We have the ability to create our own reality. For the most part, we can look at a situation and choose to see the good, or we can look at the same situation and choose to see the bad. Oftentimes, the lens we use to view what’s happening is filtered by our thoughts.
Positive thoughts create positive circumstances; alternatively, negative thoughts contribute to feelings of dissatisfaction and disappointment. Therefore, changing our negative thought patterns is essential for achieving happiness and peace.
The following are the most common negative thinking behaviors:
When we slip into “all-or-nothing” thinking, we see our circumstances as either black or white, with not much in between. By shifting to someplace in the gray, a fresh perspective is created that helps us to realize more options do exist.
To lead an emotionally healthy life, we need to have balanced emotions. Words like: always, never, impossible, terrible, and perfect are rigid and allow little room for interpretation or flexibility. Instead, when we live somewhere in the middle, we are in a better position to find sturdier footing, which will lead to improved balance.
Avoid the temptation to over-generalize.
Over-generalization is when we believe that if one bad thing happens, then everything else is doomed to go poorly. Think of over-generalized statements as exaggerations. For example, “You never listen to me,” “He always interrupts me,” “She always thinks she’s right,” “Everybody thinks I’m stupid.”
The biggest red flags are words like never, always, should, or everybody. An over-generalized statement is another form of a negative thought. Rethink your words and reconsider the circumstance; attempt to find something positive.
Change your mental filter.
Persistent pessimism can develop into a habit if we are not careful! Left unattended, chronic negative thinking can begin to shape the way we see the world. For example, “The glass will always be half-empty.”
Instead, try to see the good in every circumstance. A long line at the grocery store is a wonderful opportunity to chat with your partner or child; a stressful time at work will give you a better chance to realize the inner strength you possess; and the world’s current economy is a great time to get back to developing and maintaining a budget for your personal expenses.
Would you rather be right or happy?
A need to be right can cultivate more negative thoughts due to an unwillingness to let go of whatever the issue was in the first place. To find peace and happiness, sometimes we just need to let it go.
Avoid jumping to conclusions.
When confronted with what might appear to be an unwelcome circumstance, consider taking a deep breath and a full step back to look at the event at a more holistic level, in order to get all of the information.
My wife and I have an expression we use with our children that demonstrates this. When they come home with a failing grade and begin to blame the teacher, we ask, “What’s the rest of the story?” We’ll often learn that there was little effort put into studying or that there was missing work that contributed to the poor grade. The point is, we don’t take much at face value until we seek a better understanding of what’s really going on. The clarity we gain empowers us to have a more rational and positive reaction.
Don’t “should” on yourself.
Should statements suggest our current status is not good enough. These thoughts are negative and prevent us from seeing what is positive. Should statements put our thoughts and attitudes in a box and constrain us from seeing other solutions. Remember, it’s a matter of balance!
We can be a good parent without having to be a perfect parent; we can provide for our families financially and still possess the desire to earn more; and we can be happy with all we have and continue to look for ways to bring more happiness into our lives.
Be aware of emotional reasoning.
An example of emotional reasoning is, “I feel shame, therefore I must be a bad person.” Just because we are experiencing a certain uncomfortable emotion, doesn’t mean our characters, our souls, are in question. It just means for that moment, in that small space of time, we feel a certain way about ourselves.
When we allow ourselves to be human and give our spirit the grace and mercy it deserves, we are in a better position to re-frame self-limiting thoughts and keep them from manifesting to the point where they begin to define who we are.
Try not to take everything personally.
Not everything is about you; not everything is about me, either. Fear, paranoia, and perhaps a measure of insecurity can lead us to believe that the way other people react or the things they say are directed toward us. Sometimes, people are insensitive, judgmental, or just in a bad mood.
Don’t magnify a problem.
Seeing a situation for what it really is, instead of what it feels like, can help us stay grounded. Magnifying a problem only gives the problem more energy and provides opportunity for the situation to become larger than it was ever intended to be. Make a conscious decision to deal in facts and not allow negative thoughts or emotions to get in the way.
Celebrate the good things when they happen! Don’t simply dismiss or minimize them. Life can be hard enough, so on the days when we have positive things happen, no matter how small and insignificant they may seem, allow yourself the time to enjoy them and be filled with them.
Like attracts like. Positive thoughts and happiness create more of the same.
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Read more at Turn Negative Thoughts into Positive Ones