Hello everybody, welcome to episode 186 of Optimal Living Advice, the podcast where we take any questions you might have about the many struggles of life and get them answered for you here on the show. The OLA question we’ll be taking a look at today is pretty straightforward – our asker is looking to replace the negative thoughts in her head with positive ones.
I’m your host, certified life coach Greg Audino reminding you before we begin that if you have a question you would like help with on the show, we welcome you to email it to us at advice AT oldpodcast.com
It’s so nice to have you all here today, as it is every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Before we proceed I do want to let you know that at the end of the episode I’ll be sharing a special piece of listener advice from our community that you should stick around for! More on what that is, how you can join and have your answers featured on the show later, though.
Now today's question is surely something we’re all curious about, as our perceptions of our struggles are really what make them struggles at all. But how can we change our thinking in a way that respects the negative thoughts that inevitably come up? This is really a cornerstone of creating healthier thinking patterns and what we’ll talk about today. Here’s the question…
QUESTION: “I’m trying to keep all of the negative thoughts out of my head and replace them with positive thoughts. I need a plan for how to do this to increase my self confidence, and techniques that are easy to follow & effective!!”
The Absence of Negative Thoughts
No more negative thoughts, huh? Sounds like a dream. Thank you for sending this question in, asker. Definitely an admirable pursuit and a lofty goal.
I should preface my answer by saying that you’re shooting yourself in the foot from the get-go if you ever expect to be completely ridded of negative thoughts. Don’t fall into thinking that you’ve somehow failed as long as some negative thoughts do come up. That’s a recipe for disaster.
There are certainly strategies for diminishing them, however, and we’ll talk about them today. But more important than diminishing negative thoughts is handling them better. That’s really the goal and it, too, will be more attainable when putting into practice what we talk about today.
Are You Living A Baseline Healthy Lifestyle?
So really quick to start, it’s worth noting that if you’re not living a baseline healthy lifestyle, it’s time to.
I know it feels too abstract to believe in sometimes, but the fact is that your mind will unquestionably be in a better place by simply maintaining good daily habits such as good diet, regular exercise, ample time outside and with loved ones, surrounding yourself with supportive, well prioritized and morally intact people, and generally making an effort to do all of the things that bring you joy so long as they’re good for you.
But assuming you’ve done all this, what you’re looking at is a double approach to changing your thinking. I’m going to give you two strategies to work on side by side. The first one I’ll talk about is rather involved and long-term, and the second is a simpler, day by day approach that is manufactured, yet still truthful and great for getting you by while you chip away at the first, longer standing one.
You’re going to have to have patience on this journey. Negative thoughts build over a lot of time and conditioning. Changing them isn’t an immediate thing; your brain needs enough justification to believe in positive, counteractive thoughts.
What Are Your Negative Thoughts Telling You?
Now first, the long-term work. Know that each of your negative thoughts are telling you something.
They’re all reflecting a part of your psyche that’s clearly not at rest, and it becomes less restful and more powerful the more you try to silence it, because you’re making it out to be a villain rather than cooperating with it. This is why we shouldn’t seek to eliminate unhealthy thoughts so much as learning to deal with them better, at which point they become more likely to dissipate or change form.
Because each negative thought it stemming from something that needs attention, you need to dissect these recurring thoughts and hold yourself accountable to what part of you is creating them, why that part is there, and what it wants.
Getting Deeper with Investigative Questions
For example, say you’re having negative thoughts about your appearance. Rather than trying to turn them off and immediately think of something else, over time, you want to practice digging deeper.
The thought pops in your head that you don’t like your appearance. Now ask why you don’t like your appearance.
Say it’s your thighs. Why don’t you like your thighs? They’re not toned. When did you start feeling this way? When somebody made a comment about them in middle school.
These investigative questions can then be followed by questions rooted in interpretation. Is appearance something you feel is worth thinking about this much? Does appearance really have anything to do with your value as a person? Surely you don’t love all the people you love because of their appearance, so what makes you think you can only receive love if you look a certain way?
What do you think you’ll have to say about this on your deathbed, as you’re reflecting on the things that were important in life and how you spent your time? Can you forgive this part of yourself, and treat yourself like you’d treat your best friend if they started to collect weight in their thighs?
Tackling negative thoughts like this helps you get more comfortable, curious and accepting of them. The more repetitions of this process you put in, over time, the more your beliefs about your thighs and the importance of how they look will change for the better. But again, it takes time.
Negative Thoughts: Conclusion
To keep you afloat while those beliefs change slowly over time, there’s the day-to-day work. This is simply a matter of prompting yourself to express the healthier, more positive thoughts you have so that they can take front and center as opposed to being more passive; living and dying in your brain.
This might include speaking about the good in everything, including that which you speak negatively of.
What good attributes do those things have? What are you grateful for in life? List 3-5 things each day. Can you give 3-5 compliments to others each day? Give 3-5 hugs each day? Pick up 3-5 pieces of trash from the ground each day? Offer 3-5 random acts of kindness each day? I don’t know why I’m so hooked on 3-5, even 1 of each of these things each day will go a long way. But you get the idea.
Like I said before, this would be manufactured into your routine in the sense that it isn’t something you’d do naturally, but that doesn’t mean it has to be a lie, nor should it be. Look to act on the things I mentioned, and more, that are easily accessible.
Surely there are some things you’re grateful for, so shout them out. Surely there are compliments you’d like to give based on things you admire in others. Surely there are people you want to hug.
Bring that stuff up and let it out.
To the woman who sent this question in, thank you again and thanks to all of you for listening today. You know, we all look for the easiest way to do everything – we’re hardwired to do so, so we can conserve time, energy and resources. And what this often causes us to do is bypass steps to a solution that may come off as irrelevant or just uncomfortable. When it comes to creating healthier thoughts for yourself, we can’t take this shortcut.
We can’t force ourselves to stop thinking about things, and if we do for a period of time, they’re bound to resurface at a later date, and until then, prohibit you in ways that you don’t realize. It’s essential to make friends with your negative thoughts; see where they’re coming from and what they’re trying to tell you. Once you listen to them a little more, they’re bound to pass on their own, or at least show up in a less stressful or destructive form.
That’s gonna do it for now, though, folks. We’ve reached the end, so thanks once more for listening to the end, and be sure to come back next time. You guys are the best. I’ll see you in the next one.