How to Overcome Negative Thinking and Start Feeling Better

“There’s never enough time in the day.”

“I’m so disorganized.”

“I never stick to my goals.”

“I’m terrible with money.”

How often do you have negative thoughts running through your mind?

Do you even recognize they’re there?

If not, it’s time to take notice, my friend.

Because these negative thoughts not only make you feel terrible, but they also hold you back from pursuing your big dreams. 

So if you’re ready to start shifting those negative thoughts, feeling better, and taking action, be sure to check out this week’s podcast now!

Stream it below or check out episode 40 of the I’m Busy Being Awesome podcast on your favorite app.

Prefer to read? No problem! Keep scrolling for the full transcript.

LISTEN TO THE PODCAST HERE!

IN THIS EPISODE, YOU WILL DISCOVER…

  • The most common negative thoughts we think
  • How these thoughts hold us back
  • Strategies to identify your own negative thoughts and beliefs
  • How to shift your thinking to more positive thoughts that serve you

LINKS FROM THE PODCAST

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QUESTION:

Do you ever struggle with negative thinking? When does it come up in your life? How have you learned to practice new thoughts instead? Let me know below!

How to Overcome Negative Thinking and Start Feeling Better (Transcript)

Hey, everybody. Welcome to the podcast. Thanks for tuning in – we have reached episode 40 this week! I’ve got to tell you, I’m pretty excited about that. 

To be honest, I wasn’t sure how this whole podcast thing was going to unfold. I didn’t know if I could actually record and produce a podcast each week. I didn’t know how I’d like it. Plus, I didn’t know if anyone would listen. All sorts of unknowns.

Fortunately, I love it creating this podcast – it’s one of my favorite things to do each week. And it’s been so fun seeing the downloads increase as you amazing listeners keep tuning in and sharing the podcast with your friends. So thank you again for continuing to show up and share.

And if you haven’t yet, would you mind popping over to iTunes and leaving me a review? And the reason I ask for this is that more reviews let Apple know people are listening and interested in this podcast, and then they suggest the podcast to even more listeners. Because that’s my big goal – to get these tools to as many people as possible. 

And if you’re not an iTunes listener, or you’ve already left a review, another great way to share the podcast is to simply take a screenshot and share it in your Instagram or Facebook stories or feed and if you do that, be sure to tag me so I can give you a shout out, because I REALLY appreciate it. You are all rockstars. 

Negative Thought Patterns Introduction

Alright, today we are diving into the light and cheerful topic of negative thoughts and beliefs – super fun, huh? 

But don’t worry, it’s not all gloom and doom today. Because we are going to talk about the value of identifying your negative thought patterns – the negative beliefs you have – which are often holding you back, and how you can shift that thinking in order to feel better and start moving forward on your goals.

Now, here’s the craziest thing. Most of us have no idea that we even have these thoughts looping around in our brain let alone the fact that they’re holding us back. Instead, the thoughts just sound like truth. We’ve been practicing them for so long that we don’t even recognize that they’re running through our brain on autopilot. We don’t even them as optional. 

So today I want to share with you some of the most common negative thought loops that many of us struggle with. We’ll explore how these thoughts hold us back from reaching our goals. We’ll talk about how you can identify your own negative thought loops, and finally discuss what you can do today to start shifting your beliefs and making things happen.

Negative Thoughts Overview

Okay – so negative thought loops or negative beliefs. We all have them, but what are they exactly?

So a belief is simply a thought that you practice thinking over and over. And you think that thought so many times that it simply feels true. You don’t even question it. 

Positive Thoughts Examples

Now, when your beliefs are positive, this is not a problem. So for example, I have the belief that my family loves me. I have practiced the thought both consciously and unconsciously over and over. And because I frequently think that they love me, I now have a strong belief that they do. Of course, as we’ve talked about in the past, relationships are all in our minds, right? I create that love in my mind with my thoughts. So this belief that they love me is one that I created and that serves me. To me, that thought is truth. It’s a fact. And that’s okay. I like that thought. It feels good. I like feeing love.

And for something a little less tangible, I also believe that I have the best dog in the world. I have practiced that thought over and over. It is a very strong belief. And even if other people don’t agree with me – especially all of you dog owners out there who have the same belief about your dog – it doesn’t matter. I choose to keep thinking that thought anyway; I think it’s a belief that serves me. 

