How To Break Up With Your Bad Thoughts
When it comes to bad thoughts, we all have them. It’s extra easy to get stuck in a rut when it comes to self-critical, judgemental, worrisome, and just plain negative thinking. The important thing to understand when it comes to having bad thoughts, is that the more brain space we give them, the more easily they become a regular part of our thinking patterns.
Repetitive bad thoughts are like weeds that need to be pulled out.
They thrive in parts of our brain known as neural pathways. Neural pathways are like streams of brain cells that connect together. As we learn new tasks and think new ideas, connections between cells are made. As we practice and repeat these tasks and ideas, the connections become stronger and stronger. And soon enough we can do these new things on autopilot!
The thing is, we really do reap what we sow. If we think bad thoughts, the stronger and more habitual those connections in our brain become. Luckily, neural plasticity can save the day--and our mental health!
Neural plasticity is the brain’s ability to not only build new connections, but override and disconnect old ones. It allows us to continue learning into adulthood and change old behaviors and habits. The clincher is that we have to put in the work.
It’s time to break up with those bad thoughts.
Not good enough? Worried what others think all the time? Think you’ve failed at life?
Awareness is really the only way to start.
Make it your goal to spot when these thoughts make an appearance. As they do, ask yourself some questions:
How does this thought make me feel?
Do I want to feel this way?
Would I rather feel a different way?
Why do I keep thinking this?
These questions shine a light on your bad-thought-habit. They give you a chance to assess whether it’s adding value to your life, or just making your day worse. (You probably know the answer to that!)
Accept and forgive.
Often thoughts of fear, resentment and judgement can be eased with acceptance and forgiveness.
- Accept and forgive the situation at hand.
- Accept and forgive your temporary shortcomings.
- Accept and forgive that someone who upset you.
Build new pathways.
Use positive emotions such as the two above, and even gratitude to help you think happier thoughts and build new neural pathways. Decide on what positive thoughts will make you feel good today and make the effort to think them daily. Replace the old with the new. Here are some you may want to adapt for yourself:
I’m good at what I do.
I’m grateful to have my family and friends.
I’m lucky to have better health than others.
I deserve to feel happy.
I accept others for the way they are, even if I don’t understand them.
Replacing bad thoughts with good ones is all about consistency. The more you practice, the sooner you can break up with the old negative You, and shake hands with someone more positive!