Learning How To Dismiss Negative Thoughts

126 comments

Good morning!

No accidental sleeping in this morning, I had Vegan Overnight Oats to get up for!

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In this mix: 1/3 cup oats, 1.5 tbsp chia seeds, 1.5 tbsp carob powder, 1 cup Almond Milk, 1/4 cup blueberries, 1/8th cup raspberries, 1/3 of a Healthy Carrot Cake Power Scuffin, and pure maple syrup to frizzle over top.

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It was good, but I would not put raspberries in it again…much too tart! I think I said the same thing about putting them in the Banana soft serve too. Such a shame because when I bought them on their own they were delicious fresh (I froze a bunch).

It’s finally time for the next quote from Eat Pray Love!

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Eat Pray Love Quote 4: On Learning how to dismiss negative thoughts

[Want to see the previous EPL quotes and discussions? Visit my quotes page!]

This quote really resonated with me as it is something I have struggled with for most of my life. It is a long one, but well worth the read.

This quote takes place while Elizabeth is at the Ashram in India. She is struggling with her focus during meditation because she cannot stop thinking about her failed relationship with her ex. She broods constantly about a couple circumstances in her life.

In this quote, she talks about an awakening she had, with help from her friend ‘Richard from Texas’ (love him!).

Elizabeth says: “There is so much about my fate that I cannot control, but other things do fall under my jurisdiction…I can select what I eat and read and study. I can choose how I’m going to to view unfortunate circumstances in my life- whether I will see them as curses or opportunities (and on the occasions when I can’t rise  to the most optimistic viewpoint, because I’m feeling too damn sorry for myself, I can choose to keep trying to change my outlook). I can choose my words and the tone of my voice in which I speak to others.

And most of all, I can choose my thoughts.

This last concept is a radically new idea for me. Richard from Texas brought it to my attention recently when I was complaining about my inability to stop brooding. He said, ‘Groceries, you need to learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select what clothes you’re gonna wear everyday. This is a power you can cultivate. If you want to control things in your life so bad, work on the mind. That’s the only thing you should be trying to control. Drop everything else but that. Because if you can’t learn to master your thinking, you’re in deep trouble forever.”

On first glance, this seems a nearly impossible task. Control your thoughts? Instead of the other way around? But imagine if you could? This is not about repression or denial. Repression and denial set up elaborate games to pretend that negative thoughts and feeling are not occurring. What Richard is talking about is instead admitting to the existence of negative thoughts, understanding where they come from and why they arrived, and then- with great forgiveness and fortitude – dismissing them. This is a practice that fits hand in glove with any psychological work you do during therapy.

It’s a sacrifice to let them go of course. It’s a loss of old habits, comforting old grudges and familiar vignettes. Of course, this all takes practice and effort. It’s not a teaching that you can hear once and then expect to master it immediately. It’s constant vigilance and I want to do it. I need to do it for my strength.

So I’ve started being vigilant about watching my thoughts all day, and monitoring them. I repeat this vow about 700 times a day: “I will not harbor unhealthy thoughts anymore.” [p. 177-179]

I just love this quote!

For years and years, I was such a negative person on the inside. My thoughts were always negative and I too thought that I was powerless and couldn’t control them. I also believed that my thoughts equaled truth.

So I believed them.

I saw a therapist periodically throughout university and one of the things my therapist told me was that if I replace negative thoughts with a countering positive thought, eventually I will start to believe the positive thoughts. Over time, those positive thoughts will occur more and more…slowly but surely taking over the negative thoughts.

Through practice, this is exactly what I experienced.

As soon as I decided to start thinking more optimistically, instead of letting my negative thoughts run on autopilot, I became a happier person. Years have passed since I started working on my negative thinking and not only was I able to beat my disordered eating, but I would guess that I have decreased my negative thoughts by about 75%. I still struggle with negative thoughts on a daily basis, but I now know that I can dismiss them most of the time.

I like Richard’s approach:

  1. Admit to the existence of negative thoughts,
  2. Understand where they come from and why they arrived,
  3. With great forgiveness and fortitude – dismiss them.

