Psychologists use the term ‘automatic negative thoughts’ to describe the ideas that pop into our heads uninvited, and which leave behind a mess of uncomfortable emotions.
In the 1960s, one of the founders of cognitive therapy, Aaron Beck, concluded that automatic negative thoughts sabotage our best self and lead to a circle of misery. This creates a generally unhappy, anxious or angry mindset. We can then get stuck in the same old neural pathways, having the same negative thoughts again and again. Happily, increasing evidence of the brain’s plasticity suggests that we can disrupt this vicious cycle and replace it with a healthier one.
It is estimated that the average person has between 12,000 and 70,000 thoughts a day. When you have had and held specific thoughts and ideas for the majority of your life, you may find it challenging to change your conditioned way of thinking. You are conditioned by your parents, school, church, friends and media. You are conditioned to have specific thoughts in a particular way. However, you must learn to bring your dominant thoughts and beliefs under your conscious control, as they are what largely determine your mental attitude. The good news is, you can change how you think. You can alter your perception and change your life. Here are three ways to challenge your negative thinking patterns:
1. Become Aware of Your Thoughts But Not Obsessed:
It is essential that you learn to be aware of your habitual
thoughts and adjust them appropriately to maintain an overall positive mental attitude. However, be careful not to become obsessed with every idea that enters your mind as this would be equally counter-productive.
Instead of resisting your negative thoughts,
learn to cancel them out by replacing them as they arise.
2. Instantly Replace Unwanted Thoughts:
To immediately neutralise the power of a negative thought,
calmly and deliberately replace it with its opposite, positive equivalent. For instance, if you think to yourself ‘I’m not good enough, I will never succeed’, mentally replace that thought with “I am good enough, and success comes to me easily”.
The way you think about yourself can become a reality.
However, if you draw inaccurate conclusions about who
you are, and what you’re capable of doing, you will limit your
Thoughts are like films. Your brain is the projector, and physical reality is the screen. If you don’t like the ‘movie’ that is playing around you, all you need to do is change the ‘film’. Doing this will take you right back to your thoughts.
The following words of Siddhartha Gautama Buddha perfectly capture the essence of thought power:
“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. The mind is everything. What we think we become.”
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