Five Days to a Better You – Day 2: Thoughts
Our thoughts are constantly helping us to interpret the world around us, describing what is happening, and trying to make sense of it by helping us interpret events, sights, sounds, smells, feelings. Without even realising it, we add our own meaning to everything happening around us and make decisions based on this. Lots of things influence the interpretations we make, our previous experiences, our upbringing, our culture, religious beliefs and family values so it is no wonder that we can have a different experience to someone else in the exact same situation.
“We don’t see things as they are, we see things as we are” (Anais Nin)
Negative thoughts are the Usain Bolt of thoughts – they cross the finish line first! We should be grateful for this; they are part of a finely tuned process connected to the fight/flight survival system that has kept us alive. We are the ones who have changed the context. Our modern-day lifestyles (work and home) provide ample opportunities for this system to fire on all cylinders even when it is not (in theory) needed.
Your inner voice is the one that you will hear most in your life. Make it kind so being in your own headspace is a nice place to be! This can be done with a bit of practice. Time to break old negative mental habits!
Cognitive shifting is the conscious choice to take charge of your own mental habit and to redirect your focus in a more helpful direction. For example, many situations/things happen that can make us feel annoyed. How you direct your thoughts has an impact on whether you stay annoyed, perhaps acting in an aggressive way to others, or are able to let that annoyance go and respond flexibly and effectively. If you dwell on the negatives you also miss the positives.
Challenge negative thoughts:
- Is this thought a fact?
- What meaning am I giving this situation and why this?
- What evidence is there that this is true?
- Is there another way of looking at it?
- What would I say to a friend in this situation?
- What is a more balanced/helpful way of looking at it?