Harness Your Power to Change Your Thinking - dummies

Harness Your Power to Change Your Thinking

By S. Renee Smith, Vivian Harte

People who are successful in life — in terms of work, relationships, health, and feeling fulfillment and happiness — predominantly think in terms of optimism, hopefulness, and cheerfulness. They aren’t just lucky. They’re successful because they have a set of attitudes that bring these positive consequences into their lives.

Studies have found that using your mind to think in a more positive manner has many important benefits:

  • Your health is better. Being more optimistic reduces cardiovascular disease, even if you smoke cigarettes, are overweight, or are older. Also, your blood pressure is lower and your pain tolerance is higher.

  • Stress is reduced. People who use positive thinking can cope better with problems that arise, so they have less anxiety and depression.

  • Relationships are more enjoyable. Optimistic thinkers are more likely to have strong relationships. People are more drawn to others who are happy and cheerful than they are to others who are worried and apprehensive. Because they concentrate on the good qualities of their friends and mates, positive thinkers are more contented in their relationships. They also give more attention to having a fulfilling relationship and are therefore more effective at it.

  • You have better coping skills during adversity. Thinking in a positive manner doesn’t mean that you ignore life’s tough situations. It means that you approach these challenging situations in a more constructive, upbeat, and productive manner.

Ask yourself this question: Are your thoughts and beliefs helping you or hurting you? If you’re not living the life you desire, it’s time to upgrade your internal voice.

Identify all of your positive qualities

What would a list of all your strengths, positive attributes, skills, and abilities look like? Now that you’re changing your negative self-talk, make a catalog of everything good you can identify about yourself. They can be small things or big things. Consider everything about your life and create such an inventory.

Another way to create such a list is to identify the person who knows you best and describe yourself as that person would describe you.

Here are some questions to start the process:

  • What do I like about myself?

  • What are my positive characteristics?

  • What attributes do I have in common with people I admire?

  • What are my skills and talents? What do I love to do?

  • What are some difficult situations I’ve overcome?

  • What compliments do others give me?

  • What are my major achievements?

  • Who have I helped?

  • What kind things have I done for others?

  • What successes have I had at home and at work?

  • How would my best friend describe me?

When you find yourself being filled with negative self-talk, take a break and bring out your list. Read it over and add to it. Think about all your excellent attributes.

Ask yourself whether your thoughts are reasonable

It’s important to test the legitimacy of your inner critic. If critical thoughts impose on you, examine them by asking yourself these questions:

  • What evidence do I have to back up these thoughts? What facts contradict these thoughts?

  • Am I using one of the thinking errors? If so, which one?

  • Am I coming to negative conclusions needlessly?

  • What is the worst outcome in this situation? How likely is it to happen? If it did happen, how could I handle it?

  • What is the best outcome in this situation? How likely is it to happen?

  • Are my thoughts based on the way I feel instead of facts?

  • What would my best friend say about these thoughts?

  • What would I tell my best friend if she had these thoughts?

  • Are these thoughts helping me to be happy in the long run? Do they make me feel good? Do they help me reach my goals?

After you’ve tested whether your self-talk is well-founded and justifiable, you’ll be able to decide whether to make changes in your life to conform to your self-talk or release the thoughts and carry on with your life in a way that’s more satisfying to you.

Detach from your negative self-talk

By observing the thoughts of your inner critic, you can distance yourself from them and become more detached. You can think of these thoughts as floating overhead like clouds drifting in the sky. Or you can see them as if they’re being said by someone else and not you.

Deliberately fill your thoughts with joy. Also, breathe deeply and allow negative thoughts to fall away. You don’t have to pay attention to them. Become immersed in an activity you enjoy or call a friend or relative on the phone. Put yourself outside of these thoughts.

Be compassionate with yourself

Being compassionate with yourself provides the care, tenderness, and kindness you deserve. Here are some suggestions for providing yourself that consideration:

  • Recognize that you’re not unique. Everyone has times when they did something wrong or didn’t measure up to what they wanted. If you do make mistakes, accept them without judging yourself; instead, learn from them and aim to do better next time. When you realize that you’re just like everybody else in the world, you can calm down and be more at ease.

  • Change your voice. Say to yourself, “It will be okay. I’m okay.” Instead of continually criticizing yourself, use a calm and gentle voice to replace those thoughts with more positive ones. You can say “Not helpful!” or “I did the best I could” as soon as you realize your inner critic is attacking you.

    Repeat these replacements many times so the new sentiments sink in. Even if this voice doesn’t originally sound genuine, keep doing this. Gradually, this new voice will become sincere.

  • Give yourself a time limit. Tell yourself that you’ll have these negative thoughts for a short period of time, such as 1 minute or 5 minutes. After the time has passed, write in your notebook what you’re going to do differently next time.

    Don’t write about what happened or what went wrong; instead, write only about how you’ll improve and do better next time. If there won’t be a next time or you can’t do anything differently, write about your favorite television show, a joke you recently heard, or your greatest accomplishment.

  • Be your own best friend. Treat yourself the way you would treat someone you are close to if they felt like a failure. You can give yourself a hug and gently rock your body. This can soothe you and make you feel cared for.

  • Think about something that makes you happy. Put your attention on your children or grandchildren, your favorite hobby, a fun movie you saw recently, or pretty scenery. If you continue to have negative self-talk, keep thinking about things that make you feel better for as long as it takes to release the inner critic.

  • Surround yourself only with people who have an optimistic outlook. You’ll feel stronger and more energized because they will already have a deep-seated sense of healthy self-worth.

  • Write two things you appreciate about yourself every day. At the end of each week, read your list out loud to yourself at least three times. Do this with passion and enthusiasm.