Today marks the four year anniversary of the beginning of my journey into recovery. It was while attending my first ever personal development workshop ‘Enhance Your Life’ that I discovered this addiction. I realise that what I say next will sound contradictory coming from a Wellness Coach but here it goes… I am addicted to negative thinking. There I have said it…I am also someone who actively promotes positive thinking and feels passionately about personal development. However, I feel I need to be honest with you in the same way I have learned to be honest with myself. I doubt I will ever be completely “clean” of negative thoughts, but I have learned to work on my thought patterns every day and will continue to do for the rest of my life. Why? because I have learned that our thoughts are energy and the vibrations they emit create the experiences in our lives, good or bad. So in truth, it is worth doing the work!
“I am addicted to negative thinking”
I look back on a time in my life between 2008 and 2015 and can honestly say that I woke up every morning with a lack mindset, focusing only on the areas of my life that I was unhappy with. What I did not realise was the power behind the emotional vibrations I was emitting from those painful negative thoughts that I recycled over and over every day. Back then I truly believed that I was an under achiever at life.
My pattern went something like this, my alarm would go off at 6am,I would gather myself, do a gentle stretch, then BAM! ! Within 30 seconds I had found a problem and I began to focus on it. Those waking thoughts could range from feeling anxious about being single to feeling fear that I may never have children. Often I would start to negatively compare myself to others or feel guilty about what I ate or drank the previous day. I cannot remember one day in that time that I did not worry about what lay ahead for me in a job surrounded by people whose values did not align with mine. My thoughts had become a lethal cocktail of negative emotions that I was drinking every morning before I got out of my bed. My point is I had a negative ‘go to’ list of thoughts and I went there every morning.
“I believed I was an underachiever at life”
I know some of you are asking yourselves “why would she do that to herself, that is insane!”, well it was, but I was unaware of this pattern because I was unaware of my thoughts or the fact that we have on average 70,000 thoughts per day, that’s an average of 2,500 – 3,300 thoughts per hour. So before I left my apartment each morning I had about 3000 thoughts and most of them were unkind scary and negative to myself. Looking back at how I was then, it is no wonder that I often felt sad, stressed, overwhelmed and lacked focus thus creating repeat negative patterns in my life arising from my thoughts.
So what was my turning point? Well it wasn’t when I found myself in another unhealthy relationship or when I moved to the next toxic work environment. It also wasn’t either of the two times I had burnout or when I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition triggered by stress. It was however when my mother passed away suddenly that I finally realised that life was not a dress rehearsal, my time was NOW and I needed to take back control of my own wellbeing one thought at a time. What happened next was a set of beautiful synchronicities of people, thoughts and experiences all guiding me on my path to wellness.
“Just one small positive thought in the morning can change your whole day” Dalai Lama
Over the past 4 years I have learned strategies to help me to move from my negative mind set and create a more positive one. I tell my clients all the time this is a process, a journey, one where we need to be gentle with ourselves and realise that we learn as we go. You see I was rarely negative to or about other people, in fact I have always been everyone else’s cheerleader. I gave support freely to others but now I needed to learn how to love and support myself. This sounds easier than it actually was but I had to start somewhere and so I started with practicing gratitude.
Gratitude definitely was a game changer for me! Each morning, just after I woke and before I could start my pattern of negative thought, I reached for my journal and I wrote 3 things I felt grateful for. The key here was not to make this a writing exercise but a feeling one. I needed to write the words and to feel the emotion thus allowing my body to go into a state of joy for a few moments every morning. Starting my day this way began to motivate me and inspire me. For the first time in my life I started to look for things to be happy and grateful for. I was actually programming my own mind to search for nice things and this felt so good.
The next strategy I learned was what Wellness Coaches refer to as the 5 R Process or “Coaching Your Inner Critic”. Each time I became aware of another negative thought I would implement the following steps:
- RECOGNISE it was happening.
- REFUTE the thought.
- REMOVE through visualisation.
- REGAIN my confidence by affirming more positively.
- RETURN to the present moment, breathe and relax.
This involved me learning to talk to myself like I was my own best friend. American motivational author and the founder of Hay House, Louise Hay often spoke of the longest relationship we will ever have is the one we have with ourselves, so we must learn to love and value ourselves. We often forget that we speak to ourselves all day every day with our thoughts. By recognising that inner critic we can take a step back and start to ask ourselves “is this thought true?”, “would I say this to a friend or loved on?” and if we answer “NO”, then why do we hold on to it? How is it serving us? Once we recognise it is happening we can CHOOSE better thoughts. Believe me! It works.
When I started to become more aware of my thoughts, I in turn became more selective of the ones to keep. In becoming choosier I started to recognise that I held beliefs that were not supporting me in creating positive outcomes in some areas of my life. I can clearly remember the day I discovered my limiting belief around relationships. I was sitting in my car, waiting to get access to a car park. I had woken up that morning, frustrated and feeling dis-empowered as another potential relationship had finished before it even got started. However this time I knew what I needed to do, I was aware of what was happening and I wasn’t willing to go down a rabbit hole of negative thoughts. I started by asking myself a question…. “Gillian what is your belief about relationships?”
“Gillian what is your belief about relationships?”
As quick as I had asked, I had answered “they happen to other people”. I was amazed and relieved because finally I had discovered the root of my problem. For some reason I held a belief that was limiting me from achieving happiness in an area of my life that was making me feel sad and lonely. It didn’t matter to me why I had that belief, what mattered was I knew I could change it.
A belief is just a thought we keep thinking and our thoughts have energy. Once we unlock our limiting belief we can start to change the story we are telling ourselves by telling ourselves a new more compassionate one. Remember to talk to yourself like you would talk to your best friend. What followed was 6 weeks of fine tuning my thoughts and a fierce commitment to positive story telling:
I choose to believe that I can have a healthy and fun relationship
I get excited at the thoughts of meeting this great guy
I have so much to offer its easy for me to attract him in
I love my new way of thinking as it makes me feel so good
I recited these new thought patterns every day for those 6 weeks. I mention that time frame not because I set myself a limit but because it was in that short time that I met my partner Carlos who I will be celebrating my second anniversary with this coming January.
So in summary I am proof that when we change our thoughts we can change our lives. It is not only in romantic relationships that I have experienced change but in all areas of my life. I now experience moments of complete inner peace and have a toolkit to help support myself. I will never be that girl waking up and berating herself again because I know how to catch the thought and flip it. So why not take a close look at your own life, what areas are going well and what areas would you like to improve. Ask yourself what you believe about this area, trust your answer. We can have so many limiting beliefs and negative thoughts that block us from living a life that we truly deserve. Once we become more aware of our thoughts and learn strategies to change our stories we can begin to enjoy the life we want. I know I am.