Have you ever had an itch that you couldn’t scratch for some reason, so you tried to make yourself not think about it? And instead of not thinking about the itch, the itch becomes all you can think about and it seems to grow and take over your whole body. And then your phone buzzes and suddenly you’ve forgotten all about the itch as you move on to something else.
That’s how it is with negative thinking. The more you try to make yourself stop your negative thinking, the more negative reasons you’ll come up with to keep thinking that way. So when you tell yourself to Leave It, you have to have a distraction ready. We’ve already talked about Mantras: short, easily remembered phrases you can repeat over and over to gently bludgeon out the negative thoughts. Over time, this will help rewire your habitual thoughts.
Gratitude is another negative thought substitute that I especially like to use to counter complaining. Complaining is focusing on the bad parts of a situation. Gratitude is a conceptual reframe where you decide instead to consider the good parts. Complaining is focusing on what you lack, gratitude is focusing on what you have. Where you focus makes a huge difference. If you focus on the itch, all you’ll think about is the itch. But you don’t have to wait for an outside distraction from the itch, you can distract yourself… with gratitude!
Gratitude is all the rage these days, which is great! I see lots of posts about it and many different practices, so pick the one that works for you. I chose to keep a Gratitude Journal where I write 10 original things each day that I’m grateful for. If ten sounds like a lot, it is. Here’s how it helps…
Every day I have to search my brain to come up with 10 original things I’m grateful for about that day. Doing so forces me to actually look to find positive things in my life, rather than defaulting to the negative things. Thinking of the positive things and writing them down causes me to relive them mentally, which causes my body to release the chemicals associated with positive experiences. Going for ten items means I can’t do the exercise too quickly so that I’m not really engaging. Requiring them to be original means I can’t just every day repeat that I’m grateful for Abby, air conditioning, food, water, shelter, sunshine, oxygen, internet, chocolate, and high fiber count sheets.
I started in June so I’ve been doing it for over three months and, WOW, has it made a difference. I can really tell when I’ve missed a day. I find myself feeling negative and I’ll look at my journal and sure enough, it’s time to catch up on my gratitude list. Once I had a meeting coming up and I really needed to be upbeat for it, but I was in a foul, growly mood. I had 15 minutes and no idea how to change my attitude in that time. I looked at my journal and I had missed 3 days! I spent that 15 minutes coming up with 30 original things I was grateful for and… by meeting time I was pumped!
So you see, you can use gratitude on the fly to literally change the course of your day. Don’t limit yourself to 10 or 30 items. If it’s a really tough day, go for 50. If 50 feels like too much, you’d better make it 100! 😉
What are 10 things you are grateful for today? (Don’t repeat anything from my list above!)