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  • Writer's pictureFuture Legacies

How to Overcome Negative Thinking

Each time we kick off classes in our Future Legacy Team Series, we invest several early sessions helping leaders and professionals to better understand themselves. Through activities and discussions, they learn more about how they think, how they talk to themselves, and the ways they respond to prompts and stressors in life and work. This is a foundational step in personal growth, professional development, and the successful pursuit of one’s goals.

I’m reminded of a quote I learned years ago: “Your internal dialogue, how you think and how you talk to yourself, has more to do with your success in life than any other factor.”

While I wish I could give proper credit to who originated this quote, I can attest to its truth. Our thoughts, how we talk to ourselves, and how we frame our perspective have significant impact on how we live and enjoy our lives.

Yet we can allow our thoughts and internal dialogue to be shaped by outside influences, many of which are not helpful. It can be easy for negative thoughts to take up residency in the forefront of our minds. Throughout life, each of us will encounter uncertainty, fear, judgment, discord, and anger. We are inundated with negativity through news outlets, social media, and the like. And if that were not enough, we are biologically wired to look out for danger and to be anxious. We are at risk for negativity to consume our thoughts. This can manifest itself as negative self-talk, which not only impacts individuals, but also their teammates, family, and friends. The good news is that we have the power and ability to overcome that negative self-talk.

First, we have to recognize the benefits of positive mindset. There is a reason we hear and read a lot about positive thinking. It helps with stress management, and it can improve your health. In fact, some studies show that traits such as optimism and pessimism can affect many areas of your health and well-being. The positive thinking that usually comes with optimism is a key part of effective stress management. And effective stress management is associated with many health benefits. If you tend to be pessimistic, don't despair! You can train your brain to identify those toxic triggers, as well as learn new positive thinking skills.

You can practice overcoming negative self-talk with the below examples from the Mayo Clinic:

Identify Negative Thinking.

Not sure if your self-talk is positive or negative? Some common forms of negative self-talk include:

  • Filtering - You magnify the negative aspects of a situation and filter out all the positive ones. For example, you had a great day at work. You completed your tasks ahead of time and were complimented for doing a speedy and thorough job. That evening, you focus only on your plan to do even more tasks and forget about the compliments you received.

  • Personalizing - When something bad occurs, you automatically blame yourself. For example, you hear that an evening out with friends is canceled, and you assume that the change in plans is because no one wanted to be around you.

  • Catastrophizing - You automatically anticipate the worst. The drive-through coffee shop gets your order wrong and you automatically think that the rest of your day will be a disaster.

  • Polarizing - You see things only as either good or bad. There is no middle ground. You feel that you must be perfect or you're a total failure.

As you read through these, what examples in your own life were you reminded of? Could you relate to one or more of these common forms of negative self-talk?

Focus on Positive Thinking.

You can learn to turn negative thinking into positive thinking. The process is simple, but it does take time and practice — you're creating a new habit, after all. Here are some ways to think and behave in a more positive and optimistic way:

  • Identify areas to change - If you want to become more optimistic and engage in more positive thinking, first identify areas of your life that you usually think negatively about, whether it's work, your daily commute or a relationship. You can start small by focusing on one area to approach in a more positive way.

  • Check yourself - Periodically during the day, stop and evaluate what you're thinking. If you find that your thoughts are mainly negative, try to find a way to put a positive spin on them.

  • Be open to humor - Give yourself permission to smile or laugh, especially during difficult times. Seek humor in everyday happenings. When you can laugh at life, you feel less stressed.

  • Follow a healthy lifestyle - Aim to exercise for about 30 minutes on most days of the week. You can also break it up into 10-minute chunks of time during the day. Exercise can positively affect mood and reduce stress. Follow a healthy diet to fuel your mind and body. And learn techniques to manage stress.

  • Surround yourself with positive people - Make sure those in your life are positive, supportive people you can depend on to give helpful advice and feedback. Negative people may increase your stress level and make you doubt your ability to manage stress in healthy ways.

  • Practice positive self-talk - Start by following one simple rule: Don't say anything to yourself that you wouldn't say to anyone else. Be gentle and encouraging with yourself. If a negative thought enters your mind, evaluate it rationally and respond with affirmations of what is good about you. Think about things you're thankful for in your life.

I challenge you to become a collector of positivity. Each day, notice and collect five positive, gratitude-filled moments. It could be 20 seconds of actively acknowledging one of your strengths, enjoying a great song you hear, or laughing with a friend.

If you tend to have a negative outlook, don't expect to become an optimist overnight. But with practice, eventually your self-talk will contain less self-criticism and more self-acceptance. You may also become less critical of the world around you.

When your state of mind is generally optimistic, you're better able to handle everyday stress in a more constructive way. That ability may contribute to the widely observed health benefits of positive thinking.

Wishing you a week full of positive thinking,


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Future Legacies, LLC, Business Coach, Jasper, AL