Question. Do you know how many thoughts you have a day?
Second question. What percentage of your thoughts are negative?
The answer is approximately 60,000 ( yes, 60K thoughts a day) and, according to an article in Forbes, 90% of those thoughts are negative. I was shocked to learn that. I’ll admit—as I’m sure everyone can—to having negative thoughts about myself most days…”I wish I fit those pants, I wish I was saving more for retirement.” Sound familiar?
Here is another fact: thinking negatively is actually more normal than you think and it seems we humans are genetically predisposed to think negative.
In a Penn State study, researchers asked people to spontaneously name as many emotions as they could. The words were then classified into positive, negative and neutral. Regardless of age or culture, 50% of the words people in the study named were negative.
So those are the facts. We are naturally inclined to think negative. But the good news is, there are ways to train your brain to stop automatically going to the negative.
Here are six things you can do to turn your negative thinking around:
Don’t should on yourself.
I have done that at least twice today! I should have written this blog last week so it wasn’t late. I should have had a salad for lunch. Alas, I didn’t do either of those things and dwelling on why I didn’t won’t change anything. So instead of reinforcing the negative and beating myself up, focus on doing better the next time.
Don’t think in terms of black and white.
I’m never going to get this project done. I’m never going to make that meeting on time. Telling yourself you will “never” do something or you “can’t” do it reinforces negative thinking and becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Instead, try “I’m going to do my best to get this project done.”
Ditch the crystal ball.
You don’t know what the future holds…no one does. I’d love a a DeLorean time machine, but those are best left to the movies. Don’t assume you know something isn’t going to work. Allow yourself to be open to letting things develop. Instead of thinking “that won’t work” try thinking “let’s see how it goes.”
Just because you feel it, doesn’t make it true.
We’ve all been in situations where we feel less than intelligent. Or one-up’d. When a particular situation makes you feel something, don’t allow your mind to apply that as a general way of thinking. Compartmentalize. Maybe you weren’t the smartest kid in the room in one meeting. That doesn’t mean you are not smart.
Don’t take things personally.
My friends, if I could master this, I’d be a happy, happy camper! I’ve lost count on the number of times someone has said something to me that was gruff or mean-spirited and I allowed that one comment to cloud my entire day. The reality is you don’t know what is going on in someone’s mind. Perhaps they had a bad meeting before seeing you and what they said to you (that you are now dwelling on) had absolutely nothing to do with you. You just happened to be the person in front of them. My husband and I have a running joke…when he’s cranky and is short with me, he just has to say the word “tree.” Which is code for, “I’m in a bad mood and yelling at the tree and you just happen to be the tree in front of me.”
Don’t assume you know what someone thinks of you.
How many times have you been introduced to someone and thought, “they won’t like me?” Assuming you know what someone already thinks of you is a form of negative thinking. Don’t assume you know what they think. Instead be open and kind without any preconceived notions.
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