How to Banish Negative Thoughts

Who doesn’t have negative thoughts now and then? But what if you had a negative thought which was pervasive and constant? Would you know how to get rid of it? Fortunately, there are many methods available to get rid of incessant negative chatter in our heads.

Here is an effective step-by-step process that will work if you use it regularly. As our ongoing example in this process, we’ll use the negative thought, “I’m too dumb to do anything right.”

  1. Turn the thought into a mental image. Imagine looking and acting completely silly. Create the most exaggerated image of yourself you can. Start by envisioning yourself in ridiculous clothes that don’t match.
    • Maybe you’re also banging your head against the wall or doing other foolish things. You could also be shouting silly phrases that don’t make any sense. The image should be clearly visible on your mental screen. Include sounds, smells, and physical sensations as well. Keep at this until the original thought brings up this new image.
  2. Choose an alternative thought. For our example, a good replacement thought would be, “I’m so intelligent I can do anything.”Choose something that is the opposite of the original negative thought. Select a phrase that feels right to you, through your whole body.
  3. Turn the new, positive thought into a mental image.You might imagine yourself dressed like Albert Einstein, shouting, “I’m brilliant. I can do anything.” Again, make the image outrageous. Keep at it until the positive thought automatically brings up that image.
  4. Link the two images together. Now, imagine a way to get from your negative image to your positive image. This is almost like you’re the director of a movie; you want to find a way to connect the opening and the closing scenes.
  • Perhaps in the first scene, you could imagine the image of the “dumb” version of yourself being struck by lightning and catching on fire. Then the new, Albert Einstein version of you rises from the ashes and goes into his “I’m brilliant. I can do anything”routine.
  • Keep practicing until you run the entire scene in your mind quickly, with no hitches. This should take fewer than 2 seconds from start to finish.
  • Test out your new mental connections. When you think the original negative thought, the entire scene should flash through your mind. Your mental process should end with the moment where you’re thinking, “I’m so brilliant. I can do anything.” If you’re not there yet, repeat Step 4 until you are.

Although this may seem silly to you, this is a common mnemonic technique. The imagery must be outrageous. This makes your memory’s work much easier.

Also, play around with the perspective. Most people find it helpful to view everything in the third person, as if they were spectators watching themselves in a movie. But you may prefer imagining things from a first-person perspective, in which everything happens to you, as it would in everyday life. Try both perspectives to determine which works better for you.

If you systematically deal with all your negative thoughts, you’ll eventually find that you have very few left. Imagine how your life could change! What might you do that you’ve always been too afraid to try? Now you’ll have the courage to do just that.

7 Ways to Get Unstuck

Everybody experiences rough patches in life. Perhaps you had a less-than-ideal childhood or endured challenging situations as an adult. If letting go of your past has been difficult, living in the present will bring more joy and fulfillment to your life and set you up for a brighter future.

Regardless of your past experiences, you have the ability to move forward and begin living in the present. Admittedly, this will require some time and effort, but you can practice any time you like.

Try these suggestions to inspire your desire to stay in the moment:

1. Accept the past. Whatever the situation that has you stuck, now’s the time to make peace with it. The event has already happened.

• Maybe it was something you couldn’t control. Perhaps you were a victim or survivor. Or maybe you made a mistake. How did the situation make you feel at the time? How do you feel about it now? Once your feelings are clear to you, you can move forward.

2. Recognize that your past doesn’t define you. We’ve all heard people who’ve experienced a challenging event say, “It’s made me who I am.” If taking that stance works for you and you can move on with your life, that’s great. If not, know that the situation doesn’t have to make you who you are.

• You have the power to define your own existence. From now on, you can be whomever you choose.

3. Let go. Allow thoughts and feelings about the situation to float away. Use visualization to imagine a large black balloon filled with the troublesome event. Let that situation and your feelings float away from your world.

4. Take a detailed look at your life. Do you live where you want to live? Are you doing the kind of work you want to do? Maybe you’ve spent enough time wishing, hoping and researching. On the other hand, maybe when you examine your existence, you’ll realize you already have all the elements of a great life.

5. Right now, start to create the life you want. If you’ve already got what you want, great! You’ll have less work to do. If you’re unsure, read on.

• We’ve all heard a story about how someone saved the good china to use for special occasions. Years passed, the china stayed in the cupboard, and guess what? The china wasn’t ever used. No occasion was ever gauged as “special” enough.

