This week’s mental strengthening focus is going to be on RESILIENCE! Today I tried to put together a quick email on a sub-topic, but it ended up going on a bit longer, so bear with me!
Have you ever caught yourself on *autopilot* when you are driving home after work? You get home ok, but maybe you didn’t exactly remember the drive…this happens simply because our brains already got that navigation route down, so there’s no need to think or recall that memory when you’ve done it a hundred times!
Well, the *emotional* parts of our brains kinda do the same thing – and more often than we’ve realized – if we let them!
Automatic thinking refers to the automatic thoughts we have in response to things happening around us.
These automatic thoughts aren’t directly controlled by us, since they are reflexive reactions based on the beliefs we hold about ourselves. But we can control these thoughts by challenging the beliefs we hold that lead us to them.
A Self Concept and The Cognitive Bias Monster explained! (some science stuff)
Self concept refers to how you see yourself, your past experiences, and your abilities.
A cognitive bias is a mistake in reasoning, evaluating, or remembering, often occurring as a result of holding onto our preferences and beliefs regardless of contrary information.
Self concept + Cognitive bias = automatic thoughts
Example: someone with a negative “self concept” is more likely to take things personally, leading to automatic thoughts like “People are not talking to me because I am an unlikable person”, rather than exploring other possibilities for the situation.
If left unchecked, this kind of negative self-referential thinking can send us into a downward spiral. (Yuck, amiright?)
Here’s a few more examples of negative automatic thoughts – any of these sound familiar?
“I’m no good.”
“No one understands me.”
“I’ve let people down.”
“I wish I were a better person.”
“I’m so disappointed in myself.”
“What’s wrong with me?”
“I wish I were somewhere else.”
“I hate myself.”
“Wish I could just disappear.”
“What’s the matter with me?”
“I’m a failure.”
“I’ll never make it.”
“I can’t finish anything.”
And here are some examples of positive automatic thoughts – how about these?
“I am respected by my team.”
“I will be successful.”
“I’m fun to be with.”
“I have people who care about me.”
“I’m proud of my accomplishments.”
“I will finish what I start.”
“I have many good qualities.”
“I am a lucky person.”
“I have friends who support me.”
“I’m happy with the way I look.”
“I take good care of myself.”
“I deserve the best in life.”
“There is no problem that is hopeless.”
“I won’t give up.”
“Today I’ve accomplished a lot.”
“I’m proud of myself.”
“No matter what happens, I know I’ll make it.”
“I enjoy a challenge.”
“I feel very happy.”
So now what? I want more of the second set of examples rolling around in my head than that first set!
Positive automatic thoughts can squash the negative effects of both negative automatic thoughts and stress in general.
People with higher levels of positive automatic thoughts are likely to respond to stress by feeling that their lives are more meaningful, while those of us with lower levels of positive automatic thoughts are likely to respond to stress by feeling that our lives are less meaningful.
Which means to have better mental balance, we’ve got to reduce our automatic negative thoughts and increase our positive automatic thoughts. (Duh!)
A small amount of negative thinking is natural, so it isn’t a matter of completely eliminating negative thoughts, but we can outweigh them by adding in more positive thoughts.
For a practical way to challenge any negative thinking in your brain, try this exercise when you’ve got the place to yourself:
- Begin this activity in a quiet place.
- Take out a sheet of paper.
- On the left side of the paper, write down as many automatic negative thoughts that come into your mind.
- Now, take the time to challenge every negative thought by finding a positive, truthful replacement and then write it on the right side.
The purpose here is to help you get into the habit of finding the positive in all things, and it should also help you see the not so great things you might be telling yourself and why you gotta stop being so hard on yourself.
Because when you change your thinkin’, you will change how your feelin’. Be patient with yourself and repeat this as often as you want to develop a more positive outlook!
At times, “THE POWER OF POSITIVE THINKING” can sound like nothing more than an inspirational cliché, or what some of us might like to call *BULLSHIT*. But it really, really helps to have healthy beliefs about yourself, and so it really does lead to positive automatic thinking, which can seriously rack up bonus points for your happiness overall!