Three tips to end negative thinking
And nurture positive thoughts instead.
The average person entertains about sixty thousand thoughts per day - most of which are repetitive, disempowering and redundant and based in negative belief systems. In Yoga we call those unproductive thoughts the “monkey mind chatter”. It’s like the chatter of a horde of agitated monkeys that just never shut up. (For those of you that have actually experienced something like this – quite the ruckus let me tell you.)
During especially difficult times (for some that is the holidays in general) we subconsciously and inadvertently tend to turn toward that monkey mind chatter even more than we already would on a normal basis. Of course, the loss of a loved one, illness, breakups, job loss or unemployment, financial hardships, any kind of loss during the holidays AND during a global pandemic is probably the epitome of “difficult times” for a number of people all over the world right now. If that is you just trust me, you are not alone!
Even under normal circumstances (the world how it more or less was before the pandemic started), it takes some effort to train our minds to effectively switch from negative monkey mind chatter to positive and empowering thinking – which will then lead to the creation of empowering belief systems, empowering habits and empowering results.
Like everyone else, I go into a dark mental space and repetitive negative thinking sometimes. What helps me then is to bring myself back into the present moment.
Being present means that your mind focuses on being here and now, not on the past and not on the future. Your thoughts revolve around activities that require your attention in the NOW. Often those are practical applications that involve your body. Writing, doing the dishes, practicing an instrument, gardening or yard work, washing your hands, exercising, … anything that physically anchors you in the present moment helps to pull your mind away from the past or the future and into the here and now.
Here are some things you can do to practice being present.
In Yoga we practice Ujjayi breathing (Yogic breathing), taking slow and deep inhales and exhales through the nose with a slight constriction in our throat. This pulls our consciousness away from our mind and the incessant monkey mind chatter, and into our throat and our body, into the present moment.
Every time you catch yourself thinking about the past or the future (which is usually a repetitive, negative thought), stop. Become present. Wash your hands, do some jumping jacks or practice Ujjayi breathing for a couple of minutes. And then go back to work. Over time you will catch yourself more quickly and let go of the negative thoughts more immediately as well. Set a timer
Every twenty or thirty minutes, check in with yourself. What were you just thinking about? If it was a repetitive and negative thought connected to the past or the future, become present. Buddhist monks and nuns use a bell to remind them to come back into the present moment. Use a rubber band on your wrist
This is a great practice for the most persistent or the most disempowering thoughts. Every time you catch yourself thinking a negative thought, gently snap a rubber band against the sensitive skin of your wrist. The pain works as negative reinforcement on a subconscious level. The brain will from then on connect that same negative thought with physical pain - and not entertain the thought again.
Follow up with a gentle, loving thought or two and either stroke the wrist, or blow some kisses on it. It sounds silly but you will be surprised how good this self-nurturing little action feels!
Over time it will take less and less conscious training to stay present, focused and positive.
If you are going through a particularly difficult phase in your life, allow yourself to feel grief or sadness. It’s always a good idea to let emotions pass through our body in a timely manner and not to hold on to them. It typically takes about 90 seconds for a strong emotion to pass through us, that’s just the normal hormonal response time.
The emotion might come back again a little later but over time it will diminish in intensity more and more. Grieving and sadness are normal and healthy. And please reach out to others. These are difficult times for everyone and coming together as communities more might be one of the helpful things we can learn from this pandemic.