You wake up in the morning but you are rushing because you snoozed for the last hour. The night before, you planned on getting up early, drinking some cucumber and lemon water, stretching, walking the dog, and having time to get ready for yoga. That snooze button just was too easy and the bed was too comfortable to get out of. Yoga is in 20 minutes so you rush out of bed, eat a piece of toast, don’t even brush your hair or teeth, and basically throw clothes on and rush out the door. Already, you are anxious because you have 10 minutes to get to class before it starts. You are upset because you planned to have a good morning and to start it off right but that dang snooze button got the best of you! On the drive, you are talking so negatively about yourself and upset that you didn’t just get up. You get to class with 1 minute to spare and to your luck, the only spot left is in the very front and center of the class. GREAT just to my luck this would happen! The negative thoughts start creeping in… “This is going to suck,” “What if I get sick and can’t lay down,” What if I can’t keep up with the entire class since I haven’t been in a month,” ” I am front and center so I have to keep up or else I will look weak,” “I work here so I have to be a good yoga role model to the other students and to the ones online,” “I am scared I won’t do well,” “I am so mad about myself for not getting up earlier to get in a different spot.” The mind is going wild with so much negative thinking before the class has even started.
Instead of continuing this negative thinking and letting this mindset completely ruin the next 75 minutes of this hot yoga class, you make a huge shift in your thoughts! You start to look in the mirror and tell yourself, “I got this,” “I am strong,” “I don’t have to be perfect,” “I am thankful I made it to the mat,” “I showed up and didn’t fully bail on class,” “I just have to breathe and take it a step at a time,” and just like that…..you feel strong, brave, happy, excited, and you take on the entire 75 minute class like a rock star! What a concept right? If we switch our negative thoughts and start speaking positive affirmations then it can completely transform how you feel about a situation.
Does this happen to you? Do you have moments before going into a situation and you completely already talk yourself out of it before you even had a chance to attempt? This happens to me A LOT! I don’t know if it stems from my anxiety, depression, or lack of self-confidence and trust in good things to actually happen. Along the way, there have probably been situations in your life where you have been let down. Instead of letting yourself down without fully knowing the situation yet, you tell yourself that it already isn’t going to work, so no big deal. This can be a defense mechanism and a reaction to replaying past events and worrying about the future. Unfortunately, these negative thoughts really take a toll and can hold you back from enjoying life experiences, distract you from focusing on what’s really important, make you feel anxious and depressed, and drain your energy.
1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Cognitive behavior therapy or CBT is a psychological treatment that can be effective for a range of problems including depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol, and drug use problems, marital problems, eating disorders, and severe mental illness. CBT helps you manage stress and anxiety by learning relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, coping self-talk, identifying situations that are often avoided and gradually approaching feared situations. This type of therapy is focused on present problems and is works with problem-orientated situations. A great resource to find a therapist in your area that does CBT is searching on Psychology Today online.
Cognitive Therapy Exercise:
(My Psychology teacher gave us this example of what a Cognitive Therapy Exercise looks like so feel free to answer these questions for your own personal reflection)
- I often worry that I _____
- What’s the worst thing that could possibly happen? What do you fear most of all?
- When you think the worst thing that could happen, do you really think that it’s likely to happen? If so, How could you learn to cope with it?
- I accept myself even though I ____ (do not use the word “am”)
2. Recognizing where your thought distortions are coming from
When you can recognize the core of where these negative thoughts stem from then it can be very beneficial. We tend to tell ourselves these stories of things that are really not true and these inaccurate thoughts can reinforce negative thinking. When we can really recognize them then we can challenge them.
- Personalizing: Assuming you are to blame for anything that goes wrong. When someone doesn’t say hello to you in the morning at work and you feel that it is your fault and you must have done something to upset him/her. When really, it is more likely that person is having a hard morning and it has nothing to do personally against you.
- Black and white thinking: Seeing things as one way or another with no in between.
- Filter thinking: Choosing to see only the negative of a situation
- Catastrophizing: Assuming the worst possible outcome is going to happen.
