4 Exercises to Practice for Positive Thinking

(via Caleb Wright)

We all have the power to guard our minds and increase the quality of our thinking. Reprogramming our mind takes time, if you're stuck in a bad habit it can take a while to get out of it. By having good practices in place, you are developing the mental strength to turn your thoughts around which is harder than it seems. In How to Become Unstuck from Negative Thinking, I reflected on Tony Robbins' useful approach that helps us understand how we should shift our perspective and focus on the emotions we want to feel rather than the emotions that are dragging us down. From the books and articles I have read, there are many helpful exercises we can use to deal with mind chatter and overthinking. When you find yourself in a never ending mental chatter episode, have a notepad near by and try one of these exercises.

Here are four helpful exercises we can use for positive thinking:

1) Blocking Cognitive Distortion

In an article I read by Dr Nicole Lipkin, cognitive distortion refers to the beliefs we convince ourselves that are true. This leads to negative thinking, making it difficult to break this negative bubble we are in. Dr Lipkin suggests that it is essential that we challenge distortions in order to reframe how we think.

In her example of how to block a cognitive distortion she uses a flight delay:

What is my problematic belief? Bad stuff always happens to me
What evidence supports my belief? The flight delay is an inconvenience
What is a better explanation for what happened? It's not just happening to me, it's happening to everyone
What are the consequences of this belief? Anger and stress have sent me into a tailspin
What would happen if I changed my belief right now? I could enjoy a nice dinner and catch up on work and calls at the airport
What are my new core beliefs? Shit happens! I can manage inconvenience better

2) Mindfulness

Mindfulness refers to the awareness of one self and all experiences occurring in the present moment. Sometimes we find ourselves in situations where we just want to scream, punch someone in the face or cry endlessly. When we get angry we can feel the tension rising in our bodies, when we are calm and at peace there is a complete contrast in how our body behaves.

Negative thoughts may start circling in your head without you even realising it. It's important to become an observer of your mind and ask yourself how am I feeling in this present moment. When we are overthinking, our attention is not focused in the present. Taking 3 (or more) deep breaths and using your sensations fully is essential to keeping yourself grounded. Mindfulness creates clarity in our minds and helps us to identify what is going on inside of ourselves.

3) Exposing the Lies

I am yet to try this exercise created by Lisa Nichols but I have heard so many great comments about it. I know this will be helpful for you because as humans we fall into the trap of constantly feeding ourselves lies and believing them, I know I do.

This exercise involves writing a list of all the lies you tell yourself in a black pen or pencil. You can write as many as you want, it may consist of negative "I am" statements such as "I am dumb" or "I am not good enough". Next to each statement, write down each truth in a red pen.  Spend at least 10mins for 7 days going from lie-truth, lie-truth you can briefly scan each statement if you have written a lot. When you reach the 7th day cross or erase the lies you wrote down originally. You notice that by exposing the lies you are reprogramming your brain, yes you will still get the mind chatter and have negative thoughts sometimes however, your mind will go straight from the lie to the truth since the red ink stands out more than the black.

4) Questioning your thoughts

In Byron Katie's book I Need Your Love, the writer highlights the importance of questioning your thoughts and imagining your life with the thought and without it. Most of the time, the thoughts we have does not match our reality or the thoughts are not true against our own truths.

Here are the 5 steps Katie suggests we should taken when we have negative thoughts:
1) Is it true?
2) Can I absolutely know it's true? (Is there evidence of this?)
3) How do I react when I think this thought?
4) Who or what would I be without the thought?
5) Turn the thought around and find three genuine examples of each turnaround is as truer or truer than the original statement

Becoming an observer of your thoughts is hard. Questioning your thoughts is hard but it is possible. Spiritual thinker Eckhart Tolle said he hasn't had a negative thought in years - imagine that! Make a commitment now to have a healthier mind and a better life.

I leave you with this quote:
"Guard your thoughts carefully. The quality of your thinking determines the quality of your life.” – Brian Tracy