Even in the best of times, many people tend towards negative thinking. In fact, I would venture to guess that the number of individuals who tend to be negative is so large that this is more of a norm than an unusual circumstance. Right now, with the world feeling so dangerous with COVID-19 and social distancing decreasing the number of outlets we have for stress relief it is so easy to allow our brain to spin itself in a never-ending loop of negativity.
So, if this resonates with you, I can assure you that you are not alone. The good news is that you can actually change those negative thoughts. It takes a little practice. It is much like going to the gym or starting a new diet. You have to work out your mind just as you would your body to see the results.
Getting back to that thought you were having when you started reading this. Was it a happy or stressful thought? If it was happy you might not need to keep reading. But if it was stressful here are some activities you can begin doing to change the habit of thinking negative thoughts:
1. Look at the stressful thought as if you are an observer. Get a little curious about the thought. Ask it some questions:
a. Is it prompting you to take action?
b. Is there something you need to do immediately or in the near future to address the thought?
c. Does the thought lack a need for action and is just interfering with your happiness?
If action is required that is great! You can make the phone call, submit the form, buy the toilet paper or whatever else it is that you need to do. But when no action is required, and you keep having the same negative thought it is time to move on to step #2.
2. Challenge and talk to the thought. This may sound silly at first but trust me it works. Imagine you are enjoying a Netflix show and your thoughts go to your fear of COVD-19. This thought popped in your head to try and protect you. You have two options. Most people opt for the first option, a fight or flight response. This causes you to release stress hormones that are not healthy. It tricks your body into thinking it is in a fight or flight situation when you are actually safe. I understand the world isn’t feeling so safe right now but in the moment that you are enjoying the show you are truly safe. What should you do instead? That brings me to option #2. You can thank the thought for reminding you that the world feels crazy right now and let it know that you want to finish enjoying this wonderful show. Again, this takes practice. That thought can be pretty powerful and initially it will keep coming back. But each time you can just reassure the thought that no action needs to be taken and let it know that you are going to continue to watch the show. You can even get tough and tell it to go away and let you enjoy the show. This is strengthening the muscle of your mind and retraining your subconscious mind. What you have is this very moment and if there is no action to be taken you deserve to enjoy it. Your health and happiness depend on it!
3. This one is my favorite. Think of something you love to think about. This might take a moment, but time is something most of us have plenty of right now. Did you come up with something? Perhaps it is a funny memory, vacation spot or favorite hobby? Or maybe it is a special friend, family member or pet? Now really picture whatever it is you are thinking about. Imagine there is a canvas hanging in front of you. Add all the details you can think of to this canvas that represent that happy thought. Use your favorite colors and feel free to add words if you would like. Now brighten up this picture in your mind. Add some fun happy music and stretch this picture out to be bigger by pulling at the corners. Ahh your picture is now complete. I am sure it is beautiful! Put a big smile on your face and take a deep breath in as you really stare at this picture.
How did that feel? When you experience joy even if it was only for a minute you release feel good hormones. As you experience the reward of feeling good you are again retraining your brain.
This may initially feel or sound like a lot work. But I can assure you that sending your body into a fight or flight response when you are actually safe takes a much bigger toll on your body and robs you of the happiness you deserve to experience.
Creating a new habit takes some practice but the reward is so big.
We at MCAD would like you to know we are here for you.
If you would like to learn more about these activities or set up a virtual coaching appointment, please contact Jaimy Blazynski at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Stay home, stay healthy and work on the exercises above to help you keep calm.