Have you ever felt like your brain is your own worst enemy?
In college, I was the QUEEN of negative thinking, and every day felt like a hike through a minefield of triggers. Did I let down a friend because I didn’t wanna go out the night before? BOOM – that thought of not being a good friend would be replayed in my mind, over and over, for days.
Was I getting ready for a HUGE presentation for work? BAM! My mind would overflow with worst-case scenarios, like forgetting the right words or being soooo boring, I put the whole audience to sleep.
I couldn’t even make small talk at a party without constantly thinking, “Is this joke I’m telling interesting enough? Funny enough? Or am I just boring everyone?” or “I bet these people don’t even wanna talk to me. They just don’t wanna be rude and ditch me right away…”
Sound a lil’ familiar? 🙂
Then I don’t have to tell you how much I hated feeling like EVERY moment of EVERY day was just another opportunity for self-judgment and self-hate to jump at me.
‘Cause you already know how freakin’ overwhelming negative thinking can feel…especially when you have NO idea how to stop.
My Journey of Learning How to Stop Negative Thinking
So how did I ditch my Negative-Nancy ways? Well, it all started with my first self-love retreat.
The retreat had just started and I had noooo idea what to expect. And then I sat down with one of my teachers…and he made a deceivingly simple request: “Tell me something positive or good about yourself.”
And you know what?!? There was soooo much negative shit in my head, I couldn’t think of a SINGLE thing to say!
That’s when my teacher issued one hell of a homework assignment: every time I found myself thinking negatively about myself or getting alll caught up in self-judgment, I had to pause and say, “I love you.”
For the first two days, I did my “homework” here, there and everywhere. I’d be walking down the hall and worrying about doing badly on a test, or going out to dinner with people and thinking I’d say something dumb, or lying in bed at night reliving some epic fail, and I’d tell myself, “I love you, I love you.”
And to be totally honest…at first, this practice felt SUPER dumb. I was drowning in soooo many negative thoughts, these small moments of positivity felt about as helpful as a half-inflated inner tube.
But I told myself I’d stick to it for a week – and I did. As much as I could, I paused every single time I was getting down on myself or my life. And then one morning late in the week, I accidentally knocked over and shattered a glass flower vase in my room.
Any guesses about what happened next?
Sure, like usual, I got suuuper annoyed at myself and thought, “What a moron!”
But then I heard it: some little voice inside me say, “But I love you.”
And I couldn’t help but smile, even with glass and flowers strewn allllll over the floor. Because at that moment, I realized I COULD create new voices in my head. I COULD change my thoughts – and my life – for the better.
How Stopping Negative Thinking Changed My WHOLE Life – And Can Change Yours Too
For years after that retreat, I put aside time every single day to teach my brain how to talk to me like a bestie. That meant doing things like…
…learning how to be a mindful ninja and recognize my negative thoughts.
…practicing new ways of talking to myself when I made a mistake or felt disliked or wanted to set new goals.
…creating some epic new thinking patterns that keep my brain from immediately jumping on the negativity train!
And, yeah, it took some time to create these new mental habits…but it was SOOO worth it.
Because nowadays, I actually feel SAFE in my brain and body. I can take a risk or make a mistake without having a bajillion thoughts about why I’m an epic failure. I can look into MYSELF for comfort and support when shit hits the fan. Plus, I don’t wake up feeling down or anxious like I used to!
And those are just the mental benefits. 😉
Three Ways You Can Stop Your Own Negative Thinking ASAP
Now, I know what you’re probably thinking. “That’s awesome for you, Caitlin, and I’m alllll about finding some internal good vibes…but I don’t have YEARS to spend on creating a more positive mindset. I wanna smash these negative thoughts now!”
I get it. It’s a busy world out there, and we all wanna see results ASAP. So if you’re ready to see the bright side of life like, yesterday, here are three tips to speed up your positive self talk:
1. Put your positivity on repeat.
Almost every day, I have clients come in and tell me: “I don’t know what’s going on, Caitlin! Every day before work, I just feel soooo anxious. And it won’t stop!”
And I’ll look at them and say, “You know, it’s probably because you’re imagining all the ways you’re gonna screw up or not do a good enough job or be disliked. So why don’t you try thinking of some more positive examples of how you’ve succeeded or when you’ve done well at your job? Each morning, think about how that kinda success is possible in your day.”