I think the part about forgiveness is so powerful. We must appreciate that we are human and will make mistakes and most of all be forgiving of ourselves!  As Richard said, “If you can’t learn to master your thinking, you’re in deep trouble forever.”

[If you are interested I have written on this topic before touching on psychological research methods to beat negative thinking: How To Beat Negative Thinking: Part 1 and Part 2]

Today’s questions: Do you struggle with negative thinking? Have you ever succeeded in over-coming negative thoughts? Do you think you could implement the strategies above to master your own thinking?

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{ 126 comments… read them below or add one }

jassy July 29, 2010

this is another way to beat negative thoughts…thanks for sharing! :)

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Kelly July 29, 2010

I love EPL so much, I can’t wait for it to be a movie- though movies are never as good right? I think I naturally have a lot of positive thoughts and I actually have to make myself think negatively sometimes so I won’t be disappointed if the outcome is not what I expect. I think this is probably just a way you are born and I’m lucky. I think it’s amazing that you can turn your thoughts around like that though!

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gail July 29, 2010

The movie is coming out soon – I’ve seen the trailers on TV a lot so probably in the next few weeks. It’s starring Julia Roberts, and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not – ha!

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Kendel @ Eating Abroad July 29, 2010

One of the things I admire most about my boyfriend is that he always recognizes and questions my negative thinking. Not in a critical, lighten up way, but in a patient, understanding, helpful way. He always reminds me to be as kind to myself as I am to others. It’s a tough one though that I struggle with daily. Thanks for sharing.

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AngelaOSG July 29, 2010

You’ve got a keep on your hands…that is awesome :)

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Tina July 29, 2010

I actually posted a similar statement on my last blog post. I try to live my life with the mindset that I am in control of making it the best possible. That doesn’t mean it will always be happy, but I can choose to focus on as much positive as I can and changing the negatives within my power. You can’t always control what happens in life, but you can always control your reactions to them. Love this mindset.

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Shanna @ Shanna Like Banana July 29, 2010

This quote is quite profound. The one thing that bothers me is the “dismissing” part. Perhaps it’s her word choice, but I feel ilke that some people can cling to that part and say, “I’m feeling upset again so I choose to push that out of my head.” In reality, unless all the other steps are taken, true power isn’t achieved. Rather the person might say “I’m feeling upset. The reason I’m feeling upset in this moment may be because of X and Y. I am noticing patterns here and need to investigate why I get to this point. I’m going to sit with this emotion for a bit. I’m going to find ways to combat this emotion. Then I will choose an emotion that better suits my happiness and productivity.”

Just my two cents ;)

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AngelaOSG July 29, 2010

I love your insight here

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Annie D. @ Annie's Simple Life July 29, 2010

I needed this quote today. I needed ths quote yesterday. I’ve needed this quote my whole life. THANK YOU for sharing!

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Jil @ Peace, Love & Munchies July 29, 2010

Love this – for a really long time, any negative thoughts, comments, etc. brought me down…broke me essentially. It didn’t matter what I was doing, but suddenly everything would hault – like it just didn’t matter anymore. I have learned to dismiss things…consider some aspects because sometimes there is truth to them – however, in the end you must dismiss…or you’ll drive yourself into the ground.

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Maria @ Oh Healthy Day July 29, 2010

I’ve been practicing positive thinking for a few months now and its definitely not easy, but does in fact work! When I’m walking to work in the mornings (usually, I do not want to go), I repeat to myself all the positive aspects of my job. I say, “You are so much more than what you do from 9-5″, “You are lucky to have a great job full of opportunity”, “Your coworkers respect you and appreciate you”. By the time I hit the office door, I’m ready to take on a new day!

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Therese July 29, 2010

Oh my goodness have I struggled with this! I was SUCH a negative person even though even thought I was soooo positive! I berated myself for EVERYTHING. But I started to do exactly like you did and like Elizabeth talks about, the moment I started to think negatively I stopped immediately and asked myself what PROOF I had to make such a statement. Any excuse I gave myself I was able to put into perspective until I proved to myself that my “proof” wasn’t based in fact and then I would turn the statement around into something positive. I still struggle (even this morning) but I MUCH happier now and better able to manage these negative thoughts!