• Do you regard your life in the same way? Are you waiting for the future to come so you can live in the place of your dreams, pursue your beloved goals and take part in the activities you want to do? There’s no time like the present to live the life you want.

6. Immerse yourself in each moment. Regardless of the list of things you have to do, spend your moments fully engaged in whatever you’re doing right now. You’ve probably experienced the frustration and irritation of being involved in one activity while you’re actually thinking about another task or activity you need to complete.

• Make a special effort to focus on whatever’s going on at any given time. If you’re watching a movie, totally focus on the plot, scenes and characters. If you’re working on a project for work, screen out everything else and put your all into it.

7. Consciously connect with your emotions. Examine how you feel. Are you energized? Is your mood melancholy? How do you feel about what you’re doing right now? Increase awareness of your own emotions throughout the day as you go from task to task. Living in the present means living consciously.

When you live in the present, you’ll enjoy your life more. So wherever you are, be there in body, mind and soul.

When you allow yourself to feel however you do about an event, task or situation, you’re acknowledging to yourself you deserve the time to live your life to its fullest. Learning to live in the present will empower you to experience the fulfilling life you desire.

Perfection vs. Excellence

There’s a huge difference between doing something well and doing it perfectly. Attempting to be perfect can bring on feelings of inadequacy and even interfere with completing important projects. Excellence, on the other hand, is attainable and is always more than good enough.

Eliminate the idea of perfection from your life and you’ll see your productivity soar. For example, a poorly written, but complete, book can still be published. But a perfectly composed book that’s only half finished is essentially worthless. Of course, there’s a middle ground between poor and perfect. And that terrain includes excellence.

The problem with perfection is that it can never be truly attained. So, in pursuing perfection, not only are you doomed to fail, but in the end, you also might have nothing to show for your efforts.

The Law of Diminishing Returns

Apply the Law of Diminishing Returns to striving for perfection:

Imagine if you spent 25 hours on a two-page paper for a college class. Would you get an A? I would certainly hope so, but what else may have suffered because of it? What about your other classes and obligations? Maybe instead you could have done something enjoyable.

The other thing to consider is this: could you have gotten an A with two hours of work? Or five? From a practical standpoint, the same results can often be attained with much less time and effort. There is nothing to be gained by spending more time on something than truly needed.

If you spent six hours washing and waxing your car and your neighbor spent two hours on his, do you think anyone could tell the difference a week later? More importantly, what else could you have accomplished with those extra four hours? Life is short, and there’s a lot to do. What else could you do with your time besides trying to be perfect?

Pursuing Excellence Instead

Of course, you’ll want to decide on the level of excellence you wish to attain before getting started on a project. Everything you do should have standards that you strive to attain. If you choose your benchmark of completion properly, there’s never a good reason to go beyond that point.

What exactly is excellent, anyway? In our discussion, excellent means that the task was completed at a high enough level that there’s no cause for concern. You know your work will meet whatever requirements are put upon it. Regardless of the nature of the task, you know that it’s done well enough and you have zero concerns about it.

When deciding how well a project really needs to be done, consider the possible outcomes if the task is completed at various levels of quality. Obviously, a surgical instrument requires a much higher level of quality than a spoon.

Once the proper level has been set, you now have a target, a goal that’s been chosen with some thought and intelligence. Now, simply perform the task to that level and stop. That task is completed, and it’s time to do something else.

Giving up a habit of pursuing perfection might seem challenging. However, you’ll be happier, more productive, and you’ll maintain your sanity much more easily by striving for excellence instead. Focus on exceeding expectations. In terms of time, quality, and productivity, excellence always wins in the end.

Create a Vision for Your Life Today

You’ve probably heard that you can only get where you want to be if you know where you’re going. This pithy statement is as true now as the first time it was said. So how do you come to know where you’re going, so you can get where you want to be?

To start with, goals are crucial. When we set goals, what we’re really trying to do is to bring each piece of our lives in line with our overall vision for ourselves. Using a powerful vision-setting process can help you set more effective goals, since you can chart a course that will take you toward and support your vision.

Do you have a vision for each segment of your life? Do you know where you’re headed spiritually, socially, relationally, physically, financially, and more?

