various exercises to get this part of your life really handled. You can subscribe to a free newsletter there that will give you all the exclusive free updates that I do on Actualized.org on a weekly basis.