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Anya @ Fitness & Sunshine July 29, 2010

What a great quote. I’m working on being more positive myself. :) And so far, it’s working and definitely making me a happier person. It’s very true that I can either let outside circumstances or my negative thoughts overwhelm me, or I can think positively and view situations without letting them affect me too much. This was great reinforcement and an excellent reminder for me to continue.

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Heather (Heather's Dish) July 29, 2010

i definitely struggle with negative thinking, but I try to sit back and realize that the things I am typically thinking negatively about are worldly things…I can’t take them with me, so why worry about it? I try to remember all of the incredible blessings in my life and realize that there is so much joy to be had if i just let go and let myself have it!

i am loving reading this book right now too…some of it’s kind of “out there” but I would say that 90% of it is completely applicable!

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Mary @ Bites and Bliss July 29, 2010

I rarely ever have negative thought and feel incredibly lucky to be able to say that. I used to struggle with them a few years back when I was at my unhealthy weight..in fact I remember when I was at a healthy weight, I was so optimistic and always looking at the best in every situation. Then when I was underweight, I became pessimistic- everything was horrible, nothing could be fixed. And now that I’m healthy again, the optimism is back. I think it all has to do with how comfortable you are in your own skin- the thoughts will reflect that.

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Rachel July 29, 2010

I think that our society teaches us negative thinking. There’s a lot of super stars in our world and if we aren’t living up to those images of “perfection” we tend to think badly of ourselves, down talk, stereotype, etc. It’s important to see yourself, your goals, your life as YOURS and only yours with no other comparisons.

I’m a social worker working on my master’s in social work with a concentration in the clinical setting and one of my favorite theories in counseling that I’ve learned so far is narrative therapy. In a nutshell, narrative therapy focuses on “rewriting” your life story to turn negative thoughts and emotions around into positive ones through different exercises and framing techniques. I LOVE narrative therapy and think it has a lot of similarities to what the EPL quote stems from in meditation.

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AngelaOSG July 29, 2010

I love narrative therapy…I actually did it some and it was so helpful!

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melissa July 29, 2010

I am sure you get this all the time, but what camera do you use?

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AngelaOSG July 29, 2010

Canon 30D with a 50 mm lens :)

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Lisa @ I'm an Okie July 29, 2010

Just wanted to tell you how much I appreciate you taking the time to write these quotes out. I am learning a lot from them and they are definitely making me think and for that, I love them!

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AngelaOSG July 29, 2010

Im glad you enjoy them!

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Lynna July 29, 2010

I often struggle with negative thoughts and I’ve actually used the “Negative –> Positive” Method you mentioned in one of you mentioned in one of your other posts. I found it was very helpful for me to write them down and have something tangible instead of just brooding over the same thought again and again in my mind. Thank you for the suggestion.

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AngelaOSG July 29, 2010

I’m really happy to hear that that helped you :)

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Rachel @ Fit Fun and Fabulous July 29, 2010

Oh gosh this book is so powerful! I’m glad you have been enjoying it. I’ve read it before and need to read it again!

This was a great post for me. I used to be awesome at keeping positive and dismissing negative thoughts. I successfully lost 40 lbs with weight watchers (as I’ve shared with you before) but after setting a final weight goal and NEVER reaching it, deep down I’ve found myself feeling worthless unless I get to that specific number on the scale. The weight loss actually triggered me into really disordered attitudes about food and myself.

Lately I’ve had a real struggle and am turning to therapy again. I’ve really been stuck in the attitude of “If I was X weight, I would be happy. Nothing else will do”. And it is such a damaging attitude. Therapy has been really beneficial for me in the past with other issues, and I will be returning this year to work on my newly developed issues with food and body image.

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Amy @ be.you.ti.fully, a.musing July 29, 2010

I love the quotes you pick!

