Image courtesy of ratch0013 at freedigitalphotos.net/ Let your thoughts keep uplifting you!
I think I have underestimated the importance of actually trying to exert some influence over the thoughts I choose to entertain. As we know, thoughts give rise to feelings: you think of something sad, and you feel down; you think of something you are looking forward to, and your mood brightens.
It is not an easy thing to do to choose your thoughts. After all, they by default occur automatically. This is why “automatic negative thoughts” is a term used by psychologists to describe the cognitive style of people who are habitually depressed.
Negative thoughts can be powerful. So powerful, in fact, that it has been suggested that we think three positive thoughts for every singular negative thought!
However, I have found this to be difficult to do on the spot. Instead, when I think myself thinking something negative like “I am so lazy – I slept in/haven’t done enough” I consciously and purposefully think “I have done the gardening, I did the dishes, I went for a walk – good for me%% or something similar.
It may feel like this does not work at first. Like it or not, we have grown up in a society that emphasises our failures, not our successes. In fact, to focus on success is seen as indulgent and being for want of a better term “up ourselves”! You don’t have to tell anyone you are choosing these positive thoughts – some people may well-meaningly negate or minimise them by saying “maybe you could push yourself further and run” just as an example if you tell them you went for a walk.
The reason is not that these positive thoughts cannot be true. Many of us grew up with an upbringing where praise was just not done – that to do so would give your children a big head, or would not encourage them as much as exhorting them to try a little harder. The media focuses on our weight, how to be thinner, how to look younger, what we do and don’t have bringing our attention to what we earn. Individuality is not encouraged either – we need to look mostly like others or be subject to ridicule.
Most of all, you have probably been thinking in a negative fashion for the majority of your life. Change takes time. Modifying a habit is hard work.
The time it takes to change a habit varies. Some people say 3 weeks, some say 3 months. I believe rather than putting a time limit on it, realise it is a process whereby gradual changes will emerge.
However, I do believe the changes you see and in what timeframe will largely depend on the efforts you expend to change your thoughts.
The other barrier you will need to be aware of is ‘back chat’ from your brain. You may tell yourself “well done” and immediately hear your head say “as if”. Realise this is programming.
It’s all about a paradigm shift. It’s about reframing what you have done so it is seen as a success. It is about consciously deciding that the glass is half full.
If you still feel bad about choosing positive thoughts, science has demonstrated through empirical studies that positive reinforcement trumps punishment in influencing future behaviour. Therefore realise that by choosing positive thoughts, you are actually uplifting your self-concept so you are more likely to engage in positive behaviour – negative thoughts will actually deter you from doing so. So, if you want to turn that walking into jogging, or eat healthier, the best way to actualise this change is to praise yourself.