The “Thoughtful Challenge” survey results – as totally unscientific as they may be – were 100% negative, which indicates that negative thinking is our most common internal conversational approach.
We tend to spend a great deal of time telling ourselves what we should have done; blaming ourselves for a wide variety of situations, which may or may not have been our fault; predicting the worst; and remembering and ruminating about the one bad thing that happened on an othewise perfect or pretty good day.
Why does it matter how we talk to ourselves?
Here’s a few words on the subject from an article titled “Positive thinking: Reduce stress by eliminating negative self-talk” from the Mayo Clinic web site:
“The health benefits of positive thinking
Researchers continue to explore the effects of positive thinking and optimism on health. Health benefits that positive thinking may provide include:
Increased life span
Lower rates of depression
Lower levels of distress
Greater resistance to the common cold
Better psychological and physical well-being
Reduced risk of death from cardiovascular disease
Better coping skills during hardships and times of stress
It’s unclear why people who engage in positive thinking experience these health benefits. One theory is that having a positive outlook enables you to cope better with stressful situations, which reduces the harmful health effects of stress on your body. It’s also thought that positive and optimistic people tend to live healthier lifestyles — they get more physical activity, follow a healthier diet, and don’t smoke or drink alcohol in excess.”
As noted in the article above, the jury is still out on the details as to why positive thinking has so many emotional and health benefits (We do know it increases brain growth and neural connections.), but researchers tend to agree that in most situations, positive thinking is the way to go.
So how do you turn those nagging negatives into precious positives?
- Become more aware of your thought patterns. The “Thoughtful Challenge” is a good first step.
- Start small, but think big. Don’t expect to change overnight, but do predict better for yourself and start picturing yourself doing and feeling better. Spend a few moments a day picturing wonderful things happening to you – finding the parking space, arriving on time and prepared. Picture projects, meetings, events and appointments working out well, and friendships and relationships blossoming. If that all sounds too Pollyanna for you, ask yourself why you find it easier to accept a Cruella de Vil approach to self-talk than the possibility of living life sunny-side-up. Then ask yourself if your answers hold-up, or are they simply hold-overs from your childhood, parents, relatives, etc.? Who taught you to be timid about being happy? Why does being cynical seem fashionable? What is scaring you out of a life of fun, flow and fulfillment?
- Enlist the help of the three “H’s”: Humor, Health and Happiness. Laugh more – especially at yourself. Create a healthier lifestyle – eat better, exercise more. And, last but not least, become aware of the good things in your life by developing an attitude of gratitude. Begin focusing on what is going well rather than what is “wrong”; notice what makes your heart sing and makes you feel good and then find ways to bring more of what you love into your life, instead of complaining about what’s “wrong”.
And, don’t worry if your glass is half-full or half-empty. Either way there’s room for more good stuff, and if you fill it with what you love, you will never mind if it overflows.
Have a great weekend!
Reminds me of Carol Dweck’s work on mindset, flexible and fixed… you certainly embody the life-affirming philosophy you describe and advocate Patrice
And, thank you! I heard Kare speak almost 20 years ago at a library advocacy seminar and her words have guided me throughout the years. I called Kare today to let her know the impact her work had on my life, and she was kind-enough to follow-up on my blog. You can check out her words and learn more about her work in communications at: http://sayitbetter.typepad.com/.
I hope she’s as inspiring to you as she was to me!