Do you know someone who constantly sees only the negative things in life?
Or, every story on the evening news triggers the, “People are more rotten than ever. Our world is doomed,” response?
And worse still, even if something good were to happen, such as winning the lottery, the Sky is Falling types cannot control their impulse to tack on the, “Yeah, but now I have to deal with all these financial planners hounding me!” retort.
Individuals like these have gotten into what is referred to as a negative feedback loop, and truly cannot help themselves. They’ve programmed themselves by repeating negative thoughts to the point where they have literally carved a neural pathway in the brain with these habitual responses. No matter what happens in their lives they perceive everything negatively, and respond on auto-pilot.
Your brain can be re-wired
A lot has been written about the promising research in brain plasticity in the last few years, which is the brain’s ability to reshape neural pathways even if they’ve been ingrained for decades. With physical therapy new neural pathways can be forged even after strokes damage areas of the brain to help patients re-learn lost abilities such as walking and speaking. And, this same concept can also be applied to habitual negative thinkers who can retrain their brain’s to think and respond more positively.
I got to thinking about the subject of neural plasticity because of an article I read titled, “Rewire your brain to combat negative thinking, easy steps,” in Monsters and Critics.com. Author and therapist, Patt Lind-Kyle was interviewed for her newest book which is about rewiring the brain to “kick the chronic negativity habit for good.”
The article reminded me of a small but powerful booklet titled, “The 7 Day Mental Diet,” I’d read written way back in 1935 by Emmet Fox , an eminent New Thought writer from the early part of the century. While I haven’t read Lind-Kyle’s book, which I’m sure is full of great ideas and exercises to rewire the brain, I couldn’t help but think of this simple but powerful 19 page booklet that helped me overcome my negative programming very effectively.
Change your thinking – change your life
Fox states that you can change your life in a week if you focus very intently upon your every thought. He says you, “must watch yourself for a whole week as a cat watches a mouse, and you must not under any pretense allow your mind to dwell on any thought that is not positive, constructive, optimistic, kind.”
He admits that this will not be easy which is why he prescribes starting with just a week. But, within one week, “the habit of positive thinking will begin to be established.” In other words, new neural pathways will begin developing in the brain.
After the first seven days I chose to continue on the mental diet for another twenty-one days. I was amazed at what I learned about myself. The hyper-vigilance I applied to watching my thoughts revealed that I did have areas where my thoughts were undermining my successes – even though anyone who knows me would say I’m a pretty positive person. I found that much of my self-talk was extremely negative which dragged down my self-esteem.
Examining my thoughts so closely made me see that my self-esteem was much too dependent upon what others thought of me. Beliefs such as thinking you’re attractive makes you vain, or admitting you’re smart makes you a show-off, and speaking up about what you want means you’re pushy, etc., were feedback loops that kept me from going after what I truly wanted in life. While I have never been a chronically negative person there was vast room for improvement.
An evolution in my thinking
“The 7 Day Mental Diet” was an eye-opener and just the beginning of a journey I have been on for more than half my life now. When I was first introduced to the concept of “change your thinking and change your life” it was life altering. Like most people I’d never paid any attention to my thoughts; frankly I didn’t even know you could do that. I had no idea where to begin until I came across Fox’s “Diet” which gave me a structure to follow. When I committed to it, I saw my life change rapidly.
While I can’t prove that I did forge new neural pathways I can state for sure that “The Diet” taught me to become aware of my thinking patterns; a habit I continue to this day. Interrupting my negative thoughts as they occurred derailed them from the habitual path they followed. This allowed me to redirect them and eventually forge new more positive ways of thinking.
Since we are what we believe, and our lives and circumstances reflect back to us what we believe – changing our thinking does change our lives.
My advice is try “The Diet.” It’s only seven days – which you’re going to live anyway, so why not see if you can create thoughts that serve you better and improve your life in that same 7 days?
Try these 5 tips to get The Mental Diet underway:
1. Carry a small pad/notebook and write down every negative thought you have – when you have it (don’t say I’ll remember and think you can do it later – you’ll forget). Anytime you have a negative thought – say to yourself, “No!, Stop! or Cancel!” In the beginning you’ll be amazed at how many times you have to say this each day.
2. Replace negative thoughts with a new positive ones. Write down the new positive thought after the negative one. Record all of this in a small notebook – first the negative thought you had then the positive one you’re replacing it with.
3. Look for patterns. Review your notes daily and catagorize your negative thoughts. Are you more negative in a certain area of your life vs. others such as relationships, career, money, self-esteem etc? Or, have you allowed yourself to become chronically negative in every area? Don’t worry – you can retrain your brain!
4. Create positive affirmations to override these patterns. Repeat the affirmation to yourself numerous times after becoming aware of your own negative feedback loops. Make sure you use the present tense when you come up with your affirmations. If you have difficulty with creating affirmations I highly recommend reading Louise Hay’s classic book, “You Can Heal Your Life.”
5. If you must spend time with negative thinkers don’t try to change them. Just listen politely – but do not accept what they say. Mentally tell yourself that you choose to reject this type of thinking. When you stop responding to other people’s negativity and just remain quiet, but respectful, they eventually start to hear the hollowness of their own words and change – at least around you anyway.
Good Luck! I know you can do it.
Are you aware of your own negative thoughts? What would happen if you scrubbed your mind of all negative thinking? Could you imagine living life differently, and to the fullest with nothing holding you back?
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