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Marisa D. Aceves. Glass Bubble Landscape 1. Digital Photography

article by Marisa D. Aceves

Maintaining a positive attitude towards our art and other aspects of our life isn’t always easy.

Past traumas, rejection, career disappointments and failed relationships can temporarily get in the way of happiness.

However, when we constantly find ourselves dwelling on all of the misfortune that we have experienced instead of focusing on our strengths, this practice can not only get in the way of career advancement, it can ruin our emotional, psychological and physical health.

Succumbing to negative thought patterns steals our joy, our energy, and our will to create.

We don’t have to give into negative thoughts, but we often do.

In fact, we are conditioned from birth to think negatively, yet as very small children, the majority of us are essentially positive in our thoughts and actions.

Negative thoughts often lead to negative words about ourselves and others; this vicious cycle continues until we decide we want to change it.

Since the mind has a tendency to keep us thinking about all sorts of things that happen throughout the day, if we remember something negative that happened (something that upset us) this upsetting thought can trigger other upsetting thoughts.

This sets off a chain reaction that seems literally “unstoppable.”

Often worry or insecurities about getting out of our comfort zone in order to reach our goals can paralyze us from taking action in the areas that will ensure our success.

While the mind is trying to protect you and keep you safe, getting out of your comfort zone is essential to your artistic growth.

How do we defend ourselves against our  negative thoughts?

What can we do to set ourselves back on the path to a more positive, healthy outlook?

Here are some suggestions that may help you conquer the current onslaught of negativity:

Carefully Consider Your Present Thinking Patterns – The first step to changing negative thinking patterns is recognition. You have to recognize what types of negative thoughts are influencing your actions. When your are able to identify what types of negative thoughts you tend to entertain and in what areas negative thoughts occur, you can then begin to address the issue. According to Dr. Katharina Star, there are ten types of negative thinking patterns or cognitive distortions that interfere with our ability to think, feel and act in a positive manner. Here is a list with the strategies for combating them:

1) ALL OR NOTHING THINKING – Everything we think about is viewed in extremes of positive or negative. We are either an incredible success or a complete failure.  We are incredibly productive or we get nothing done at all. This way of thinking is extremely inflexible. It keeps us from seeing the step-by-step progress that we are trying to make toward our goals.

Strategy– For each area that causes you to go into black or white thinking, address it with the steps that you are taking to reach that goal each day. You may want to write down the areas that bother you the most. Then take notes of the progress you are making. This is written, visual proof that you are making an effort to move forward.

2) OVERGENERALIZING – When we are feeling down, we make assumptions that situations will always remain the way we once experienced them. We tell ourselves that we’ll never get out of our current situation. This is not necessarily the case, but the words “always” and “never” used negatively limit our view of our lives and potential .

Strategy- Whenever you are tempted to assume or overgeneralize, you should gently remind yourself that the upsetting situation may have been a one time occurrence. One mistake or situation should not determine the outcome of future events. Try to recall pleasant situations in which things did go well to offset thoughts about negative situations, setbacks, or mistakes.

3) MENTALLY FILTERING OUT THE POSITIVE- When we are approaching our lives from a negative point of view we have a tendency to filter out all of the things that are positive in our lives and focus only on the bad or unpleasant things.

Strategy- Count your blessings. Gratefulness helps us to notice what is beautiful and meaningful in our lives.  It helps us to see our gifts and the gifts of others.

4) DISMISSING WHAT IS POSITIVE – When we are discouraged, we have a tendency to ignore what is good in our lives, our achievements and relationships.

Strategy- Remind yourself of all of your successes. Continue to foster healthy, positive relationships by spending quality time with individuals you know love and care about you.

5) JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS – Sometimes we believe misread behaviors in others is due to their dislike of us or their lack of trust in our abilities.  We entertain scenarios of “doom and gloom” believing that every situation that causes us discomfort will end badly.

Strategy- Tell yourself that your fear of peoples’ judgement is often unfounded. You don’t have enough facts that equal proof. Go into each situation focusing only on what is going on in the present.

Stay out of your head and stay engaged.

6) MAGNIFYING AND MINIMIZING PROBLEMS- In this example of distorted thinking, we adopt either a “world is going to end” attitude to every setback we encounter, or we dismiss every opportunity for change that comes along because we believe we don’t deserve it.

Strategy- Discuss your problems and fears with a licensed therapist, a trusted friend or family member. This will help you get a grounded perspective on what you are experiencing.  Reach out to others who can help you see the true nature and amount of attention each emotional episode deserves.

7) EMOTION BASED REASONING- When we are lost in emotion, everything we see and experience  is colored by how we feel.

Strategy- Before allowing the latest bought of anxiety to paralyze you from taking action, you need to remind yourself that emotions lie. Our emotions are lying to us about our abilities and self-worth.  Feelings are not facts, just feelings.  Since emotions are associated with the right brain, engage in an activity which activates the left brain like counting, writing, researching,etc.  This helps to flip the switch on overpowering emotions.

8) WOULD’VE COULD’VE SHOULD’VE STATEMENTS – In the middle of a bad case of the blues, we tend to rehash what we could have, would have or should have done about a disappointing or unpleasant past experience.  This pointless exercise prolongs disappointment .

Strategy- Move on.  Do what you didn’t do yesterday today.  Focusing on changing bad habits that keep you from a more positive outcome.

9) ATTACHING LABELS TO OURSELVES – Low self-esteem and hopelessness contribute to our attributing judgemental labels to ourselves like stupid, worthless, etc.

Strategy- Refrain from labeling. Tell yourself “I know I have to work on this problem, but it doesn’t make me a bad or unworthy person.  There is no one in the world that isn’t touched by something.

10) PLAYING THE BLAME GAME – When we want to avoid dealing with our problems, we resort to self-blame or blaming others.  However, self-blame increases panic and anxiety.  Blaming others for our problems prolongs anger and frustration. It alienates us from our peers.

Strategy – Make plans to address the areas in your life that are frustrating you. Create a chart and write down possible solutions to each problem with small steps that you need to take to reach each goal.

Coping with periods of discouragement can go a long way to improving your creativity. It’s important not to stay discouraged. Eventually, we can conquer the negative thought patterns and words that are holding us back from our best life and creative work.

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2 thoughts on “Why Our Words and Thoughts Really Can Hurt Us: 10 Strategies For Combating Negativity and The Blues

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