The average person has 60,000-70,000 thoughts a day! Let that sink in. 60 to 70 thousand! Are your 70,000 a day positive or negative?
Our thoughts are connected to everything we do. Thriving in life or merely surviving it is inseparable from the thoughts we have about our relationships, ourselves, and the world. Having the right mindset (are you in a coachable and willing mindset or closed and willful) can change everything. Courage is being afraid and doing it anyway! You choose!
If 50% of your thoughts were negative, how do you think you would feel? Would you be upbeat and motivated or overwhelmed and anxious? Would you feel confident and composed, or full of doubt and fear?
If there is one ability I wish for my client’s, my friends and my family to have, it’s for them to understand how their thoughts can influence their moods, relationships, self-esteem, and even influence their hopes and dreams.
My name is Jennifer Andrews. I’ve been a therapist for 18 years and a life coach for 2. A huge piece of my work is teaching people how to identify the toxic thoughts they use each day and learn to rephrase them. This helps them create the willing mindset needed to develop new strategies to reach their goals and live a more joyful life.
Below is a list of common toxic thoughts. Which do you use? You may not have used all of them, but I guarantee you use at least one.
- Over-generalizing – Is when you decide one thing defines your life entirely: “I never do anything right”. The problem with this way of thinking is that words like Always, Everything, Never, No One are 100% concrete words. But you can always find evidence, even if it’s small, to say something isn’t true 100% of the time. Try replacing them with Sometimes or Often.
- Name Calling – Is specifically calling yourself hurtful names: “I am dumb”, “I am stupid”, “I am fat”, et cetera. We often say things to ourselves that we would never say to our loved ones. If you would not call your favourite person that name, you are not allowed to say it to yourself.
- Assuming The Worst – Is when thoughts you tell yourself already assume the worst outcome in a situation without any evidence to back it up. Such as, your boss calls you into their office: “What did I do wrong?” Why start by assuming you are in trouble? Ask yourself: “What else could they want?”, “What are other reasons they need me?”
- The Shoulds – Using the word “should” places an unnecessary demand upon you. “I should go to the gym after work.” It creates high expectations that are often unrealistic. Using would or could changes what is expected of you: “I would like to go to the gym after work.” Stop “shoulding” on yourself!
- Happily Ever After – Is to demand or expect life to be fair. You can recognize it with sentences like “Why did this have to happen to me?”, “That’s not fair!”. Bad things happen to good people all the time. Expecting the world to be fair will leave you disappointed. It’s important that you use coping skills and support to keep going.
- All or Nothing – Is a very black and white, perfectionistic way of thinking. Expecting yourself to be perfect will lead you to feel like a failure whenever you don’t meet your expectations. Remind yourself that a poor performance does not define you. Less than perfect is acceptable and more realistic.
- Dwelling on the negative – Is seeing only the negative outcomes in a situation while ignoring anything positive. There will always be one small positive thing that you can find in a negative situation. Even if you think it is insignificant, it still counts.
- Dismissing the Positives – Is rejecting compliments from others. Just say “thank-you” even if you don’t believe it yet.
- Comparing Apples to Oranges – Is when you compare yourself to someone else using your negative traits and their positives. That is not an equal comparison. It is best to never compare yourself at all (see #5 Happily Ever After).
- Disaster Train – Is to spin out of control with worst-case scenarios: “This is so bad, I can’t handle it!” Don’t get on that train; it goes nowhere helpful. The trick is realizing you are already handling it; you just don’t like it. There is a difference.
- Owning it All – Is to take responsibility for something that is not yours. Don’t shift the blame from someone else’s behaviour to you. That won’t help them and adds unnecessary burdens to your shoulders. Remind yourself that it’s their baggage.
- Pass the buck – Is when you don’t take responsibility for your actions and feelings today: “My life sucks because of my childhood!” It might not be your fault, but it is your responsibility to improve your life moving forward.
- Making Feelings Facts – literally interpreting your feelings as the truth. “I feel worthless. I must be worthless.” Remind yourself it is just a feeling, not a fact.
Don’t panic if you do all 13; I’d been a social worker for a few years when I first saw these and realized I did 11 of them. Talk about not practicing what I teach!
Be mindful of your thoughts. When you catch yourself using a toxic thought, rephrase the sentence and move on. No judgement needed. If you find it difficult, ask someone you trust to play along with you. Have them point out when you use the toxic thought so you can rephrase it.
It is like any unhealthy behaviour. To change, pick a starting point and take the first step. It will take time, but if you stick with it, you will notice a big difference in how you approach any situation thrown your way.
You can take control!