Silencing the Negative Chatter: A Practical Guide to Mastering Your Thoughts
If the experts are correct, over 90% of our thoughts are repetitive and 80% are negative, which means a defeatist tape is rehashing almost constantly in our heads. There’s even a term for it, Automatic Negative Thoughts, and, since brains are lazy (preferring to run on auto pilot to conserve energy), it requires effort and intention to resist this barrage of negativity.
One simple technique involves acknowledging and replacing.
The next time a negative thought pops in your mind, acknowledge it. Many times, it stems from our self-preserving instinct there to protect us, but often it’s wrong or inflated in some way. Then, replace that negative thought with a positive one.
For example, let’s say you are nervous about an important business presentation you must give and your mind is filling up with self-doubt and anxiety. Acknowledge that your instinct is warning you that the presentation is important, and you must do well. But, we all recognize that if you give that presentation with that negative tape running, it likely won’t go as well as you want. So, flip the script.
Instead of focusing on the potential failure or angst, focus on the value your presentation will deliver. Think about the information you will impart and how that will help your team or customer or company. Visualize attendees nodding in agreement and smiling. Doing this switches your emphasis from performance anxiety, a negative, to being appreciated for educating and sharing necessary information, a positive.
Doing this exercise once or twice won’t “cure” the negative thoughts – they are always going to be there – but, through practice, you will develop a more effective way of dealing with them. And, in time, they will be quieter. As Jack Kornfield, the famous mindfulness guru, says, “Thoughts are a great servant, but make a terrible master.” By practicing acknowledge and replace, you move from being ruled by your thoughts to mastering them.