Friday, August 21, 2015

How To Change Negative Thinking

Maybe you can relate to Cheryl, who's been preoccupied with her weight for years.  She's obsessed with counting calories, figuring out fat grams, and measuring her weight on a daily basis.

Recently, she found out that her sister-in-law was diagnosed with early-stage breast cancer (luckily, the prognosis is good!).  

Cheryl said,  “I feel so stupid for worrying so much about my weight.  I told myself, ‘It’s not like you’re dealing with a life and death situation.  You don’t have it so bad.  Why are you wasting time complaining?’”

She later binged on ice cream to escape what she called these “negative” thoughts.  Then she got mad at herself for eating ice cream.

A friend of mine is going through a divorce (and my goodness, it’s a nasty situation).  She recently told me how upset, scared and angry she is about her situation.  Then she apologized for “being so negative.”

How do you stop negative thinking?  

#1 Question the label

Negative means to be pessimistic, gloomy, or cynical.    That’s a general attitude and perspective on life.  Before you accuse yourself of “being negative” ask yourself whether your self-described negativity is an attitude or a description of an emotional reaction.

#2 Name the true emotions

Don’t associate character defects to emotions!   If you’re angry, that doesn’t make you an angry person.  If you’re upset, that doesn’t mean you’re a negative person. 

Cheryl was not being negative.  She was being harsh, dismissive and judgmental towards herself.

My friend was not being negative.  She was feeling anxious, scared, upset, angry and helpless. 

Experiencing painful feelings is difficult, but it doesn’t mean you’re negative or that the feelings are negative.   Feelings are a reaction to a situation.

#3   Process, process, process

You can’t stuff down emotions, can’t starve them away, let them go, drop them or ignore them.  The only way to get rid of feeling is to actually feel them. 

If you’re upset, express it.  Cry, yell, journal, talk to someone who understands, and allow yourself to process what’s going on.  Click here for 25 strategies to cope with emotions (without food).

#4 Don’t compare yourself to others

Cheryl attacked herself for having concerns about her weight, because her sister in law was dealing with a significant health situation.  It’s one thing to have perspective and it’s another to bash yourself just because you’re upset about circumstances that are different from others.

If you break an arm and someone else breaks two arms, do you have less of a right to be upset about your broken arm just because someone else broke both arms?  Nope!  You get to be upset that you broke your arm AND possibly be grateful that it’s one and not both. 

So, how do you stop negative thinking?  You stop thinking about your thoughts, emotions, reactions, and wishes as negative!

Your feelings and thoughts need your attention, not your condemnation.

When you identify, acknowledge and process what’s going on, you won’t use food for comfort or distraction.  And that's how you make peace with food - for good!   

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