So having briefly discussed triggers and negative thinking in my last blog, let’s move forward and see what you can do next.
REFRAMING NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
Having identified the negative thought, you will then need to challenge it. This can easily be done by applying the following checklist.
Is this thought realistic?
Do I know this to be absolutely true? Or is it an assumption I’m making, is it an inference?
Is this thinking compassionate?
Is this thought considerate, kind and reasonable towards myself and/or others?
Is this thought constructive?
Will thinking like this help me feel better about an event or situation and will it help me cope well with a difficult situation?
If the answer to any of the above questions is ‘No’, then it’s time to have a look at your thinking and see if you can reframe your thought and find an alternative way of thinking that is realistic, compassionate and constructive.
"I CAN'T BEAR THIS TASK".
Here's an example.
How ever difficult you’re finding a task, is it realistic, compassionate and constructive to think ‘I really can’t bear this’, or, ‘I absolutely should be able to do this’, or, I’m completely useless because I'm finding this really difficult? This just leads to feelings of frustration, shame or embarrassment.
An alternative way to think might be:
’OK, you’re finding this tough, in fact it’s a lot more difficult than you thought it would be BUT you’re human! Sometimes things are more difficult to do than you thought, just because it’s really tough doesn’t mean you’re useless, it means you’re having a tough time’.
This alternative thinking is much more likely to produce neutral or positive feelings and promote a more constructive way of dealing with the problem, whether that’s to carry on as best you can until you get to the end of the task or ask for help or support if that’s really what you need.
Another example might be when a situation has occurred which we really wish hadn’t and we think, ‘This absolutely shouldn’t have happened, there’s no way this should have happened.’ It’s a common trap that many of us fall into and it's known as black and white thinking.
It’s unrealistic thinking because the situation HAS happened. This kind of thinking usually leads to very negative feelings and consequential negative behaviours.
It would be much more realistic and constructive to think:
‘OK, I didn’t want this to happen/ Ideally this shouldn’t have happened, or even I wish with all my heart that this hadn’t happened BUT I accept that it has and I guess I now need to deal with it.’
With practice, this thought reframing process will help you cope much better, both emotionally and behaviourally, with the stresses that we all face on a daily basis.
It also will help to train you to look at the ups and downs of life through a more neutral lens which inevitably helps reduce underlying feelings of anxiety and stress and approach difficult situations in a much more constructive way.