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8 Powerful Steps to Positive Thinking

1. Always focus on what you want rather than what you don’t want: The mistake that most of us make when having a problem is to talk about it over and over again instead of focusing on the end result, instead of focusing on what we want to achieve.
2. Know that every problem comes with a lesson: There is always a lesson in everything that happens to us, and we should constantly look for what that lesson is and master it. For as Confucius said: “If you make a mistake and do not correct it, this is called a mistake.”
3. Don’t believe everything you think: Our problems aren’t as big as the mind is trying to convince us, and if you choose to believe every negative though that goes through your mind, you will always get in trouble. Observe your mind, observe your thoughts, but don’t identify yourself with them. Go beyond them.
4. Choose to express your gratitude for everything that happens to you, whether good or bad, and also for every person you interact with: The more you choose to express your gratitude, the more reasons you will have to express your gratitude for, and when you’re too busy focusing on the many things that you are grateful for, there will be no more room left for stress and worry.
5. Know that there is a reason for everything: Everything that happens to you, happens for a reason and every person that enters your life enters for a reason, and it’s your responsibility to act upon this knowing and not to label them as being good or bad, negative or positive, etc.
6. Let go of your need for perfection: When you try to do everything perfect, you will meet with stress and frustration – as it’s impossible to be perfect in everything you do.
7. Let go of your resistance: Accept things as they are without you trying to change them, without trying to fight against them. Go with the flow, and know that life wasn’t meant to be a struggle all the time.
8. Learn to be present in everything you do: When you become present and really engaged in the now, your whole life will become so much easier.
Source: http://www.purposefairy.com/3902/8-powerful-steps-to-positive-thinking/ (Abridged)

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How to Turn off Negative Thoughts

1. Notice when you are slipping into negative, absolutist ways of thinking where you think the worst of yourself, your life and your future.

2. Recognise that these are habitual ways of thinking. It’s what you always think when you start to feel bad.

3. Be aware of triggers. Often certain people and situations trigger painful, negative self-destructive thoughts. Try and distance yourself from these, or completely avoid them, if you possibly can.

4. Deliberately look for the counter arguments. For example, when have things been a bit better, when have you done something right, when has someone been kind and understanding?

5. Visualise positive things that make you happy, such as curling up with a book in bed, listening to your favourite music, and so on. Often changing our thinking to things that make us happy changes our negative feelings and thoughts.

6. Get into the habit of building yourself up, so you notice and affirm your successes, strengths, good intentions and positive traits.

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What to do with ANTS (Automatic Negative Thoughts)

We all have an automatic stream of thought – an unconscious commentary of what is going on, and how we are performing compared to other people. This commentary’s often harsh and negative. For example, we criticise ourselves for not being good enough, or saying something stupid, or doing something dumb. This increases our stress levels, and lowers self esteem. Thus, we need to try and notice and interrupt these ANTS – so we break the harmful patterns that are ruining our lives. Below are some steps that can help you with this:

1. First, try to get into the habit of noticing all the different thoughts that are passing through your mind. Some of these will be neutral or positive but many will be negative and damaging. These are the thoughts that you’re going to address.

2. Next, objectively look at how you are assessing yourself, and the situation. Try and identify your internal commentary or monologue. Notice the personal attacks, negative judgments and harsh criticisms.

3. Some specific questions you could ask yourself here include: What does this stressful situation mean to me? What does it say about me as a person? What does it say about my self-esteem? What is the message it is sending about my future? What negative images or tapes are playing in my head? What am I assuming, in terms of consequences?

4. Instead of ruminating on these negative thoughts, decide to interrupt the flow by saying “STOP” out loud, or by visualising a red stop sign. Use that as a trigger to put a stop to the self criticisms.

5. At this point, you need to make a conscious effort to find something distracting to do to keep your mind off your negative thoughts. This should be something you find interesting, or something that engages your full attention. Work on finding something that’s effective for you. The crucial thing is: you need to deliberately get your mind off the patterned negative thinking track.  

6. Try and come up with as many distractions as you can, so you’ve different options for resisting these ANTS. Some possibilities include: listening to music, humming along to music (or music in your head), exercising (going for a jog, cycle ride or swim), reading, surfing the internet, phoning a positive and upbeat friend, watching a funny video, playing with a pet, and so on.

