Tuesday, 26 January 2016

5 ways to eliminate negative thoughts

"Thought is the sculptor who can create the person you want to be" - Henry David Thoreau

I believe it to be very true that whatever thoughts we tell ourselves, we become.

Let's be real, negative thoughts SUCK.

I've struggled with thinking the following:

  • I'm a failure
  • I'm not good enough
  • What's the point?
  • I'm unlovable
  • It's useless

And I know there's many more.

So what do we do when we have negative thoughts flooding our minds and hearts?

I want to share 5 ways we can start to manage our thoughts:

1. See the bigger picture

Expanding our thinking is vital. For example, if we get anxious about an event and start to 
think negatively, we need to take a step back and gain some perspective. Will we still be anxious about it in 4 hours? 4 days? 4 years? 4 decades? When we're 70 years old?

I.e. in school I would get anxious about certain exams, but actually, shifting my perspective to knowing that in 4 months time they would be over, instead I was able to start thinking, 'actually, once it's over it's over, and I want to open my results and be proud of myself, so I may as well work really hard now because I know in 4 months time I'll no longer need to worry...' Kinda make sense? 

2. Find the evidence

Is there actually any grounding to suggest that what we are thinking is true? We cannot over-generalise or over-exaggerate. For example, if we think, 'I'm useless', what evidence is there to imply that this is true?

So much of the time we carry thoughts that society has conditioned us to carry. I.e. we may think that by not achieving bodily perfection then we are useless, we're 'trash', we're insignificant, unlovable etc. Actually, there is and should be no correlation between both  variables. Therefore, is the evidence credible? 

3. Don't over-generalise 

Sometimes, if one niggling negative-thought captures our attention, then this can spiral out of control and have a domino-effect. For example, in a bunch of feedback (whether it's comments on a photo, a school report, presentation critique etc...), we are so quick to pick out the perceived criticism. Actually, we can take on constructive comments, yet we should celebrate what is positive, life-giving and true,

We can't drown ourselves in our thoughts or one negative thought will contiunally lead to many others. We need the mental capacity to pick ourselves back up again; we need to cultivate resilience. We need to own our gifts, our strengths and our talents. We may not be great at one thing, but we can excel at another. 

4. Be compassionate with yourself

I'm sure many of us have had friends who've come to us struggling with feelings of inadequacy. Would we respond to them how we talk to ourselves? I.e would we tell them they're a failure, they're unlovable, they're useless? I'd hope not - because that's rarely ever true. So why do we talk to ourselves like that?

We've must show ourselves compassion - embrace the full reality of our imperfections but 'go easy' as we do so.

5. Translate to the one truth 

Ultimately, if we look through a distorted lens, we start to believe a distorted truth. Therefore we need to ground ourselves in what we know is true. We need to take every thought captive and align it with the one foundational truth that is God's word. 

"Take captive every thought..." (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV) 

We can't change how we think in an instant, its a process and a journey. But it's a journey that starts with awareness. Once we tune into our thoughts, we become more and more aware of how we speak to ourselves. We can then begin the process of fine-tuning how we think.

"Do not conform to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is - his good, pleasing and perfect will." (Romans 12:2 NIV)

Who's with me?

I'll keep you posted.