You must weed your mind as you would weed your garden.Astrid Alauda
Our brains are hard wired negatively in order to stay alive. Back in the older days when we were hunters and gatherers it was essential. Our lives depended on being alert to the many dangers, such as sabre tooth tigers who needed us for their food source. Unfortunately, this has continued over the years and the brain has continued to seek the negative patterns and reinforces them constantly.
We can choose to retrain our brain to a more positive mindset. As with any exercise program, this takes work on a consistent basis. Challenging negative thoughts and skewed thinking patterns are a great place to start. The first step is awareness and then having the tools available to practice daily. This can take a lot of effort and at times you may get frustrated of the constant challenging are how tired you become as you continually fight the old way of thinking. As with any changes, it takes time for the new habit to become ingrained.
Some of the negative patterns include:
Catastrophising – going to the worst case possible. An example of this is getting flu like symptoms and the mind going to being in hospital in the intensive care unit.
Black and white thinking – something is either good or bad, yes or no, black or white. Polarised opposites with no room for compromise.
Personalising – blaming yourself for EVERYTHING that goes wrong, even if only partially responsible or not responsible at all.
Jumping to conclusions – reading others minds when they haven’t said anything yet.
Filtering – not looking at the whole picture, looking at only the negative aspects and ignoring any positive aspects.
Should/must – having very rigid rules for yourself and others. I should, they should, I must, we must….
Labelling – telling yourself that you always do this …., I am a …..Calling yourself lots of abusive names and terms. I have started educating my clients that if they spoke to their partner or others in their homes in the same manner, we could have them up on a charge of Family Violence, as psychological abuse is a form of family violence.
Overgeneralising – this is where one instance becomes always. I always stuff things up, I always ….
Magnification and minimisation – magnifying what others do and minimising what you can do. Forgetting about your own strengths and qualities.
Many people may wish to work on these issues in their own way and there are many self-help books written on ways to counteract the negative thoughts. These will be based on cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) or Acceptance and Commitment Therapy (ACT). For others, working with a health professional may be a better solution.