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11 Common Errors in Thinking

According to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, we often feel anxious, upset and annoyed because of certain errors in our thinking. These are faulty ways of looking at life which are automatic - and also very common. However, if we identify and change our way of thinking then our feelings are reactions will be much healthier. These errors in thinking include the following:

1. All –or – Nothing Thinking: Where the person evaluates themselves, others, situations and the world in extreme categories. It doesn’t allow for grey areas in thinking.  “I’m a terrible parent.”

2. Overgeneralizing: Thinking that because a bad experience happened once, then that’s the way it’s always going to be. For example, “I know I’ll fail my driving test. I’ve already failed it three times”.

3. Discounting the Positives: Ignoring the positive aspects of a situation and saying that they don’t count. For example, generally getting  good marks in school – but not praising yourself for that. One paper gets some negative feedback and you tell yourself you’re a useless student. The positive results are ignored.

4. Jumping to Conclusions -This has two aspects to it: mind reading and fortune telling.

(i) Mind reading is thinking you know what others are thinking without any evidence. For example, a person with social anxiety assumes her colleagues think she’s useless at her job.

(ii) Fortune telling is predicting that the future will turn out badly. For example, going for a routine mammogram and concluding that you have cancer.

5. Magnifying / Minimising: Evaluating the importance of a negative event, or the lack of evidence of a positive event, in a distorted manner. (Blowing things out of proportion.) For example, concluding that your sister doesn’t like you anymore because she forgot to send a  birthday card.

6. Emotional Reasoning: Believing that something must be true because it feels true. For example, when your boyfriend is an hour late in arriving for a film, you conclude that he isn’t interested in you. You discount the fact that, maybe, the bus was late, or he was delayed at work.

7. Labelling: Using a label (bad mother, idiot) to describe a behaviour - and then taking on board everything associated with that label. Seeing things is global terms. For example, a friend says or does something thoughtless. You label then them as “a terrible friend” and now you interpret anything they say in a hostile and negative way.

8. Personalization and blame: Where a person totally blames themselves for something that’s gone wrong when it is not their fault. For example, a soccer team member thinks she’s “put the coach in a bad mood” because she missed a goal. She discounts the fact that the coach may have been annoyed before the game started. The opposite is to totally blame another for something. For example, a wife may blame her husband for the break up of their marriage and not admit that she had any part in it.

9. Catastrophizing: (Similar to fortune telling) Dwelling on the worst possible outcome. For example, an employee had to do a presentation. He became obsessed with thoughts of performing badly, letting the company down, losing his job, then losing his home and family.

10. Making “should” or “must” statements:  Where the person has a fixed idea of how they, others or life should be. These become “rigid demands”. When they person is disappointed (as will inevitably happen) they become very upset and overestimate how bad this will be for them. For example, a student berates themselves for only getting 89% in an exam – when they wanted all their results to be in the 90s.

11. Selective abstraction: Dwelling on one negative detail instead of seeing the bigger picture. For example, a girl gets a haircut and 8 of her friends say they love it. One person says they preferred her old style. The girl thinks about that for hours and hours and wonders if she should have changed her hairstyle.

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How to Turn off Negative Thoughts

1. Notice when you are slipping into negative, absolutist ways of thinking where you think the worst of yourself, your life and your future.

2. Recognise that these are habitual ways of thinking. It’s what you always think when you start to feel bad.

3. Be aware of triggers. Often certain people and situations trigger painful, negative self-destructive thoughts. Try and distance yourself from these, or completely avoid them, if you possibly can.

4. Deliberately look for the counter arguments. For example, when have things been a bit better, when have you done something right, when has someone been kind and understanding?

5. Visualise positive things that make you happy, such as curling up with a book in bed, listening to your favourite music, and so on. Often changing our thinking to things that make us happy changes our negative feelings and thoughts.

6. Get into the habit of building yourself up, so you notice and affirm your successes, strengths, good intentions and positive traits.

Filed under counselling psychology therapy self improvement self help Thoughts CBT mental health mental illness online counselling college