Use this process to help you create a vision that works for you:

    1. Write down your vision for a particular aspect of your life. Write a couple of paragraphs describing what you’d like to have or be. There’s no right or wrong. In fact, you probably won’t precisely articulate your dreams the very first time you try the exercise. A reasonable guess is a good place to start.
      • In writing your vision, avoid focusing on what you don’t want, because this will only bring about more of that. Turn your back on negativity and focus on what you do want to bring about.
      • For example, if you want more money: Avoid wording your statement like: “I don’t want to be poor anymore.” Instead, envision what it would be like to be rich, which is what you want, and write about what that would be like for you.
      • Although you may feel challenged when first learning to focus on what you want, it gets easier. Plus, the rewards are spectacular when you can do it consistently. You’ll start to notice that your life seems as if you can change it at will, which you can.
    2. Visualize. Read your vision statement 2-3 times a day and imagine that aspect of your life matches your vision perfectly. How does your vision make you feel? Are you really excited and enthusiastic? Is it appealing to you on all levels? This shouldn’t take more than 60 seconds to do each time.
    3. Refine. If you feel really good about your vision, that’s great. If not, now is the time to make some alterations. Continue refining the image of your dream life until doing your visualization feels spectacular. Re-write each new version.
      • At this point, you may be wondering when this process ever ends. Fortunately, it never ends. Your vision will forever be changing slightly throughout your life, which is good, since your desires will also change over time.

Review your vision daily and ensure that it continues to attract you. This will rapidly usher change into your life. In turn, these changes will demonstrate that you’re actually moving towards that vision.
Create separate vision statements for all the areas of your life. Consider your finances, relationships, adventure, health, social life, and spirituality. If you can get all these visions to look just the way you want, imagine what your life will look like!

 

Why Spend Time On This Process?

Consider all the things you do every day. Everything you do is either helping you reach your vision or helping someone else reach theirs. Wouldn’t you rather help yourself reach yours?
Creating a vision is the first step to creating the life you desire. Tweak your visions a couple of times a day and really focus on the experience of living that vision. This gets easier all the time, because imagining something enjoyable is pleasurable in itself.

Don’t hesitate; create your visions today. Then, start reviewing and improving them immediately. Your life will change rapidly for the better. You’ll then be spending your time making your own visions a reality instead of making someone else’s dream come true.

Manage Self-Talk and Improve Your Life

Self-talk is an integral constant in your life. You start talking to yourself when you wake up in the morning and don’t stop until you fall asleep at night. Who would’ve thought you had so much to say? Right? But you do!

When self-talk is positive and helpful, amazing things can happen. When self-talk is negative, life can be much more challenging than it has to be.

Like much of who you are, your style of self-talk is a habit that has been molded by your experiences and environment. Imagine how your life could change for the better if you were able to alter your self-talk into something more supporting and encouraging.

You can start living that life today! Just follow these simple steps to get started:

1. Make a list of your negative self-talk phrases and attitudes. For 24 hours, record everything you say to yourself that isn’t supportive, regardless of whether or not you think it’s true. Here are a few examples to get you thinking:

• “He would never want to talk to me.”
• “I’m not good enough for that.”
• “I could never do that.”
• “Things will never get better.”

2. Prioritize your list. Which items have the greatest negative impact on your life and your sense of happiness? Put the list in order, from greatest negative impact to least.

• Prioritizing is important because it will naturally force you to spend your time on the most important items.

3. Create a new list. Now that you’ve made your list, you’re going to improve it. Convert at least the first 10 items on your list into positive thoughts. If you’re feeling motivated, you can rewrite as many more as you like.

Even if you don’t believe the new, positive idea, just change it into a positive version. For example, “I could never do that” changes to, “I can do anything I set my mind to.”

4. Change your thinking. Now, for the challenging part. Each time you catch yourself engaging in self-talk matching an item from your list, substitute the new self-talk expression.

• Be diligent at all times. Considering how many times you may have said the negative item to yourself, this new practice will require a lot of attention. The good news is that over time, the positive things you say to yourself will become a habit, too!

5. Move further down the list. After you’ve conquered the 10 most negative items, look at the list and consider how it would improve your life to change those remaining negative self-talk items. You may have formed such positive habits with your first 10 items that the rest of them might not really be applicable anymore!

Self-talk will always be there, so it will benefit you to exercise some control over it. Anything you hear over and over again, you start to believe. That’s the way our minds work.

The first step to gaining that control is to monitor your thoughts and feelings. Then the necessary steps can be taken to change it for the better. As with all habits, these self-talk patterns can be challenging to change, but doing so will really boost your happiness. Get started today!