How to guard against your own negative thoughts

Everyone has those low days… where we get down on ourselves for certain things – beating ourselves up over decisions or behaviours… sometimes blaming ourselves for others behaviours too.

Having an appropriate level of self-regulation and introspection is necessary.  It’s when these thoughts, negativity and subsequently how we see and treat ourselves become a regular phenomenon that we need to reassess things.  We need to look into the reasons behind our thoughts, gather some perspective and focus on ways to improve our relationship with ourselves.

Our relationship with ourselves is one of the most important we will ever have.  It dictates our sense of value and also governs all of our other relationships.

In many ways it’s like a relationship with another person.  Our enthusiasm for and appreciation with ourselves can fluctuate depending on many factors – stress, habits, external influences, disappointment, rejection and expectation.

It’s about getting perspective and managing our expectations in a positive and encouraging way, rather than in a negative and self-defeating manner.  Our thoughts are powerful streams of conscious and can be incredibly influential in our behaviour, personality and overall success – both personally and professionally

How to guard against your own negative thoughts:

1- Catch yourself on your first negative thought process – before the spiral descends

It’s important to break the cycle of negative and self-destructive thoughts.  Make a pact with yourself that when the negative thoughts start, you’ll mentally argue the case as if you were sticking up for someone that you love.  This internal debate and explanation of reasons and justifications will allow you better insight into the reasons behind the thoughts as well as a broader perspective. Be careful not to engage with it for too long though, as that can actually add fuel to it’s fire and make it bigger than it needs to be – simply notice it, get curious about it, and then let it go…as if it were a leaf blowing in the wind or a twig floating down a stream.

Ask yourself how you would view the situation if someone else came to you with this particular opinion.  What would you say to them?  We often tend to be harder on ourselves than we are on others.  Keep yourself busy and pre-occupied with positive behaviours when you start to experience negative thoughts – read a good book, listen to some upbeat music, prepare a nutritious meal, make sure you’re drinking enough water… go for a walk – watch your favourite comedy tv show.

2- Write it down

Make a quick list with two columns.  In the left side write down what you feel bad about – in the right, write down what you can do (realistically) to improve the situation.  For instance, if you’re feeling bad about neglecting your health, then plan small and achievable ways to turn the situation around: eating healthier, drinking more water, exercise etc.  Some things will be externally influenced by those around you and you may only realise this on writing these down.  You may realise that this isn’t something that you can change directly.  It may help you deal with this realisation, to learn to let it go and to move on.

Write down what you love about yourself.  I know that this sounds a little self-indulgent but we often need reminding about how special we are… not only from others but from ourselves too.  You could get a trusted family member or friend in on the act too – a sharing of things that you love about each other.  You’ll be surprised at what they come up with!

3- Assess your values – what do you want?

Assessing your values is an important part of getting focus about what you want most in life – both from yourself and others. These values are also constantly evolving so it’s important to reassess.  Sometimes your values can change so drastically and so quickly (for instance with a redundancy or having a newborn baby) that we can find it hard to adjust our minds to the new priorities in line with our expectations of ourselves.

4- Consult a trusted family member or friend

Getting someone close to you to tell you the things that they love about you is a way to remind yourself of your value to those you hold dear and value too.  Write what they say down… look at these words when you start to hear the negative thoughts.  With enough mental intervention and practice, you’ll become better trained at warding off your negativity and becoming your own friend, mending your relationship with yourself and healing from the self-doubt, self-sabotage and negative thoughts.

5- Reconnect with yourself

Indulge in activities where you can enjoy your own company – away from the needs and demands of others.  If you love the outdoors, go for a walk.  If you love cooking, prepare yourself a nutritious and healthy meal. You are worth it and you do deserve to be happy, healthy and content. Meditation, yoga and breathing exercises can help with relaxation

6- Celebrate your accomplishments

Learn to receive compliments and to bask in the glory of your achievements. Celebrating the full joy of a particular success allows you to appreciate yourself and your qualities that resulted in the success.  Enjoy and acknowledge these qualities – they are most likely always present in your life.  Figure out how you can utilise them more, in a positive way for further achievement.  There’s a saying that success breeds success!

7- Practice

Practice positivity.  Literally.  When you start to feel disappointed about something – take a big breath and sigh deeply.  Let go of that initial feeling of disappointment and then immediately look for a positive side or a learning from the situation.  There’ll almost always be one.  It may not come anywhere close to outweighing the disappointment however it is lessening its impact on your thoughts and it’s also immediately offering you a positive option and alternative to focus your energies towards.

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