Every day you have upwards of 60,000 thoughts running through your head and most of them are happening outside of your conscious awareness. Many of the thoughts you have today are in fact the same ones you had yesterday and that you will have again tomorrow, and a decent amount of those habitual thoughts are not beneficial to your motivation or mood. Negative, self-critical thoughts, judgmental thoughts, worry and disaster thinking to name a few.
Considering what we know about how much your mood and behaviour is influenced by how you think, it’s worth paying a bit of attention to the kinds of thoughts that are supporting and empowering you and those which are undermining your happiness and success. When you take them off auto-pilot and bring them to your conscious awareness, you’re in a better position to decide whether you really want to put your focus on those unhelpful, unproductive, energy sapping and confidence destroying thoughts or if you’d be better off to swap them out for something a little more focused on what’s more likely to lift your mood and inspire you to do the things that are important to you.
Here are 5 habitual and repetitive thoughts that you might want to re-think or let go if you notice them taking up room in your mind:
I’ll be happy when…
We know from happiness research that the circumstances of your life account for a very small amount of your overall happiness; so if you believe you can’t be happy until things in your life improve, that would be faulty thinking. The time to be happy is right now and the place to find it is within you, not outside of you.
I’m …. hopeless, stupid, undeserving… (insert insult of choice)
Most of us, by default, are high on self-criticism and low on self-kindness. We focus a lot of attention on our flaws and mistakes while we dismiss the things we do well. Try making a list of your good qualities, your strengths, the values that are important to you and what other people appreciate about you. Catch that voice of self-criticism and replace it with something a little kinder as often as you can.
What will people think?
Here’s the thing – most other people are too busy worrying about what people think about them to be thinking anything much about you. But unfortunately, we are so self-obsessed that we give far too much attention to worrying how other people might perceive us. When you start noticing you are holding yourself back, changing yourself to fit in or making life decisions based on how you perceive other people will judge you, it’s time for a reality check. The truth is, even if people do have an opinion about your choices, your own opinion (and your authenticity) is what really matters. People will think what they will think and life will go on. Focus on doing what makes you happy.
It’s all their fault
Whether it’s your partner sabotaging your diet, your boss making your work a living hell or your parents who screwed up your childhood, staying in blame mode takes away all of your personal power. Taking responsibility for your choices or your life circumstances can be confronting but it’s the only way to truly take charge of your destiny. Try not to fall into victim mode. As the saying goes, “Your past might not be your fault, but your future is your responsibility”.
I’m not talking about contingency planning here, I’m talking about the endless stream of ‘worst case scenario’ thoughts that drive you into a frenzy of worry. Your mind fools you into believing that your worry is serving a useful purpose (such as problem solving or preparing you for the worst) when in fact the only thing your worry is doing is sucking the joy out of your life. If you know you’re prone to worry thinking, try ‘postponing worry’. Tell yourself you don’t need to think those thoughts right now and allocate a time later in the day or week to devote to worrying. You’ll probably find that when your worry time comes around, those thoughts aren’t important anymore – and even if they are, at least you’ve contained them to a limited time and taken back control of your racing thoughts.