The Golden Question: How to Turn Negative Thoughts into Positive Action
The human mind is a complex system that controls our thoughts, emotions, and behavior. Negative thoughts are common, and they can be triggered by many things such as stress, anxiety, fear, or depression. These negative thoughts can hold us back from achieving our goals and living our best life. However, the question of how to turn negative thoughts into positive action is a trick question because negative thoughts cannot be turned into positive ones. Instead, the secret is to redirect them.
The first step to redirecting negative thoughts is to understand where they come from. In the book, The Chimp Paradox, Professor Steve Peters describes the Chimp as the emotional and primal part of our subconscious mind that directs our lives. The Chimp is responsible for our emotional memories and beliefs about life, and it helps us survive. However, it can also be our worst enemy because it can throw out negative thoughts whenever it senses something that could cause us pain.
To manage our Chimp and negative thoughts, we need to become aware of the irrational beliefs that our Chimp holds. We can do this by looking over and around our childhood to find the reason why we don’t feel good enough, why we hate public speaking, or why we don’t deserve happiness. Once we identify these beliefs, we can begin to question them and change them.
The second step is to notice your thoughts as they come in. Practice getting calm and noticing your thoughts through meditation. Watch what happens when you throw logic at a negative thought, anxious feeling, or panic attack. The minute you question a belief or a thought, you take the power out of it and into the knowledge that you don’t have to agree with it.
The third step is to tell your Chimp how you want to be. Put in the good stuff. Show it pictures and use exciting words. It will listen. Repeat it clearly and repeat it often. This will take time to make changes, but know that a few weeks can bring about real, neurological changes.
The fourth step is to remain consistent. Over time, using all of these techniques will change your brain and neuro-circuitry, and these tools will change your life. If you feel panic, stress or anxiety kicking in, trigger the Vagus nerve (it’s like the handbrake for the Chimp’s accelerator) by getting into deep breathing and turning off the limbic “fight or flight” system. Cold-water in the face, gargling water, singing, and deep breathing are all ways to stop the immediate physiological effects and get into a calmer state where you can rationalize your way out.
In conclusion, negative thoughts are part of being human, but we don’t have to let them control us. By understanding our Chimp, we can learn to manage negative thoughts and redirect them. The key is to become aware of the irrational beliefs that our Chimp holds, notice our thoughts as they come in, tell our Chimp how we want to be, and remain consistent. With time and practice, we can re-route negative thoughts and let them go somewhere else if they don’t serve us. And remember, the people that we look up to and admire for mental strength have trained their Chimps to work with them, and we can too.