Stopping the Cycle of Negative Thinking
I ask myself this question all the time. Am I just surviving or am I living? Surviving life is getting your basic needs met such as; oxygen, food and shelter. Living is functioning at a
much higher level of consciousness and experiencing life instead of just surviving it. For example people who are living their lives experience love, happiness and change. Living life is not always peaches and cream.
Steve Martin starred in a movie called Parenthood in the early 90’s and the little old grandma used rides as analogies for life. She didn’t like the merry go round, it doesn’t do anything it just goes around. The roller coaster was granny’s favorite it goes up and down. Life is like a roller coaster and there are scary drops downhill, slow suspenseful climbs to the top and sharp turns just like life you can’t see what’s on the other side of the dark tunnel but in the end it was worth it. Life is like that unless you’re protecting yourself on the merry go round, safely tucked away in your home, never leaving, never talking to anyone or answering the phone. That was my life for nearly 4 years. I’m terrified of the roller coaster but I so desperately want to ride. I always find an excuse and go back to the merry go round. That all changed last year when I started to read about negative thinking and thought patterns.
Negative experiences can bring about positive change but for us merry go round riders we can’t see it that way. I used to have tunnel vision when I was faced with a negative situation or a situation that hasn’t occurred I would play it out in my mind and imagine the worst case scenario. In recent studies brain scans show that experiencing a negative situation and imagining a negative situation produce the same chemical reactions in the brain. This is also true for positive experiences. Sometimes the most challenging, scary experiences can force a person to change for the better such as being fired from a crappy job or being evicted from a run down apartment. Sometimes a person is forced to change and possibly land themselves a higher paying job or an improved living situation.
If we can look at a seemingly negative situation and stop the cycling of negative thought patterns we can change the way our brains react to negative stimuli. The way that I practice this is I write down a few negative situations. Then I write out as many positive outcomes as I can and use them to replace the negative thoughts. For example a man looses his job washing dishes at a restaurant making minimum wage. Now a positive outcome could be he didn’t want to wash dishes for the rest of his life anyways so loosing the job forced him to get a better job that he enjoys doing and pays more then his old job. Then when he begins to think of all the bad things that could happen before he gets a new job he can take out his list and replace the negative thoughts with positive ones.
It takes 21 days or 3 weeks to break a habit or start a new one. When you catch yourself in a negative thought cycle break it by thinking positively or just focusing on your breathing anything that works for you to break that cycle. With practice it becomes habit and soon it becomes automatic. You can physically think your way to changing your thought patterns.