Think happy thoughts - how to detox your self-talk

Be fearless, confident and calm.

The natural tendency of the mind is to be negative. And while it seems to be a hindrance, negativity tends to stem from an evolutionary survival instinct. KATE TOHOLKA shares her strategies to to move you away from negative thoughts.

We have developed innate abilities to recognise a threat to our survival as we have evolved over time, and these same innate abilities tell us that we need to be instantly cautious of anything completely new. We have to assess the threat – is it going to harm us or not? Not until we cognitively realise that whatever it is isn’t a threat can we then relax and continue happily ever after.

This applies to absolutely every new thing you do.

You will notice every day that you experience this fear each time you try something new. Negative thoughts will charge through your head and negative emotions will rise and rise until they feel unbearable. The fear of the unknown is incredibly powerful. However, we can make it easier for ourselves by changing our relationship with our thoughts and emotions. When we look at fear as a tool instead of an inhibitor, we charge through with rising confidence.

The trick isn’t to ‘clear’ our mind of negative thoughts and emotions, or to try and ignore them, because, quite frankly, that doesn’t work. But what we can do is reframe those thoughts and manage them effectively so they don’t have negative consequences. One name for this is ‘interrogative self-talk’: by acknowledging these thoughts and bringing them into your full consciousness – asking, “Will I?” Instead of insisting, “I will,” – you can create congruence between what you’re saying to yourself and what you truly believe. This means you are no longer subconsciously distracted or deterred by your fears, but comfortable with them.

There are many other tactics you can also use to help settle negative thoughts. Here are five strategies to try next time something fear-provoked pops into your mind; they are all highly effective at lessening the impact of a negative thought:

Thank your mind
When you have an unhelpful thought, thank your mind for the thought. For example, “Thanks mind, I don’t like that thought, I’m going to let that one go!”

Name the story
If you notice you tend to have a lot of unhelpful thoughts around a particular topic or belief, give that story a name. For example, if you constantly berate yourself for not being beautiful enough, you might label that story ‘the ugly story’. When the thoughts come again, you can acknowledge that your mind is playing that story again – “Oh there’s the ugly story again!”

Sing along
Start singing the unhelpful thoughts to a funny tune.

Imagine the thought is playing out on your computer, tablet or smartphone screen. Change the font, colour and format, make the letters jump about, or even add emoticons.

Pew, pew, pew!
Visualise your troubling thought on a piece of paper that has been pinned to a target. Visualise shooting that piece of paper with an arrow or gun until it is riddled with holes. Add sound effects. Guaranteed to make you laugh!

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The information presented on this website is not intended as specific medical advice and is not a substitute for professional medical treatment or diagnosis. Read our Medical Notice.