Now, of course, this is not a fact. We couldn’t actually prove it in a court of law. There is no scientific measurement that measures the best dog. But to me, it seems like a fact that Bruno is the best dog in the world. And that’s okay

Negative Thoughts Examples

So what about negative thought loops and negative beliefs. Well, just like the positive thoughts that we practice over and over, it’s the same with looping negative thoughts. And when you practice these thoughts constantly, they, too, become beliefs. They also seem like the truth. The difference, however, is that these thoughts don’t serve you. These thoughts don’t help you move forward. And in fact, they’re probably holding you back.

And we all have these beliefs, though, as I mentioned, many of us might not see them as beliefs. Instead, we see them as facts. 

So maybe you’re constantly looping the thought, “I don’t have time.” Or “I have so much to do, my life is chaotic.” 

Maybe you’re constantly thinking, “I never stick to anything. It doesn’t matter what I try, whether it’s new projects, habits, diets, whatever, I don’t have the discipline to stick with it.” 

Maybe it’s a focus on body image. Maybe you’re constantly telling yourself you’re overweight, or your stomach is too big, or your hair is too frizzy, or the multitude of other ways that we beat ourselves up about our physical appearance. 

Or maybe you have relationship or money beliefs that hold you back. Maybe you find yourself thinking things like, “I’m terrible at relationships” or “I’ll never find a partner.” Or “There’s never enough money.” “Money is hard to come by.”

And again, we have gotten so rehearsed at practicing these negative thoughts that they truly seem like a fact. And because they seem true, we never stop to question them. We don’t pause to check-in and decide on purpose whether we want to keep thinking them or not.

Dealing With Negative Thoughts

So let me first give you an example of a negative belief that I had to work on for a long time. And in fact, I still have to work on it at times. And then we will explore how you can identify your own beliefs and how to work through them.

Now, my negative thought loops often revolve around the concept of time. And generally, I dealt with a whole lot of scarcity around time. I constantly found myself thinking thoughts like: “there is not enough time in the day.” “I am too busy to get everything done.” “Everything takes longer than it should.”There’s not enough time to do it all,” “I don’t have time for this or that,” etc.

And I played these thoughts on repeat in my brain multiple times a day, every day, for years. In fact, it was basically the soundtrack of my life throughout grad school and my first few years working as a professor. And I’m telling you, these thoughts felt true. I did not see them as thoughts. I did not see them as optional. And I saw them as complete and total fact.

In fact, I basically repeated these thoughts like I was telling the news… “I have a dog named Bruno. I am speaking into a microphone. It is 8:37 Saturday morning. And I cannot work fast enough.” All facts. All provable in a court of law.

Effects of Negative Thinking

And it really wasn’t until I started working with my coach that I realized how frequently I practiced these thoughts. Every single day when I’d do my self-coaching work, I’d be writing down all of my thoughts, and they’d be the same ones every day. I’d look at my to-do list, and my brain would offer the same thoughts over and over: “there is not enough time in the day.” “I am too busy to get everything done.” “Everything takes longer than it should.”There’s not enough time to do it all,” “I should be doing more.” “there’s no way I can get all of this done.”

And then finally one day I realized that I was choosing these thoughts every day on repeat, regardless of what was actually going on in my life. My brain had been programmed into thinking these thoughts, and they were so well-practiced that they just came up naturally.

Recognizing Your Negative Thinking 

And I can still remember the day that this realization dawned on me. It was a Sunday morning, and I was doing my thought work for the zillionth day in a row. I was writing down the same thoughts, and I realized that I kept telling myself the same story regardless of what was actually on my schedule. 

That Sunday I hardly had anything on my to-do list, and it was all things that I enjoyed doing: working out, getting coffee with a friend, working on my website, walking Bruno. 

And what was so interesting, is that I was thinking the exact same things I had been on the previous Thursday when I had a 15-hour workday and was away from home from 5:00 in the morning until 8:00 that night.

How can that be? How can I possibly be feeling the same sense of stress and overwhelm when my schedule was so different?

The simple answer is that it was all in my head. All of that drama was caused by my thoughts. I was choosing to think the same things on repeat, regardless of what my circumstances were – regardless of the tasks on my to-do list. And because I chose to keep thinking those time-scarcity thoughts, I made myself miserably stressed and overwhelmed all of the time. For no reason!