I used to be a pretty negative person on the inside too. I thought that my set of beliefs was the right one, and that the way I perceived the world was the only way to perceive the world. Eventually I realized that those thoughts were doing NOTHING for me except making me absolutely miserable. I started letting others (and myself) off the hook more often, and working with a spiritual therapist who helped me understand that I could see things in a different way and that by doing so my happy reality would be no less real than the one I had created with my negative thoughts. Lately, I’ve been working a lot with the teachings of Abraham. There’s nothing about what they say that I don’t resonate with. They have plenty of awesome YouTube clips (search “abraham hicks”) on a multitude of topics.

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Callie July 29, 2010

Great post.
I’ve been having fewer negative thoughts now. Once they do come up, it does help me to replace them with positive ones as you do. I’ll also pray about it.
I’m now considering reading EPL. It seems so good.

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Melissa July 29, 2010

Another really great thing to know is that you dont have to dismiss them….you can not grab ahold of them but they dont have to go away to keep going where you want to go/do what you want to do. I practice riding them- like a surfer on a wave. or watch them pass by- like leaves on a stream. The real trick of the mind is… less you try to dismiss unwanted thoughts- the quieter they get. Cool concept but takes practice….I work as a therapist with kids and adults who really struggle with anxious thoughts and get the honor of seeing people practice them and begin living their valued lives again.

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Wei Wei July 29, 2010

I think that somewhere in the back of my mind, I knew that I was relapsing. I was considering just a Popsicle for lunch, but I argued with myself, gave myself a slap ’round the jowls, and ate a healthier lunch involving veggies and (gasp) carbs. It was surprisingly satisfying to defeat my own thoughts.

Wei Wei

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Jennifer July 29, 2010

I’m reading Eat, Pray, Love now and found so many powerful quotes. This one with Richards feedback and all of the comments were very thought provoking. Thank you all!!! Some of you might find the post “Focus on the Positive Path” interesting as well. http://jenniferbridge.wordpress.com/2010/05/17/focus-on-the-positive-path/

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KatieTX July 29, 2010

This is exactly what yoga teaches you to do. Accept your negative thoughts (face) and instead put in a positive affirmation (replace). Soon you will truly believe the positive affirmation and live a much more positive, pleasant life! Amazing! I say this in almost every single yoga class I teach. Anyone who struggles with negativity, find a good yoga instructor and go regularly!

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Nicole of Raspberry Stethoscope July 29, 2010

Do you have a blog? I ask because i’m trying to follow a lot of yoga instructors since I want to eventually go through training…

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KatieTX July 29, 2010

No, I do not blog, I only read them :) I am trained through Yogafit, which is all about bringing yoga into a fitness setting. From there I sneak the yoga philosophy into my fitness clients’ minds :) It is a nice training because you can just one for one weekend at a time instead of blocking off 2 weeks to a month to dedicate to a training. It works better for those who have a busy schedule. I have a full time job as a research assisstant in addition to teaching 10 group fitness/yoga classes per week! I don’t think I would ever have time to blog!

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katie July 29, 2010

Oh, this is such a struggle! I have periods when I do well, and periods where after a bit of self-reflection, I realize I am being incredibly negative. I so often let my negative thoughts and emotions guide me, and when that happens, it usually leaves me feeling frustrated and horrible. Negative thinking is something I have to be constantly vigilant about.
I was really struck by the way you laid out Richard’s approach. Looked at this way, turning my thinking around really seems like something I can do – I know I can change, I just fall into habits and get lazy sometimes! I’m excited to give it a bit of work.

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Amber K July 29, 2010

I do sometimes struggle with negative thinking. It happens usually when I am already feeling anxious about something and can lead to a panic attack. It is something I am trying to work on and if I had health insurance I would probably see someone about it. maybe one day!

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Kendra July 29, 2010

I am not exactly the world’s most positive person and lately I have been working on this very thing. I’ve definitely articulated it a little differently to myself but it all comes down to the same thing. I’ve been fighting through insecurities, self doubt, jealousy, and anxeity and choosing to think differently is a huge part of that.

