Negative thoughts can be persistent and problematic but they are not facts they are just thoughts. In mindfulness and counselling we call excessive negative thoughts "rumination" and in coaching we call them the "inner gremlins" - which is a little more playful. Your inner critic feels like the little devil sitting on your shoulder and telling you the opposite of what you want to hear but it's not helpful to battle with it or conflict it with the voice of the angel on the other shoulder. In fact I have often told my clients making friends with your inner critic or taming your gremlin is the key to facing your fears and overcoming them. Women are often more negative about their abilities and performances more so than men and if you don't manage the inner critic it can begin to cause you to lose your confidence, make limiting choices and it can even lead to depressive symptoms.
What are your negative thoughts?
Take a moment to think about areas of your life that you find yourself criticising yourself. You might have some automatic scripts that play in the back of your mind like:
I am not good enough
I am not qualified enough
I am terrible with money
I am a failure
I am weak
It always has to be perfect
I am not a very nice person
Being aware of the negative thoughts is a good start. But what if I was to tell you trying to erase negative thoughts is almost impossible and to resist or fight with them is futile. We don't overcome our negative thoughts successfully by trying to get rid of them or judging them as bad - that ultimately perpetuates them and builds more negative thoughts and scripts. Our negative thoughts are protectionist fears that are not always rationale but come about because of faulty scripts we have taken on at a time when we didn't have all the information we needed about life - like childhood. They are also an evolutionary function designed to help us survive but somehow they can begin to operate in overdrive. It's good to be aware of what triggers your negative thoughts and what negative thoughts you hear the most and why. Reflect on your negative thoughts and when you hear them the most before looking at what you can do with them because the more familiar you are with situations they occur the easier it will be to navigate them.
How can I be mindful when negative thoughts arise?
Having some tools to help you bring awareness to negative thoughts and tame them can help them be less compelling to act on and help you regain your presence and ability to navigate situations that offer you growth. Give these strategies a go:
• Check into your body when negative thoughts are present. Move your attention away from thinking and into the physical body. Breathe and notice your posture opening up and grounding into your feet. Give your nervous system time to settle again.
• Cultivate a sense of openness, compassion and kindness with your body and mind. Don't push anything away but allow spaciousness around the negative loops and explore de-centring from it energetically.
• When you're feeling more grounded and present choose a mantra or positive script that is based on your strengths. "I've got this" "I am learning"
• Remember an equanimous state is an important attitude to bring to the negative. It's futile trying to fight or resist negative thinking and being too positive will not feel real. Go gently and kind with the critical mind and eventually it will soften, your mind will expand it's vision and you can choose change.
The best thing to do is continue to practice and not get caught up in perfection scripts which will not help you if you stumble and make mistakes along the way. Habitual thinking loops are often well used neural pathways and neuroscience has shown us that implicit memory needs slow and steady interventions to transform. For more on coaching please visit our website