Effects of Limiting Beliefs – Time Scarcity 

And let’s be honest, there’s rarely a good reason to be thinking thoughts of scarcity in any situation. In fact, I’d argue there is never a good reason. 

Just think about how this plays out. You look at the tasks on your to-do list. You think the thought “there’s no way I can get all of this done.” You feel incredibly overwhelmed because of that thought. When you’re overwhelmed, you have a hard time focusing. You get distracted easily. You buffer with activities that feel good in the moment – like scrolling social media or checking your email – and the result that you create for yourself is that there’s no way you can get it all done. Because you just ended up wasting time procrastinating and distracting yourself rather than sitting down and doing the work. So you set yourself up for failure, which just puts you on a continual loop of negative thinking.

Recognizing Your Beliefs

But once I recognized this thought-pattern in myself. 

Once I realized that I was choosing to think and feel this way. 

And once I realized how much it wasn’t serving me – not only in terms of holding me back in my productivity but also that it made me feel terrible – I was able to slowly start letting those thoughts go. I was able to question them when they came up, rather than just thinking they were the truth and acting on them. And when I could do that, I could create a bit of distance. 

I could start choosing better thoughts that got me taking action and getting things done. I started practicing thoughts like “I always get things done.” or ” I’m getting things done at exactly the right time.” or even simple thoughts like, “I’ve got this.”

Returning Thoughts

Now, I do want to note that even though I recognize this pattern in myself, and I no longer think of these thoughts as fact, and I practice these new thoughts on purpose, that doesn’t mean the old thoughts don’t come up anymore.

In fact, when I sit down on Sunday to do my planning process for the week, my brain will still go into freakout mode after I create my l long to-do list. I will still hear the same thoughts. But what’s different, is that I can separate myself from them. I can now recognize them for what they are – they’re just sentences in my brain.

I can think to myself, “Noted. Thank you for your concern, brain. But we’re not thinking that anymore.”

There’s no drama around it. There’s no stress. And I don’t have to make those thoughts mean anything about me, or my time, or how fast I work. Instead, it’s just a sentence that popped into my brain, and I decide to let it go and choose a better thought instead.  And each time I practice this, those negative thoughts return less often and feel less strong. And it’s all part of the process.

Effects of Limiting Beliefs – Disorganized

I was working with a client about a month ago who believes she is super disorganized. She’s been telling herself this thought for years, and similar to my beliefs around time, she saw it as true. She saw it as a fact. The sky is blue. We are listening to a podcast right now. And she is disorganized.

So we spend some time exploring this thought. I asked her if it was true that she was disorganized. I asked her to prove that it was true. And what’s fascinating, is she thought that she could. She absolutely saw the thought as fact and she had story after story to share about times when she’s been disorganized.

Confirmation Bias

And this is what we do, right? This is what the concept of confirmation bias is all about. We search for evidence and examples in our lives that further reinforce our existing beliefs or ideas. And our brains are brilliant at this. It’s like we put on blinders to any contrary information so all we can see is further proof of that original thought.

And again, when those thoughts are negative, and they’re holding us back, they’re not likely creating positive results.

Because again, when you think to yourself a thought like, “I’m so disorganized,” you likely feel flustered, or overwhelmed, or distracted. And when you feel distracted, you have a hard time focusing. You can’t think clearly. You rush from one thing to the next. And you probably don’t slow down much. Plus, when you show up in that way, you create an environment for disorganization to thrive. In other words, you prove your thought true, which reinforces the thought loop.

Challenging Negative Thinking

So to help shake her negative belief, I challenged her to start finding the opposite. I asked her, “when are you super organized?” Tell me about different areas in your life where you are super organized and on top of things. 

And while she was resistant at first, soon enough, we had an entire list of activities, systems, and areas of her life where she was – in fact – incredibly organized. And by spending time identifying these areas, it shook her belief just enough to open up the possibility that it wasn’t true. It helped her start recognizing that this was – indeed – just a thought. And not only was it just a thought, but it was also an entirely optional thought that was – frankly – not true.

Effects of Limiting Beliefs – Follow-Through

And then finally, I was working with a different client last week about her thoughts on follow-through. She’s been telling herself for years that she never sticks to anything. She always quits. She’ll create a plan in her calendar, and she’ll have every intention of following through, but the next day when it comes time to stick to that list, her plan goes out the window. She doesn’t stick to it. And she constantly beats herself up because of this.

