Hard-wired to overestimate threats, underestimate opportunities and resources; how can you train your brain to think more positively?
In order to survive potential dangers, our brains have been constructed to prioritise bad, difficult, or painful thoughts over positive ones. While this may have done a good job to keep our caveman-selves safe, it is not always necessary – or helpful – now. Here are my top tips to break the spell of negative thinking:
Observe when you are having negative thoughts
Is there a pattern to when you think negatively? Does it always happen in certain situations such as before presentations or when meeting new people?
Make a list of the negative thoughts you are having. Write everything down. Thoughts often repeat themselves. See if you can see a pattern to your negative thinking.
Challenge your negative thoughts
How likely is what you are worrying about is going to happen? Look for evidence to support this. Would the evidence persuade a jury that what your concerns are realistic and probable? Challenge any illogical thoughts. In most cases the negative scenario you imagine in unlikely to ever take place.
Challenge negative thoughts as they crop up, and over time, you will be able to rewire your thought patterns to think more positively.
Be Optimistic – and realistic
Consider one of the problems that you are worrying about and think through all the possible permutations. Be positively optimistic about how things will turn out. Remind yourself often of the positive – and possible – outcome. Blind optimism can be just as unhelpful as negative thinking.
Make lists of things that are going well
Take a few moments each day to note down things that have gone well. This could be that you managed to send an email that you have been putting off, or you handled a tricky personal situation well. Maybe one of those things you have been worrying about didn’t happen. Look back on your list of positives to give a more balanced view to your life when it feels like everything is doom and gloom.
Rather than spending what can quickly turn into hours in a negative thought cycle, do something to distract yourself. Get up from your desk and walk around for a couple of minutes, call a friend, read or watch something that will make you laugh. Let go of the negative thought.
Finally, remember you will never get the time back that you have spent worrying – plus it is unlikely to change the outcome.
You also may be interested in my Power of Three Practice:
I'm a Personal Coach who loves finding out about what makes people tick and helping them to make the changes necessary to get to where they want to go.