References: Psychology Today
3. Questioning your thoughts
We tend to make up stories in our heads and these stories become what we think is true. When we can step back and look at a different perspective then we can try to see the full picture and defuse the negative thoughts. If a good friend was telling you a story how would you react to what they were telling you? Try to put yourself in someone’s shoes and see if that can help.
- Is this thought true?
- Is this thought important?
- Is this thought helpful?
4. Separate from negative thoughts
It is important to try and take breaks from negative thoughts and put in positive ones instead. I know this can be difficult and honestly it really takes practice, patience, self-awareness, and time. Take control of your thoughts and allow yourself a few minutes with the thought but then take a break and start focusing on something positive. When we spend too much time on these negative thoughts then they can completely take over and consume us, to the point we start to believe they are actually true.
5. Let go of the judgment!
I know it can be so easy to judge ourselves and put ourselves down without even realizing it. I feel like it is even harder now a days because of social media and social comparison. This happens to me especially while scrolling through my Instagram feed! I see how people are handling their Instagram for blogs and think wow mine sucks, it could be so much better! These people get to travel the world, ugh, I will never get to do that! I will never be that skinny! I feel so fat! I won’t ever get that promotion! I feel like all of us do this without even realizing sometimes and this can have a huge impact on your negative thought patterns. When you start to have these thoughts recognize your reaction to them, observe it, and then let it go. Another way, is when you are noticing you are judging yourself or someone else in a negative light then start to look for a positive quality as well.
Practicing gratitude is by far one of the biggest helps when it comes to negative self-talk. I highly recommend meditation, writing in a journal, and yoga. These three things have helped me so much because you get time with yourself to really take a step back and be with your thoughts. You actually feel your breath and your heart beat. I always feel so grateful to even be alive and to be able to breathe. It’s those little things that can really put everything in perspective and help you see the bigger picture.
7. Starting the day with affirmations
I work at a yoga studio and one of the students I talk to could feel that I was very stressed. I was very stressed, overwhelmed, and exhausted. The next day, she gave me a note card with these journal prompts and affirmations and told me to give it a try. At first, I was like how will I have time to do this first thing in the AM? As we heard above I LOVE to snooze my alarm and usually am running late. What if I got up a little earlier and spent 5 min or less answering these questions? Well, I did and let me tell you it really did set the tone for the day and I encourage you to give them a try!
8. Focus on what your strengths are
I know it can be difficult to focus on what you are good at and especially because you don’t want to sound conceded. But let me tell you, it is okay to talk good about yourself and be confident! It is human nature to dwell on the negative and overlook the positive sometimes, but the more you practice focusing on your strengths and how to move forward then the easier it will be to feel positive about yourself. Sometimes, we look into the past and can be upset of how we handled situations, who we surrounded ourselves with, and any thing that has happened that has made us feel less then. I know it is easier said then done but you have to forgive yourself and know that you made that decision for a reason. Every single life decision happens for us and leads us on the right path. When we can be more self-aware and think, “I put myself in that situation because I didn’t have the healthy coping skills as a teen and that is the way I got by.” Sometimes, we didn’t know better or maybe didn’t even have a choice. That is okay! Love every single inch of you and your heart.
I want you to know that I am posting this because I have a really hard time with negative thought patterns. I don’t even realize how much I am negative but I am a lot. The other day, I was driving to the dog park with my Husband and I said, “I really have to go to the bathroom.” He said, “There is a bathroom there we will be there soon.” and then I said “No, they are probably closed because of COVID.” See what I did? I didn’t even wait until we got there to actually see and instead already made up my mind that they were closed! Did I do this to protect myself in case there really wasn’t and I peed my pants? Probably! There are a lot of situations like that where I always shut things down right away without giving it a chance. I know that this will take effort and practice and honestly will probably be a forever thing to work on. The thing is, if we can work at it little by little and realize that we are doing this and why then that makes all the difference. I would love to hear your thoughts below and I really hope this helps!
Love & Light,