So once again, after she told me all of her beliefs and provided all of the evidence she’s gathered through her confirmation bias, we challenged these beliefs together. But rather than looking for general areas in her life where she does practice follow-through, we focused specifically on one circumstance that she told me about. 

So I said to her, retell your story about your planner from yesterday. And rather than telling me how you didn’t follow through on anything, I want you to explain to me how you did follow through. How did you stick to your plan?

And do you know what we found? It turns out that she had eight different things on her calendar that day, and she stuck to six of them. And she decided to skip the other two so she could help her daughter with some homework. That’s it.

And this last experience especially speaks to the power of our belief systems and confirmation bias. She’s practiced telling herself these thoughts for so long, and she believes them so deeply, that she struggles to see the alternative. She struggles to even see the possibility that it might not be true because her brain only looks for evidence to reinforce that thought. And the first step to challenging that deep-seated belief is simply calling attention to it.

How to Change Your Thinking Habits

So how do we do this? If these thoughts seem like facts, and we are so stuck in our thought patterns, how do we even recognize them as optional?

One way that I like to do this is by keeping a regular self-coaching practice first thing in the morning. As I mentioned before, this is how I recognize my thoughts about time. 

Self Coaching Practice

Every morning, simply empty all of the thoughts that you have in your brain down on paper. I know it sounds simple, and it is. But it’s also so effective. Simply grab a piece of paper and a pen, ask yourself, “what am I thinking about?” and then start writing. 

Now, the first few days you may find yourself writing a lot – especially if this is a new practice for you. But pretty soon you’ll get into a groove, and chances are you’ll start finding a lot of repetition. Chances are, you’ll find similar thoughts that keep playing on repeat in your writing session. And they may be thoughts about you – like the examples we talked about today. Or, they might be about other people and your thoughts about other people. 

Whatever thoughts end up on your paper, I invite you to start paying attention to them. How do those thoughts make you feel? Are they serving you? Are they creating the results you want?

Why Haven’t You Reached Your Goal?

A second way that I love to start identifying beliefs is to look at an area in my life where I’m working toward a goal, or trying to establish better habits, but I haven’t gotten to the endpoint yet. 

Maybe it’s building your side business. Maybe it’s writing your book. Or maybe it’s getting your house organized. Wherever it is you are working toward a goal but haven’t reached it, ask yourself: why not? 

Why haven’t I finished my book? Why haven’t I built my side business? And why haven’t I organized my house yet? I’m telling you, 9 times out of 10, the answers that come up will be thoughts that don’t serve you. And what’s more, they will feel very true. They will feel justified. They will feel like fact.

Explore And Question Your Thoughts

But I promise if you challenge yourself to really explore those thoughts. If you challenge yourself to consider the opposite. And if you challenge yourself to find proof in the opposite, you’ll start wiggling those beliefs loose. You start recognizing them for what they are, which are just thoughts. They’re just sentences your brain offers you. And you get to choose whether you believe them or not.

And once you’re in that space, and you recognize these thoughts as optional, that’s when you’re able to start trying on new thoughts that serve you better. This is when you’re able to start choosing your thoughts on purpose, putting them on repeat, and turning them into belief.

Because I’m telling you, once you develop the skill of being able to not only recognize and challenge your negative belief systems that hold you back but also choose better thoughts that serve you and propel you forward, you find yourself feeling better. And what’s more, you find yourself taking bigger changes on yourself. You start trying new things, chasing your goals, and creating the results that you want in your life.

Consultation

And again, this is some deep work. Learning how to step back and recognize these thoughts takes a lot of practice. As I mentioned, it wasn’t until I got coaching that I was able to really start recognizing my negative beliefs about time for what they were. 

So if you find yourself struggling to identify your negative thoughts. Or if you have a result in your life that you’re not happy with, but you can’t figure out what the thoughts are that are getting you to that space, we should talk.

Just head over to imbusybeingawesome.com/freesession and schedule a strategy session with me. We will talk through the thoughts you have on repeat in your brain, we’ll identify the ones that might be holding you back, and we’ll talk about how we can work together going forward to get you shifting those beliefs and moving forward on your goals.

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