THE BLOG
01/04/2016 08:26 am ET Updated Jan 04, 2017

How to Stop Your Negative Thoughts From Controlling You

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Of all the things I have heard as a coach and a human being, nothing defeats us more than our own inner critic. Negative self-talk escapes no-one and I am convinced that if we actually listened to some of the things we tell ourselves, we would be horrified. If we were to tune into your mind for a moment - what would I hear you saying to yourself? Would it be kind, supportive and gentle or quite the opposite?

Just like everyone else I suffer from negative thoughts. Some of mine sound like:

"I don't know anything -- I may as well just give up now."
"This person or that person is much further ahead than I am."
"Who wants to hear what I have to say?"
"I can never get enough done."
"What's the point?"

Working for myself also often makes me feel like I am constantly behind - there is an endless amount of work to do - a lot of it proactive - and I often have big pangs of guilt when I am doing other things like brunch or shopping (or even watching a little reality TV).

Our inner critic (which is our ego) loves to tell us why we can't do something and why we are not good enough. I want to share with you some awesome advice that Arianna Huffington gave me when I interviewed her last year. She said, "How we talk to ourselves matters. Even our worst enemies don't talk about us the way we talk to ourselves. I call this voice the obnoxious roommate living in our head. It feeds on putting us down and exploiting and magnifying our insecurities and doubts. I wish someone would invent a tape recorder that we could attach to our brains to record everything we tell ourselves. It would shock us to hear it played back."

Critical thoughts are paralysing and prevent you from achieving your potential. After years working on myself I have mastered a few tricks that have really helped me and that I use when I can feel myself going down one of these negative spirals.

Here is how I go from feeling low to shifting gear to looking up and feeling like myself again.

Identify the thought and say it out loud

"I am always behind" or "Everyone else is further along in their lives/careers/savings plan than I am." Hearing the words aloud immediately makes me feel separated from it. Have you ever had that experience - when you say something aloud and you realize how ridiculous it sounds? The negativity immediately seems dramatic and perspective creeps in. It also allows me to understand that its so much worse in our head! When we confront the thought/issue listen to it, solutions also start to appear.

Figure out what is causing the negative emotion

When I'm feeling low I ask myself, am I hanging around some negative people? Has it been a few days since I have done some creative work? Did something happen - perhaps someone let me down? I try and pinpoint the source and release it by fostering some forgiveness or a new point of view. Or I fire up my laptop and simply get busy in order to get out of a slump.

Recall similar past experiences

For example, in my twenties I used to be scared to speak up in corporate meetings as my inner critic said, "You don't know what you are talking about (and will look silly)." Looking back, this was all in my mind! Remember times that you have experienced this fear in your past (which you can now see more objectively) and use this to fuel your confidence if you feel nervous to speak up in a meeting now. Let your past inner critic inform your current critic ... it was wrong and you are doing great. I look back and laugh at a lot of the insecurities I had in my twenties and try to remember that I will do the same in my forties when I look back at my fears today. Give yourself a break!

Give yourself a mini pep-talk

Remember that you can be your best friend or your worst enemy and only you are in control of this. When my thoughts and feelings are not constructive I remember what my accomplishments, what I am proud of myself for and what I am most grateful to have in my life right now.

Use thought replacement

In the moment. Immediately. When you think, "I don't know what I am doing" immediately say instead, "I know what I am doing". Feel the difference. That feeling generates the results that someone who knows what they are doing experiences.

Remember that any mood, good or bad, doesn't last forever. On days I find it really hard to shake a bad mood I still almost always wake up the next day feeling more like myself. In fact, there is evidence that supports most of our negative thoughts surface at night so take heart in the fact, with the daylight often will come your old, familiar self. Nights when I feel little low I like to watch TV and indulge in a little junk food and catch up on all social media. And hey, that's OK!

As Eckhart Tolle says, "You are not your thoughts... Here is a great spiritual practise for you ... don't take your thoughts too seriously." Take a step back and observe them. You can release and replace them.

I would love to learn from you and hear what you do to shake off your negative thoughts. How do you turn them around? Please share with me in the comments box below!

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