THE BLOG
10/01/2015 11:28 am ET Updated Oct 01, 2016

Living in the Grey -- 7 Steps to Get Out of Negative Thinking

I've been a negative thinker since I could think. My earliest memory is of me and my father in Sweden when I was a mere baby. Everyone is Sweden is blonde and blue-eyed and I have dark hair, dark eyes and pale skin. I stood out. A woman at the grocery store was commenting on how beautiful I was but all I could hear was that I was different. I called her a "dum dum lady."

I know, baby with attitude! As I got older the negative voices in my head got stronger. On every first day of school I would convince myself that I was screwed! I was sure I would have no friends, that I would do horribly in classes, etc. You get the picture. I don't live in the present but on some future island where everything is a colossal catastrophe.

It is no wonder that I turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with a brain that turns on me like an informant! Now that I'm 10 years clean and sober I still have the same brain, but I have tools today to deal with my negativity.

I could barely enjoy my second wedding because the night before I was worrying about all the negative scenarios my brain cooked up for my wedding day. Here were some of my thoughts... "OMG I'm going to get a migraine and be unable to function and walk down the aisle." "No one is going to show up for the wedding." "What if the caterer doesn't have enough food?" There were all these what ifs and I had a horrible case of anxiety because of it. The anxiety was so bad that my rabbi put it in his wedding speech. He reminded me to live in the moment. Thanks Rabbi Zalman.

So what is really going on with my brain? Well, that would be black and white thinking. It's all or nothing with me. I'm missing out on the subtle grey. Life is grey. It's rarely, rarely black or white. My worst fears have never come true, ever and I have always been taken care of by my higher power. This kind of black and white thinking is just old habit. It's where I feel comfortable because I know it so well.

By my thinking negatively, I think that it somehow buys me insurance. That by thinking the worst I won't be disappointed when it happens. That's no way to live.

The answer like many people will tell you is NOT to just suddenly think positive. I've got decades of this old thinking going on and it's not going to be cleared up but just thinking positively. I have to work on it. I have to practice living in the grey. Here are seven ways to practice the grey:

1. Write down your worst negative thoughts (your black and white thinking) then write the shades of grey statement below it. The grey statement is much more likely to happen and isn't based in unrealistic fear. This will allow you to think more clearly about the negative thought.

2. Meditate. The only way to shut off this brain sometimes is to meditate and thankfully I can do that for hours if need be.

3. Get out of yourself and go help someone else.

4. Force yourself to smile for one minute. It will not be a pretty smile and you may look like a crazy person but it works.

5. Listen to The Secret, Sandy Beach AA speaker recordings, read spiritual literature or anything uplifting.

6. Write immediately 10 things you're grateful for.

7. And most importantly, as George Michael says, HAVE FAITH. You can't be in fear and faith at the same time. As my sponsor says, "If you are in fear, waiting for the other shoe to drop, then you need to get a God with one shoe."

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