I will try and give examples, but I’m sure you can find your own examples around this because judging from some of the comments I get from clients everyday most of us are experts in unhelpful thinking. (me included).
We pretty much all do the majority, of our thinking out of our awareness. Positive thinking takes effort and practice!
Black and White Thinking.
So, it’s either good or it’s bad.
‘I had a brilliant day or I had a crap day’
One of the things I always say to clients is that there’s a huge great big grey area in the middle that often we can overlook. The other thing that I think is worth mentioning around this, is that we can have a bad morning and the afternoon be okay. That doesn’t mean that we’ve had a bad day. If you break down your whole day there’s probably only been 10 or 15 minutes that have not been okay, but we tend to group everything together and make it ALL bad ( That’s our often ‘UNHELPFUL BRAIN’ just doing it’s thing)
“I’m not good enough”, the 4am in the morning thoughts that often set us up for a rubbish day!
We can reframe these thought by using ‘Even though’.
‘Even though, I’m not perfect, I can do lots of things’.
So, it’s about looking in that grey area, the in between black and white where we can challenge that black and white thinking.
Another unhelpful thinking style is over generalising.
‘Everything is always rubbish’ and ‘Nothing good ever happens to me’.
Here’s mine, ‘I’ve NEVER liked running’.
I’ve got a real mental block around, running, I can’t do running. I don’t do running!
I know where it stems from too.
A 100 metre race, I did when I was at school that I didn’t enjoy at all. I was rather top heavy, at school, and because I was very well endowed, all the boys decided it would be nice to stand on the finish line and watch me huffing and puffing and they could see all my jiggly bits jiggling around.
That 1 minute is permanently burned in my memory and has put me off ruining for the rest of my life.
I’ve definitely overgeneralised the running situation, my brain has linked all those emotions to running 40 years ago!
The next ‘Unhelpful Thinking Style’ is ‘Using a Mental Filter’ – only paying attention to certain types of evidence and noticing our failures, but not seeing our successes.
This would probably be been more around our ability, so it might be connected with a work situation, a boss might say
‘That was absolutely fantastic! The PowerPoints that you did for the meeting were amazing. The only thing is that maybe you were a little close to the wire as far as timing’.
Using your Mental Filter in an unhelpful way, you wouldn’t notice any of the good things said about it being a brilliant presentation. BUT….The ‘Yeah, it was a bit close to the wire’ would stay with you for more time than was necessary and might even come back to haunt you the next time you are asked to do a presentation.
Our brain is again trying to protect us from the negative emotions so puts presentations in the same place running is under ‘BAD STUFF’. It’s disqualifying the positive, discounting the good things that have happened, or that you have done, for some reason or another they don’t count.
And the next really good one we can do is ‘Jumping to Conclusions’.
This is one thing where I won’t ‘discount my positives’ because I’m really, really good at jumping to conclusions!
Often my son will just open his mouth and two words come out and ‘I JUST KNOW WHERE THIS CONVERSATION IS GOING!’
Or I think I know where this is going.
Sometimes he surprises me.
So it’s presuming we know what’s coming next, Mind Reading, Imagining we know what others are thinking.
Another way of doing this is ‘Fortune Telling’, trying to predict the future. Running through conversations in our head before we have them so we can work out all the different scenario’s. They very rarely work out how we planned them in our head do they?
Jumping to conclusions is very much about whether we’re in the ‘here and now’. If we’re making presumptions or mind reading about something, it’s highly likely we’re trying to predict the future. (Our brain thinks that will keep us safe)
So put your crystal ball down because that’s not going to help, and the other interesting thing about mind reading is that when we ‘think’ we know what others are saying it actually stops us from listening to them fully. It’s easy to get hold of the wrong end of the stick in conversations. Somebody could actually be saying something quite nice about us, but we’ve made an assumption that it’s a negative thing that’s coming.
So what can we do about our negative thinking styles?
Being aware of where our thoughts are.
Understanding that ALL our thoughts are neutral until we give them energy and bring them to life.
Try using the phrase ‘Even though’ at the beginning of a thought.
Even though I think they’re being critical. It might be that they’ve had a bad day.
Even though I feel stressed I can take a break and relax for a while.
If we’re having lots of negative thoughts, we’re going to focus on the negative stuff that we see around us. And if we do that, then it stands to reason that we can do the opposite.
If we notice the positives more, if we set an intention in the morning that today is a new day. Today, I am going to have a positive day and consciously make an effort to look for the positives, whether that’s in all the people around me, my job or my relationship with my children, whatever it is.
Just for a day.
Give yourself a bit of a challenge.
I am going to notice the positives in people, places and things around me, to see if I feel different.
- REMEMBER – Our thoughts create our feelings 100% of the time.