There is a saying that we are our worst enemy. Despite how well adjusted you may think you are, a bad day or period of time can trigger off a battery of negative thoughts.
This in turn can cause you to experience everything from anxiety, guilt, anger and even fear.
Additionally, such negative emotions can trigger a vicious cycle of both physical and mental effects: feeling overly stressed, causing hypertension, experiencing bouts of insomnia, spiking one’s cortisol levels – all in all, it’s bad news and a lot more than just unkind, unforgiving thoughts about oneself or one’s situation.
“We all can successfully reverse the negative spiral of our own thoughts if we practice this [positive speech] regularly,” shares Ralitsa Peeva from Como Shambhala Singapore.
Be it positive affirmations, writing down a list of everything good in your life to actively re-framing a perceived negative scenario, the common denominator is to be mindful and to take active action.
Here’s what Ralitsa advises…
WHAT ARE THE FIVE MOST COMMON NEGATIVE PHRASES AND WHAT ARE SOME OF THE EMOTIONS THAT USUALLY DRIVE SUCH NEGATIVE SELF-TALK?
Our usual negative self-talk is remarkably similar across nations, gender, time, profession or age. Most often we beat ourselves with the following phrases:
“I am not good enough.” “If people really see who I am, they will not love me.” “I am such a disappointment.” “What’s wrong with me?” “I should, I have to, and I must.”
What we say to ourselves in a particular situation defines how we feel but we rarely notice that it is our thought about the situation rather than the situation itself that triggers our emotions.
Our negative self-talk (or negative automatic thoughts) is embedded deeply in our minds and it takes time and practice to become aware of it and to start replacing it with self-compassion, acceptance and patience.
WE HAVE SIMILAR THINKING DISTORTIONS WHEN WE THINK ABOUT EVENTS
For example, some of the most common ones, familiar to each of us are black or white thinking (when we think in absolutes with no room for middle ground), catastrophising (when we tend to magnify the impact of events and how awful they would be), personalising (when we take blame and responsibility for anything unpleasant even when it is not related to us), negative filter (when we tend to focus on the one negative comment instead of paying attention to ten positive ones), mind reading (when we believe we know what another person is thinking).
HOW CAN ONE REFRAME THEIR SPEECH TO REFLECT A MORE POSITIVE MANNER?
The key first step is awareness. Notice your usual negative thoughts. Pay attention to what is it that your “inner critic” is constantly berating you with.
Learn to notice when that critic has “hijacked” your mind and you are in the spiral of the negative self-talk.
Notice the thought you are holding. Then ask yourself “What is the evidence?” “Is this a fact or is it my perception right now?” “What would I say to a friend who is in a similar situation?” “Is this one of the thought distortions?” “Am I looking at the whole picture?” “Will this be important in one year?”
When you stop yourself from going down the spiral of the negative thinking, take the next step – think what would be a more helpful thought in this situation?
Did your friend cancel on you because she doesn’t like you, or because she’s had a really difficult day and she needs to rest?
Is your boss really in a bad mood because of your job performance or because the planned merger didn’t turn out the way she was expecting?
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE LITTLE THINGS ONE CAN LEARN TO DO TO SPEAK FROM A PLACE OF SELF-COMPASSION VS SELF-PITY?
Notice if you are in the “poor-me” mode.
Don’t slip into that mood for too long though because the victim mode rarely gives you a chance to look at the situation differently, and learn and grow from it.
Self-compassion involves personal growth work and giving yourself time to rest, to heal, and to replenish your energy.
Take a few minutes off. Treat yourself with the same respect and empathy with which you would treat your best friend.
WHEN FACED WITH A NEGATIVE PERSON, HOW CAN ONE RE-FRAME THE CONVERSATION?
I encourage clients to put what we call a “titanium shield” where you feel centered, grounded and present and you don’t allow someone else’s storm and drama to spill over because negative moods are “contagious.”
Try to use sense of humour. People who reside more in the negative mood tend to think and speak with phrases like “always” and “never.”
Challenge that; ask “Is it really always true?” Remember that to understand doesn’t mean you have to agree.
You may be present for that person and help them get through an issue but you don’t have to think like them.
INSECURITY IS OFTEN THE CAUSE OF ONE’S NEGATIVE OUTLOOK? WHAT IS YOUR ADVICE TO IMPROVE ONE’S SELF-ESTEEM?
Practice the positive self-talk that works for you. Find the positive affirmations that really resonate with you and keep playing them in your mind.
Take a moment to see all the good qualities that you have. Remind yourself how you’ve managed to get through difficult times and to help other people when they needed you.
The more we notice what works for us and what it is that we bring to the world, to our friends and family, the stronger our self-esteem will be.