“ STINKIN THINKIN” by Tory Masters
HOW OUR THOUGHTS CREATE OUR MOODS!
By Tory Masters, CPS, CPRP
Ask yourself the following questions:
- If a situations turns out less than perfectly, do you see it as a failure?
- Are you quick to make assumptions and judge others without having any real evidence?
- Do you assume others are judging you?
- Do you have regrets, wishing you could have, should have done something differently?
- Do you call yourself names – “I’m stupid”, “I’m no good”.
- Do you often feel guilty and blame yourself even for things you can’t control?
- Do you focus on the negative? Do you see your glass as half empty, not half-full?
If you answered yes to most of the questions, you have a habit of thinking negatively, which directly impacts your moods. In other words, our thoughts create our moods! A lot of emotional suffering comes from the way we talk to ourselves in our own minds. Psychologists call it negative self-talk which fuels emotions such as anger, depression, anxiety, hostility and feelings of worthlessness. By contrast, positive self-talk fuels emotions such as joy, self-love, happiness, contentment and optimism. In other words, you are what you tell yourself you are. You become what you believe. The good news is that you can break the habit of negative self-talk.
- It may surprise you to know that you are in charge of what thoughts you choose to have. And you CAN “change the channel” anytime you choose.
- Cognitive Behavioral Therapy as well as Mindfulness exercises, which target negative “self-talk” have proven to reduce mental health disorders such as depression and anxiety by 50%!
The 10 most common types of negative-self talk that keep us from a meaningful recovery
1. All-or-nothing thinking – You see things in black-or-white. If a situation falls short of perfect, you see it as a total failure. After getting a B- on a test, you say to yourself: “I am so stupid”.
2. Overgeneralization – You see a single negative event, such as a romantic rejection or a career mishap, as a never-ending pattern of defeat by using words such as “always” or “never” when you think about it. Examples: When the new position at work is given to someone else, you say: “I’ll never get offered a promotion”.
3. Minimization – You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively. Example: You receive many positive comments about your presentation to associates at work, but one of them says something mildly critical. You obsess only about the criticism and not all the positive feedback you received.
4. Magnification – you exaggerate errors or flaws. You take small events and turn them into disasters in your mind. Example: You are late in turning in a work assignment and think you will be fired.
5. Discounting the positive – When you discount the positive it means you ignore or invalidate good things that have happened to you. If you do a good job, you may tell yourself that it wasn’t good enough or that anyone could have done as well.
6. Jumping to conclusions – You interpret things negatively when there are no facts to support your conclusion. For example: Mind Reading : Without checking it out, you arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you. Fortune telling: You predict that things will turn out badly. If you’re depressed, you may tell yourself: “I’ll never get better”.
7. Emotional Reasoning – You assume that your negative emotions reflect the way things really are: “I feel guilty. I must be a rotten person”. Or, “I feel inferior. This means I’m a second rate person”.
8. “Should” statements – You are in the habit of telling yourself that things “should have gone better”. “I should have been more talkative at the party” as opposed to being okay with being in a quiet mood. “I should never have eaten that cake. I have blown my diet”.
9. Labeling – Labeling is the habit of seeing yourself or others in one extreme way. Instead of saying “I made a mistake,” you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.” After a fight with a friend, you say: “He’s such a jerk”.
10. Personalization – Personalization comes when you hold yourself or someone else responsible for an event that isn’t entirely under your control. For example: when your child is being difficult you blame yourself: “I am a bad mother”. Or you blame others for your problems. Example: “the reason I am not getting along with my wife is because she is unfair and unreasonable”.
The good news is that negative thinking is a habit that can be broken. You can train your brain to think more positively.
Here’s the proven science:
Every thought you have releases chemicals in your brain. Being focused primarily on negative thoughts literally depletes the brain of its existing positive pathways and energy and can create depression and anxiety. On the flip side, thinking positive, hopeful, optimistic thoughts decrease cortisol, the primary stress hormone, and increase the brain transmitter, serotonin, which creates a sense of well-being. This helps your brain function at peak activity. Bottom line: positive thinking in general, supports healthy brain growth. Just the way you would train for a marathon by focused, repetitive physical activity, you can train your mind through focused, repetitive mental activity to make your brain start firing in the regions associated with well-being and happiness and stop firing in the areas associated with unhappiness and discontentment.
So where do you start? It may seem simplistic but start by trying to think happy thoughts, looking on the bright side, expressing gratitude, saying positive affirmations and refocusing your brain when negative thoughts occur. This work takes a great deal of daily practice. It won’t come easily at first. But be patient. It will start to feel intuitive. It can be very worthwhile to invest in a skilled cognitive behavioral therapist who can guide you. There are also a number of excellent self-help books on how to change negative self-talk. They are listed below.
Rewire: Change You Brain to Break Bad Habits, Overcome Addiction, Conquer Self-Destructive Behavior by Richard O’Connor, Ph.D
Self-Coaching, Self-Talk: The Powerful Program to beat Anxiety and Depression by Joseph Luciano
The Feel Good Handbook By David D. Burns, MD
The Mindful Way Through Depression: Freeing Yourself From Chronic Unhappiness by John Kabat-Zinn
The Peace of Mind Prescription: An Authoritative Guide to Finding the Most Effective Treatment for Anxiety and Depression by Charles Nemeroff and Dennis Charney The Gifts of Imperfection: By Brene Brown