Posted: December 13, 2012
How to change your stinky thinking
Embracing a positive mindsetBy Teri Karjala
In my profession as a mental health therapist, I come into contact with many people who have adopted a "glass half empty" mindset. When many of my clients begin seeing me, they truly believe that nothing is possible and are plagued by an overpowering sense of hopelessness. The rewarding part of my job is in helping them change their perspective. I love watching them transform as they gradually begin fostering a "can-do" mentality. This change in perspective not only brings a renewed sense of hope to their lives, but also a newfound joy in living.
The fact that objective events in life can be viewed in such distinctly different ways begs the question of how one comes to adopt an attitude of seeing the worst in every situation or constantly seeing the glass as half empty. Most of us have been in this state-of-mind at one time or another and that may have initially been due to a traumatic or unpleasant experience. However, this state-of-mind often continues to perpetuate itself through our own negative thought processes. These negative thought processes keep us stuck, constantly reliving old emotions and past events.
The thought processes I am referring to are also commonly called negative self-talk and usually involves berating yourself, others, or the world as a whole. Regular thinking in this way can create biological changes within your brain and body that further perpetuate this cycle and can cause others to see you as a "Debbie Downer." (Check out my Debbie Downers article.)
We have all been around the “Debbie Downers” and have even been impacted by them. Research supports that in many cases just spending time with a person who is depressed can cause you to also begin exhibiting the symptoms and characteristics of depression.
The danger in negative thinking or self-talk is that it impacts all aspects of our relationships as well as our performance at work and physical well-being. Yet it is silent, in the sense that others may not know our internal struggles. We can beat ourselves up anytime and anywhere with little to no detection. These thoughts become our reality.
The National Science Foundation estimates that the average person thinks 12,000 to 50,000 thoughts a day. According to Dr. Joe Dispenza, "the brain processes 400 billion bits of information a second, but we are only aware of 2,000 of those." How does this happen? Our senses are constantly sending information to our brain, which then filters the information based on what it has determined to be important. This means that the brain will see the world as it has been trained to by filtering all information down to supporting evidence of what it already believes to be true.
By Dr. Dispenza's reasoning we may all be looking at the world in a skewed way based on our prior beliefs and thought distortions. Evidence of thought distortions (positive or negative) include the following:
• All-or-nothing thinking
• Rejecting or disqualifying the positive
• Unfavorable comparisons
• Should (musts/oughts) statements
• Fairytale fantasies
• Labeling and mislabeling
• Dwelling on the negative
• Making feelings facts
If you find that you have some thought distortions that are negatively impacting your view of the world and wreaking havoc on your life there are steps that you can take to reshape your perspective.
How to Change Your Stinky Thinking:
C.R.A.F.T (Cancel, Replace, Affirm, Focus, and Train) was developed by Dr. Maxwell Maltz and is a very effective tool to reshape your thinking. 1) Cancel: state "cancel that thought" aloud 2) Replace: the negative thought with a positive affirming idea 3) Affirm: the new positive thought or idea by saying it out loud, i.e., "I am smart enough and talented enough to achieve." 4) Focus: visualize yourself achieving the positive end result of that achievement. 5) Train: do this consistently to create the desired changes in your belief systems and life.
Other Helpful Tips:
Create a thought log, charting negative thoughts, to really see what kinds of thoughts you are primarily thinking.
Surround yourself with “positive” people.
Create/say positive affirmations every a.m. and p.m.
Create a meditation practice/deep breathing
Find “gifts” in every “crisis.” (I try to find at least three. You’ll be surprised how this will shift your thinking.)
Give and receive compliments (when receiving do not negate the positive, simply accept and say, “Thank you.")
Use Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). See my EFT article.
Log your victories.
And at the end of it all, remember:
“We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts, we make the world.”
Teri Karjala is a licensed professional counselor and marriage and family therapist. She can be reached directly at: firstname.lastname@example.org.