Learning How To Dismiss Negative Thoughts

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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 }

Kate July 29, 2010

This has been a daily struggle for me as I deal with disordered eating, and there truly are good days and bad days. I’ve found that positivity and taking care of myself go hand-in-hand. A full night’s sleep, healthy eating and a healthy amount of exercise work wonders – the key is treating myself well enough to do those things and believing I deserve it!

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Amy July 29, 2010

Wow, what a great post. I deal with really bad negative self talk especially about my body. Being in recovery from anorexia I constantly catch myself picking apart my body in negative ways. I’ve made a bag of affirmations and each morning I draw one out of the bag and try to live by that affirmation all day. Its hard to be positive when ur feeling down on ueself and trying to gain weight to be healthy. As ur body changes that negativity trys to creep in there and say bad things.

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Lisa (bakebikeblog) July 29, 2010

This is really a wonderful post!
Whenever I suffer from negative thoughts, I consciously try to counteract them with a positive one. It works for me!!

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Stacey @ Tipping the (Kitchen!) Scales July 29, 2010

I was at the cinema earlier and I saw a poster advertising an upcoming film called Eat, Pray, Love. Is it based on this book, or is it a complete coincidence?

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Rachel@SmileOutLoud July 29, 2010

Negative thinking is my biggest internal struggle, I think. I work on it (positivity, woot!) but, yikes, it does not go away quickly…

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AGS July 29, 2010

I am notoriously hard on myself. A classic example is feeling overwhelmed/like an idiot with a new task at work. I am cognizant of the fact that I am still working on a very steep learning curve, and that my work is above par, and business sense very sound. Still, I often feel rediculously incompetent and this causes me to berate myself.

To counter this, I developed a matra to help me to refocus: “I may feel incompetent now, but I’m just learning — and after I complete X, I will be competent.” It’s my way of reminding myself that it’s OK not to be perfect — but that I will succeed and be that much better in the future. I probably say this several times througout the course of any given week. Sometimes multipel times daily!

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Niki (Running in Pink) July 29, 2010

This is the perfect time for me to read this post. At the end of my work day, I got some info from my boss that they wouldn’t be able to accommodate the schedule I was hoping to have when I return from my maternity leave. After hearing that, I was became so cranky and full of negative thoughts: “If they can accommodate other employees, why can’t they do this for me?”, “It’s going to be so horrible to go back to work!!” I am still a month away from having my baby and even starting maternity leave!! I should not be filling my mind up with all this negative energy and dread….especially at this time!

Anyway, I’m glad I read this post and you refreshed my memory on this quote from EPL, because it is so true. I don’t want to end up not making the most of the time I have now and will have once Baby arrives because of negative thinking!

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Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin July 29, 2010

I highlighted this exact passage in my copy of EPL. It’s such a powerful statement!

Although I have a lot fewer negative thoughts now than I did a few years ago, I still struggle with a few insecurities. Up until now I’ve let those thoughts just bring me down, but since reading that passage I’m going to try harder to combat them. It really helps to know that you’ve managed to overcome negative thinking. :)

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Jaclyn T July 29, 2010

I was once told to treat yourself like a good friend….because that is was you are! When a negative thought comes in, instead of spiralling down with it, think of what your advice would be to a friend and follow it. Ex.: if you think “I am so unattractive,” imagine how you would advise a friend having these thoughts. IT WORKS!

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Sahar July 29, 2010

This was my favorite quote from the book! It really resonated with me because I have been harboring such negative thoughts recently. I am really trying to put this into practice in my daily life and so far it’s working. Thanks for posting this!

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Megs July 30, 2010

After reading the blog and comments I switched to my home page and found this:

http://www.thatsfit.ca/2010/07/29/you-can-choose-how-you-deal-with-stress

Hope it helps!

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zoe July 30, 2010

negative thoughts are so powerful. but so are positive ones! i am finally starting to see the truth in this. i’ve spent the majority of my life as a pessimistic person. my negative thoughts bred negative situations. i felt unhappy with myself and every aspect of my life for a long time. i only recently started to believe in the healing power of positive thinking and how beneficial positivity truly is. i feel lighter and freer since abandoning my negative attitudes. honestly though, some days i simply cannot shake the negativity that seems to wrap itself around me.
but i found a way to combat that horrible bully called negativity: whenever a negative thought crosses my mind (i.e: “ugh, i’m so fat” or “ugh, no one likes me” or “ugh, i’m not smart enough/pretty enough/worthy enough”…it’s usually about appearance. this is the main source of my negativity and anxiety) i immediately force myself to replace the negative thought with a positive one. i remind myself how ridiculous and untrue that thought is. i review all the beauty in my life. there is so much more to life than my appearance. i am a whole person, not just a body.

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Nanna July 30, 2010

Dear Angela

Thank you so much for taking up this incredibly important subject. This is exactly what i needed to hear. Sometimes, when I’m caught in a spiral of negative thoughts, I get so lonely and sad and can’t help comparing myself to the people i know who always seem happy, thinking that they have no idea what it feels like to struggle like this with yourself. This of course makes me even more depressed.. The problem is, most of us are somehow trained to always put up a smile, to always make it seem like we’re fine, even when we’re not. This makes it easy to get the idea that everyone else is so strong and happy, because you can’t tell whats really going on behind the smile. Reading your post and these comments makes it perfectly clear, how common it is to experience negative thinking. To help myself accept and not get carried away with selv pity next time I am overwhelmed by negative thoughts, I will look at these comments, and take comfort in the fact, that I am not struggling alone.

Thank you so much for your openness and honesty and for a blog that continually inspires, amuses and teaches me.

Nanna from Denmark

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marijke July 30, 2010
Michelle @Eatingjourney July 30, 2010

I am learning and harnessing this. I love what she says about how this is hard because it’s like an old habit. We are our habits and changing them is hard at times. However, the bliss you get when you do..far surpass the stagnation of not.

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Kailey (SnackFace) July 30, 2010

Hey Angela! I was just catching up on your posts and absolutely had to comment on this one!

I’ve read Eat, Pray, Love about four times now, and every time I read it, I find something else that speaks to me. This passage specifically helped me in one of my darkest times. Two summers ago, I finally wanted to recover from an eating disorder for no one else other than myself. I was praying every day and eventually saying affirmations every morning. One of them was “I will not harber unhealthy thoughts anymore” (although, I changed the wording around to “I will no longer harber unhealthy thoughts” for flow’s sake). When I read that passage initially, I was like, “YES!” For years I had believed that I could choose my attitude, so why was I having such difficulty being nice to myself and my body?

Anyway, I believe that because I repeated that phrase to myself so many times I was able to believe more and more in myself every day, shedding negativity along the way. Thanks for bringing up such an important topic!

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