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Amanda July 29, 2010

I struggle a lot with negative thoughts but have recently started trying to replace them with more positive thoughts because I felt like I was becoming a very negative unhappy person. Along with trying to replace negative thoughts with positive ones I’m highlighting one thing in my life each day that I love and am thankful for and recording them in my blog. I’ve already started to notice a difference in my moods

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Jenn (GH) July 29, 2010

GREAT post Angela! I learned similar strategies in my 5+ years in therapy. (Yeah I was a nut job…said TOTALLY tongue and cheek.) WHen I have negative thoughts I also find it super helpful to address the root of my negative thinking. I’d like to read that book.

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Jordan July 29, 2010

Hi Angela, I really love your blog, and this post in particular. I have struggled with negative thinking a lot in the past year, and I think the power of positivity is so underestimated. When I find myself getting into a rut of negativity, I try to remind myself that no matter what situation or what circumstances I’m in, I have the ability to decide how I’m going to respond. There is always a negative and positive way to respond to anything, and at the end of the day, I want to make the choice to be positive and not let external factors around me control my outlook on life (not that it is always easy …). I personally love this quote by Buddha, “Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.” This quote really resonates with me because I’ve spend so much wasted energy on being annoyed or angry about things that I have no control over. It helps me remember to let things go, move on, and not let negativity thoughts control me. Thank you for posting!

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Emily July 29, 2010

Man, I need to read this book! The past few days have been No Positivity City in my head. (Sorry, that was unbelievably cheesy.) I can’t stop myself from crying. I’m stuck in New York for another two years until I finish law school (I know some people love the city, but I can’t wait to get out!), live at home with my parents at the age of 26 because I can’t afford NYC rent, I feel lost, lonely, etc. It’s definitely not an easy time in my life, but even when things are going well, I tend to dwell on the negative- I think because I’m always looking for my life to be perfect, and it won’t be perfect until I figure out exactly what’s wrong in my life and fix it. Umm, when am I going to realize that a “perfect” life is not possible?! Maybe now that I’ve written it down.

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Gail July 29, 2010

Wow, I REALLY need to read this book. Ever since you started blogging about it, so much of what you said has really hit home with me. Yes, I struggle with negative thoughts all the time. I have never seen a therapist (although I agree 100% with Nicole that everyone should and this social stigmata about seeing one needs to go out the window), but in the last 10-15 years I’ve really looked inside myself at why I feel the way I feel. It’s been a struggle, but I have found that once I stopped eating refined foods, especially sugar, with a diet more focused on whole foods that I make myself, and exercise, my mood and even my thoughts have impoved so much. I still have my days, and now I just accept them as they are and move on. I’m the kind of person who always has an inner voice talking all the time (I wish she’d shut up most of the time!), and I find that if I’m not paying attention to it, it’s saying things like “I hate this, I hate that.” I’ve realized that I’m doing that and that I need to stop it. Just the other day, I caught that same little inner voice saying “I love this, I love that.” I was so shocked! I’m reading a book called “The Untethered Soul – the Journey Beyond Yourself” by MIchael Singer that walks you through your thoughts and emotions, helping to uncover the source and fluctuations of your inner energy (that’s on the back cover). I just started reading it, but am finding out a lot.

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Gail July 29, 2010

Another thing is that I’ve found is that being negative takes so much out of me, out of my soul and being, and that I just don’t want to deal with it anymore. It’s a waste of my time and energy. Once I’ve trained myself to be more positive, it’s become an addiction, and when I do have a down day, I acknowledge it, go with the flow, and it becomes very short term because my body and mind want (crave) that feeling when I’m feeling good now more than the way it used to crave the bad feelings. Sort of like white sugar. I used to crave white sugar all the time (the worst sweet tooth in the world), once I got off the sugar habit (I eat only fruit now), my body no longer craves it, and when it does get it, it likes the first couple of bites, but then it says that’s enough! No more!

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AngelaOSG July 29, 2010

It really does!

I always remind myself ‘it takes 43 muscles to frown and 17 to smile’ Im sure that can be used as an analogy for what negativity does to our body too!

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Paige @ Running Around Normal July 29, 2010

What a fantastic quote from EPL. It’s been years since I’ve read the book, but this makes me want to re-read it before the move comes out.