So they do. But here’s the problem. People will do this lil’ exercise once…and then come back saying, “I did it and it felt good! But the next day, the same negativity came back…”
Of course it did, silly!
Here’s the thing about positive thinking: to make it stick, it needs to become a habit. And just like doing one squat won’t give you a Jennifer Lopez booty, doing one positivity exercise won’t turn you into Positive Peter or Penelope. Instead, you need to treat those thoughts like your favorite songs and play them on repeat, all day, every day!
I’m not exaggerating either. Set a timer on your watch for 20 minutes and tell yourself what a kickass marketer you are every time it beeps. Make an internal list of why you’re safe every time your boss says “teamwork” during your suuuuper stressful morning meetings. Do whatever it takes to keep repeating the positive thoughts you want your brain to hold onto…because the more often you practice, the quicker those thoughts will feel natural and start poppin’ up on their own!
2. Novelty is your friend!
Our brain has one goal: to keep us alive. That means anytime it encounters something new, it spends a LOOOOOT of time examining that new thing to make sure it’s safe. And that’s awesome news if you wanna learn how to start thinking positively – fast.
Why? Because you can trick your brain into quickly learning those new positive thoughts by adding novelty to your practice! For example, you could:
- Slightly change the WAY you word your thought. For instance, instead of saying, “I’m beautiful” over and over, you could find a new way to say you’re beautiful every day. On Monday, you might say, “I’m beautiful,” but you could kick off Tuesday with, “I’m as gorgeous and graceful as a waterfall” and end Wednesday with, “My thighs are suuuuper sexy.”
- Change HOW you say your thought. Maybe you just keep repeating “I’m beautiful” – but you do it while laying in bed, or staring in the mirror, or dancing in circles.
Adding something new to your practice forces your brain to focus more intensely on that moment and creates a lasting memory much more quickly. Getting to explore ALL the ways you can say you’re beautiful or smart or kind or an epic entrepreneur is just a bonus! 😉
3. More senses = faster progress.
Now, let’s say you’re trying to practice a more positive way of talking to yourself about your deservedness of love. It’s one thing to keep saying, “I deserve love” or “Love is safe.” It’s whooooole other thing to bring in your five senses by asking:
- What smell do you associate with deserving love?
- What color is it? What feeling? What energy?
- What is the taste of you deserving love?
And with those answers in your mind…you can close your eyes and FEEL yourself deserving love through all five senses. This is another suuuuper powerful way to create an experience and a memory versus just a thought.
Because experiences and memories are what really shape us and create our mindset.
And the cool part about that is you CAN influence what experiences and memories shape your mindset by using these three tips I’ve shared!
Only Two Weeks Can Stand Between You and a Waaaay More Positive Life…
In fact, I’ve had clients who really committed to making these three techniques part of their daily grind…and within TWO WEEKS, they cultivated a whole new way of thinking.
And if you need a lil’ extra help…you can check out my FREE Cheat Sheet for creating some epically lovin’ self talk! In it, I walk you through EVERY step of turning negative thoughts into ones full of compassion and love. That way, you can ditch your inner Negative Nancy, for once and all! To download your free copy of the worksheet and start thinking more positively right now, just click here!
My Biggest Takeaway About How to Stop Negative Thinking
Compared to my college self, I’m as positive and upbeat as the award-winning host of a kid’s TV show. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have negative thoughts now and then. And that’s normal! Our brains are biologically programmed to focus on the negative to help us survive, so the goal isn’t to NEVER have a negative thought ever again. Instead, it’s to create a resilient enough brain to keep that negativity from messing with our daily groove!
And that’s where the three techniques I’ve dished allll about today come in. Because, to be totally honest, life’s not as fun when all your brain thinks about are the things you should’ve done better or the ways you could still screw up. Life is meant to be ENJOYED, slip-ups and all…and having a positive mindset is a BIG help with that.
So if you feel stuck like I did and don’t know how to escape the toxic cycle of negative thinking…think of these three techniques as your secret weapons to freedom. And as long as you commit to giving these three practices all you’ve got, I KNOW you can find the positive mindset you need to really love life – and yourself – waaaaay faster than I did!
What is one topic you want to talk about more positively to yourself? Tell me in the comments!