Caitlin Keat, COO15 May 2020
Our negative thoughts have a weight that we must carry every day. These thoughts feed on each other and a weight every day to the pile. So how do we break the cycle?
Reword the Thought
Take a close look at your thought and see if you can flip it on its head or even make more open ended and less finite. For example, if you tell yourself “I’ll never be a good writer. I’ve tried a hundred times, and either nothing comes out or it doesn’t sound good.” If you told yourself instead “I struggle so often with writing, whenever I try it doesn’t go the way I had planned. I wonder what I can do differently next time…” We are our own worst critics and we tend to have ridiculously high expectations of what we should be able to do. Would you expect the same of others? Can you give yourself some grace on this journey?
Let the Thought Fly Away
As my children are going to bed, they regularly tell me that they can’t stop thinking the bad thoughts. One of the ways we’ve come up with to help them set these thoughts aside is a butterfly. They close their eyes and imagine the bad thought sitting on the wings of a butterfly and watch it fly away. The visual helps them to let the thought fly away and not stick in their brain. If the butterfly doesn’t resonate with you find a visual to help break the thought cycle.
Below are a few thought exercises to get you started, spend some time with each and let them morph into what works for you.
- Pack that thought up in a box and then lock it up, put way, or throw it away
- Place the thought on your hand and then blow it away with your breath like a leaf
- Tie the thought around a heavy rock and throw it as far as you can
- Dig a hole in the ground, place your thoughts in the bottom, and then cover them with dirt
Realize Your Thought is a Just a Thought, not a Fact
We so often get stuck in the idea that every thought and the story it becomes must be true. Often, we are writing a narrative in our head and then living that narrative not the other way around. Remind yourself that these are just thoughts and that you have the power to change the story, the reality and the thoughts. I find that if an external force tells me something negative or worse that I cannot do something that is a fire that is lit in my soul. I will do everything within my power to prove that person wrong. If this thought or story were created externally would you let it be? Or fight to create a different reality?
Dance. Jump. Ride your bike. Walk around your kitchen, neighborhood, city. Practice a handstand. Go down a slide. There are so many ways you can up, change your scenery, and send that anxiety out as movement. The next time you feel the thoughts crashing down on you, the knot in your stomach, get up and get moving. It might help to bring your music, or a podcast. Go ahead and grab a friend, roommate, or family member and do wild and silly dances together. Maybe you need to do something so hard that sweat drips from your mind and brain can only think about moving. Any of these will help to clear that fog and break your negative thought spiral.
Practice, practice, practice
Unfortunately, there is no silver bullet that will stop these thoughts with one try. You’ll need to try each of the techniques to find which helps you the most. Once you find one or a few that are helpful you’ll need to try them again and again. Each time you use a technique may be slightly different until it evolves into what will help you the most. Even after the technique has evolved, you’ll need to keep practicing until the technique becomes muscle memory. Then you’ll find that they kick in without conscience effort.