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theemptynutjar July 29, 2010

Yes, I struggle a lot Angela. Particularly when life is really really hard right now. I find myself quite jealous of a sibling. She has so so much and all she does is complain or play the “woe is me” card. It bothers me and it gets my tummy all knotted up. Worse, I start to feel hopeless, because if she feels she has nothing…and I have far less (material and physical ability),then I think my situation is seriously poor and dire.

I try try try to focus on me. I try so hard. I just hope I can. Cause otherwise I will be living in a fog of low self-esteem and depression forever.

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Amanda July 29, 2010

Angela, thank you so much for this post! I know so many people who think their negative thoughts are FACTS, myself included. I always believed the horrible things I thought about myself were true and that other people thought such things of me as well. It’s like a huge epiphany when you realize that these are beliefs and they CAN be changed…Right now I am reading Psycho Cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz which deals with this topic. I also bought the audio version to listen to when I get ready in the mornings and it has helped tremendously.

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Cynthia C. July 29, 2010

I’m trying so hard to get rid of the negative thoughts. I beat myself up for so many years that it is taking a lot of work. But They are getting better. That book is on my list to read. Perhaps it should be bumped up to the top.

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Annie@stronghealthyfit July 29, 2010

I think I was born a pessimist and have struggled with negative thinking for a long time. Recently I feel as though I’ve been able to choose to be more positive, but sometimes it doesn’t seem so easy to choose to be that way. I really do believe in the power of positive thinking and that it can be a huge asset to being healthy. Great conversation.
ps-did you get permission to publish those quotes? I mistakenly quoted a book on my blog before.

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Emily July 29, 2010

I know that this is going to sound a little weird, but here is a visualization that works for me:

When I close my eyes, I picture myself standing in a secluded, forest area. Here, in front of me, is an old-fashioned well. It’s the kind that has a wooden lid that closes over the top. I open the lid and I pour into it anything that is bothering me – a problem at work, a person creating negative environments, a song stuck in my head. I shove it into the well and quickly close the lid. Let me tell you – shoving a person for whom you have negative feelings into a well for “safe keeping” is a pretty liberating feeling.

Anyway, as I start to walk away, I may still be able to hear that song or the voice of the person in my mind, but as I break through the trees and onto the beach, all I hear are waves and birds. At this point, I sometimes board a boat and float away to a deserted island, where I dock and perform tasks such as gathering coconuts, fishing or finding a place that looks safe to swim. Usually by this point, the noises and energies of the things bothering me most are far behind me. Even if they’re still ringing in my head, I feel much more relaxed – like nothing else matters but me.

I know it’s kind of a drawn-out visualization, but it’s what works for ME. I have to keep my mental self busy and secluded in order to really shift my focus, since I’m not yet capable of silencing the inside of my head. I’ve gotten this down to the point where sometimes when I have a song stuck in my head, all I have to do is visualize myself grabbing a string of notes out of the air then pushing it into the well and walking away lol. Also, when I’m doing yoga, while I am not balanced enough to really close my eyes and pretend I’m doing yoga on the beach, I can at least drown out thoughts with the sounds of waves and birds. It’s amazing. <3

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Nicole of Raspberry Stethoscope July 29, 2010

haha, awesome visualization:) thanks for sharing.

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wendy @ ABCs and Garden Peas July 29, 2010

Negative thoughts have plagued me my entire life. I won’t get into details here, because they’re pretty ugly, but I did see a therapist for a while. It’s a great thing to do for yourself. Becoming a mother has helped a lot, too, because I just can’t be a negative influence on my son. I think I would have to agree that you have to train yourself away from those kinds of thoughts. Like most things, it’s a journey rather than a destination, but it does feel so much better to be happy, doesn’t it? :)

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Valerie July 29, 2010

This entry could not have come at a better time. My boyfriend and I just broke up, and even though it was for the best, it’s still hard not to have some negative thoughts about the matter. But reading this excerpt definitely gives me ideas for how to get through an overall difficult semester and how to change my thinking. I can’t wait to read this book!

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