Habits of the mind
This weekend, I caught myself about to go down a rabbit hole of negative thinking. I was looking on my phone and came across some videos of lifting weights in the gym, pre-Lockdown 3.0. I started thinking how much I miss being in the gym, coaching my clients, helping them improve and progress, lifting heavy and pushing forward with my own goals every week, how much I miss “normality” and how we have all been living in this limbo for what feels like an eternity now.
But I caught myself.
We all feel negative emotions, at some point, on some level. Negative emotions themselves are not a bad thing - they are just information - but they can start to become destructive if we start to live in perpetual negativity.
I read a book a long time ago called S.U.M.O (Shut up and Move On) and one metaphors that was used was Hippo Time. Hippo Time means we all need space to wallow at times, but just don’t set up camp and live there in the mud of negativity for the rest of your life!
What separates people is not that some feel negative emotions and some don’t. It’s that some people have strategies to get out of them, and some don’t.
This is important to understand because it means if you learn the strategies, you have more control over how you feel. Negativity then becomes a choice. You are able to spot a negative downward spiral, pivot and pick yourself back up.
We have to also appreciate that sometimes it feels easier to be in a negative state. Although it doesn’t feel good, there can be something quite comforting about the familiarity. Positivity is great when we are in it, but it feels like SO much work to get there sometimes, and it can often be the thing we don’t feel like doing.
None of this is to say you should go through your life with fake positivity either, saying “I’m totally happy” or “I need to just get over it”. In doing that, we generally start another spiral of feeling guilty and shameful about our current state.
It starts with some awareness, and will continue to be a constant work in progress, but I’ve highlighted a few things that I have found useful along the way and some of them may resonate with you:
1. Be aware of your thoughts.
Have you every noticed when you ask a question in your head, you quite often also give an answer?
You are not the voice of your thoughts. You are the one that hears it.
In developing our awareness through meditation, reflection and quiet space, we can separate ourselves from our thoughts and see where they may be holding us back.
2. Change your state.
The state you are in changes the meaning you place and attach to everything. Changing your physiological state is one of the fastest ways to change your state and your mood. Try taking a walk, have a dance party in the kitchen, do some yoga, play tennis (or swing ball for those of you with kids!). You can also change your state by listening to an inspiring podcast, your favourite piece of music or reading an inspiring book.
3. Change the way you look at negative emotions.
What if your negative emotions are a call to action? What if they are trying to show you something, to teach you something? If you have a negative emotion, is it telling you something needs to change - a relationship, a job, your attitude, your perspective. Get curious about why these emotions come up, change the way you view them and you will find a way to change their meaning.
4. Ask yourself the right questions. Where focus goes, energy flows. If you ask yourself “Why does this always happen to me?” It becomes self-defeating. You become a victim, anticipating that the world is stacked against you. If you were to ask “What is this trying to teach me?” It becomes much more empowering, your brain will focus on the lesson, the opportunity and your positive energy will flow. 5. Practice gratitude. Try and practice gratitude daily. List 5 things that you can be grateful for today. They don’t have to be big things either, it can be as simple as waking up in a warm bed this morning. Write them down, see the words on paper, digest them. Really appreciate them being present in your life. It's hard to be negative when you are grateful. 6. Take action Don’t wait until you are feeling the negative spiral to try and put these things into place. The key is to practice them every day, so they become habits. That way, when you have a bad day, you already have the strategies in place to pivot your mindset and refocus. Every season has a reason. Winter is cold, dark and we struggle through the dark days (and boy, does it feel like its been Winter for a year!) But Spring always follows and is bringing with it a renewed hope and a better year ahead for us all!
If you need support to keep moving towards your goals, I am here to chat, so let me know