We can get so caught up in thought. We daydream. We revisit past transgressions. We plan for our future. We are not maximizing this moment, instead we are sabotaging this moment. Our thoughts become obstacles. Obstacles to our success and obstacles to our happiness.
If you don’t know how to overcome those pesky thoughts and focus on the positive try these tips:
Find the Good:
Acknowledge the negative thought(s)
Name the negative consequences of that thought
Understand key phrases/words in that thought process
Flip it upside down, rethink and reorganize those thoughts
Acknowledge your thought. Name it and understand the key phrases associated with that pattern of thinking. Refer to the examples below to get a feel of what I’m referring to:
Example #1 — Thought: "I’m never going to get that promotion."
Name the negative consequence: Negative self-talk; devalue statement
Understand key phrases/word: (Never/Promotion) — "Never" is emphatic, and often synonymous with FOREVER. It is also tied to the thing that we want, that promotion. When used together, we disconnect ourselves from the possibility of that promotion.
Flip, rethink and reorganize thoughts: "I’m going to get that promotion. I work hard and I’m as qualified as the other candidates." Like that better?
Example #2 — Thought: "No one appreciates all that I do."
Name the negative consequence: Negative self-talk/devalue statement
Understand key phrases/words: (Appreciate/Do)
We often think that we keep doing and doing and that doing goes unnoticed. What is the real problem? We want appreciation. Are we acknowledging how others show their appreciation?
Flip, rethink and reorganize thoughts: Running this household is a chore. I wish my husband would take me out to dinner. (Rethink It) …. "We didn’t go to dinner, but he cooked over the weekend. That was nice."
Flipping, rethinking and reorganizing thoughts takes practice. The goal is not to ignore hurts or disappointments. The goal is to recognize them for what they are. Once acknowledged it’s healthier to steer our minds towards a more positive lean. Why do we need to readjust our thoughts? Why can’t we wallow in our negative thought patterns? Because we dirty our minds. And dirt clogs up progress.
What should we do when we recognize we are wallowing in negative thoughts? Relax our minds. Our body reacts when we fall into the trap of negative thinking. The fight or flight response activates and acts as a catalyst commanding the spiral of negative thoughts. Thoughts continue and worsen.
Remember the examples from above? The spiral effect makes us think we aren’t worthy of any promotion, not now, not ever. The spiral effect makes us think our husband will never take us out to dinner. And that spiral can twirl us right out of reality into a dark tunnel if we allow it.
How Do You Stop the Spiral?
The first step involves acknowledging the negativity. The second step is cutting it off at its tracks. Next, try a simple tool. It’s free. It’s called the Breath. It sounds so simple and, breathing for most of us is simple. But automatic breathing is not the same as awareness breathing. Awareness breathing requires pause and focus.
Awareness breathing is different. When we breathe with awareness, we notice our inhalations and exhalations. We can fine tune the skill when we focus on the rise and fall of our chest or abdomen. Patricia Gerbarg, MD, author of, "The Healing Power of Breath", says we breathe 14 to 20 breaths/minute. But breathing calms us when we breath 5 to 6 breaths/minute. That’s a big difference in the number of breaths/minute. That difference requires awareness. A focused awareness. Check in with your breath throughout the day and slow things down. Thought and breath awareness tees us up to experience an even higher payoff. Silver linings.
Find the Silver Linings: Your Hidden Treasures
Finding silver linings can be a bit daunting. The more difficult the challenge, the more hurdles you need to jump. As we tire, we are less likely to see any potential good coming from that circumstance. I admit, the phrase silver lining is a bit cliché, but humor me. Think about a personal experience. A tough one. Did any good come from that situation once you got through it? Anything at all?
We all experience uncomfortable and challenging times. Finances trip us up. Surprise, another unexpected bill! We become vulnerable when our relationships take a nose- dive. We crash when unexpected tragedy hits. If you’ve experienced a downside in your life, how did you navigate through it? Did you cling to hope? Did you realize life is transient and all things change? Did you build endurance? How about GRIT? If you found yourself stuck in the quick- sand of life, did you know that you would pull through? Did you know that that moment would pass? Did you pull yourself out of the quick-sand and end up in a shinier future? Could you see that future when you were sinking? A future where you were meeting your goals and living a happier, more fulfilled life. Did you realize that you could live a life where thinking about silver linings amid sinking was second nature? If so, great. That means you are disciplined and a half-glass full kind of person. I continue to work on my glass half-full mentality and a real-life circumstance helped me realize I too can manage the quicksand.
This is a true story about one of my quick-sand moments. It’s also a story about getting out, looking back and seeing all the silver linings.
I was diagnosed with breast cancer in late 2014. I am well now, but like most women I traveled an unexpected journey. I encountered physical and psychological challenges. What happened on that journey?
I learned to become more vulnerable (silver lining).
I made new and cherished friendships (silver lining).
I got a new perspective on life (silver lining).
I learned how to talk about my diagnosis in hopes of helping others (silver lining).
The list goes on and on, because I chose to find the good in a difficult circumstance. Don’t get me wrong, that wasn’t always easy. I knew that I was lucky because I was diagnosed and treated early. I knew I could be an evangelist for mammography, the preventative test that found my cancer.
All silver linings.
Was I scared? Yes.
Did I want to have 2 surgeries? No.
Did I want to undergo radiation? No.
Did I want to take Tamoxifen for 5 years? No.
Did I want my body to change? No.
Did I want to undergo corrective surgery? No.
Did I do all that? Yes.
Because I cared about myself and my family. I loved life and wanted to live. I also felt like so many women had gone through so much more, and they had. I felt connected to these women; to the ones that won their battle and to those who didn’t.
My cancer is one reason I studied Integrative Medicine. It’s a key reason that I became a Health Coach. It’s why I chat it up about exercise, stress reduction and proper nutrition.
All silver linings….
No matter what your obstacle, you can overcome it. You can find your silver lining. Tune into your negative thought patterns. Acknowledge them and then flip them around. Don’t let negative thoughts captain your vessel. You are in charge. You have a choice.
When life gets tough, pause. Take a few breaths and notice the magic of breathing. Relax.
There will be a silver lining on the other side of your challenges. If you are lucky, you might find more than one.