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.

Body Language: Speak Volumes Without Saying a Word

Believe it or not, most communication is nonverbal. Are you really saying what you think you’re saying? If you often find that people misunderstand you, perhaps your body language is communicating different thoughts than what your voice is saying!

Adjusting your body language can strengthen your communications and help you make a better impression in all kinds of social and professional settings. Facial expressions, hand gestures, and posture all communicate certain meanings. When your body language agrees with your words, what you say is much more powerful.

Whether you wonder what messages you’re sending with your body language or you just want some tips to brush up on your communication skills, here are some techniques you can try.

General Principles

  1. Match up your body and speech. To appear authentic, you want your body language and speech to be consistent. If you’re telling someone you enjoyed the date but you’re anxiously rubbing your forehead, you’ll create some doubts.
  2. Mirror others. When people are on the same page, they naturally start mimicking each other’s expressions and movements. You can make it easier to connect with people by doing this intentionally. Do this sparingly, though; too much mirroring and your efforts will start to look like a comedy routine.

  3. Double check your assumptions. As you become more knowledgeable about nonverbal messages, keep in mind that different causes can produce the same behavior. You may want to use additional cues to discern their real meaning.
  • For example, if someone is looking around the room while you talk, they may be bored with what you’re saying. Or they may be too tired to concentrate on anything. Or maybe they’re especially interested in the interior decorating! Asking them questions can lead you to the correct meaning of their body language.

Adjustments for Your Head

  1. Make eye contact. While there are cultural differences, subtle eye contact is often interpreted as being friendly and honest. Look people in the eye when you’re first introduced. As someone is talking, meet their eye from time to time to show interest, while also looking away for appropriate intervals to avoid staring.
  2. Hold your head up. Looking at the ground all the time may give people the impression you’re depressed or trying to avoid them. Keeping your head up enables you to look more approachable.
  3. Nod judiciously. Nod your head slightly to let someone know they have your attention and you agree with what they’re saying.
  4. Smile. A smiling face is your best asset, whether you’re at a job interview or trying to resolve a family conflict. Our relationships become more harmonious when we reassure people that we like them. Smiling is a primary way to do this.

Adjustments for Your Body

  1. Work on your hand shake. Palm to palm contact is the most important ingredient in your handshake. Ask a friend for their feedback to ensure your handshake sends the message you want.
  2. Control your hand gestures. Hand gestures can reinforce what you’re saying and make your presentations more effective. Make your gestures with confidence so you look composed and engaged.
  3. Stand straight and relaxed. Good posture has important health and social benefits. Press your navel against your lower back, open your chest and relax your shoulders. You’ll come across as open and self assured.
  4. Keep your arms and legs open. Crossing your arms and legs can seem defensive and distant. If you often adopt this position because your office is chilly, try wearing a sweater or a layer of long underwear instead.

  5. Slow down. We can easily get caught up in rushing from one task to the next. Pausing briefly or intentionally slowing down your movements can help you feel more poised.

  6. Lean forward. Inclining slightly toward someone is a great way to show that you like them and that you care about what they’re saying. Just facing someone while they talk can help. When you’re addressing a group, shift positions occasionally.

  7. Respect the personal space of others. Be sensitive to their comfort zones. Back up a little if you sense that someone is feeling crowded.

Body language is an important interpersonal skill. By taking conscious control of your nonverbal communication, you help yourself to feel more confident and you put others at ease.