Do you participate in negative thoughts like “I just can’t do anything right!”? Dr. Daniel G. Amen, MD, refers to this as Automatic Negative Thinking. Automatic negative thinking can be personally destructive and is tied very closely to negative self talk.
“These thoughts severely limit a person’s ability to enjoy his or her life. How people think “moment by moment” has a huge impact on how they feel and how they behave. Negative thoughts often drive difficult behaviors and cause people to have problems with their self-esteem. Hopeful thoughts, on the other hand, influence positive behaviors and lead people to feel good about themselves and be more effective in their day-to-day lives.” (excerpt from Healing ADD, Dr. Daniel G. Amen, MD)
Some examples of negative self talk I’ve encountered with clients (and some I’ve participated in myself):
- I’m too stupid to be organized.
- I’m too fat. I need to get rid of all these clothes.
- No one wants to spend time with me.
- No one likes/trusts me.
- They didn’t call me back, they must hate me.
- I’m never going to be as fun/pretty/smart as my friends are.
Every thought we have releases chemicals in our brains:
- Positive and hopeful thoughts release chemicals that make us feel good.
- Negative and degrading thoughts release chemicals that make us feel bad.
- What you focus on determines how you feel and act.
What do to?
- Acknowledge negative thoughts, but don’t empower them: It’s nearly impossible to not have a negative thought from time-to-time, but we don’t need to empower the negativity. Acknowledge it and move on.
- Re-frame: “I’m too fat” can turn into “I need to lose 5 pounds.” See how that works? You’ve turned negativity about yourself into an action plan.
- Analyze the negativity from a 3rd person perspective: Would your best friend react the same way? Sometimes looking at things from outside ourselves brings a new perspective.
- Assume best intentions: If someone doesn’t acknowledge your in-passing “how are you?” or doesn’t return your call in a reasonable amount of time, assume they didn’t hear you or didn’t get the message. My guess is that they aren’t intentionally ignoring you, even though your perception of the circumstance may lead you to believe that’s the only answer.
Conquer your automatic negative thinking and negative self-talk by employing the above techniques. Your brain will thank you!
National Association of Professional Organizers, Seattle Area Chapter President
Institute for Challenging Disorganization, Six Certificates of Education