Written by therapist Zach Seifert
Thoughts can be extremely hard to control at times – not to mention the choices we make when those thoughts overtake our emotional capacity to remain consciously engaged in the present, or when making decisions. Often, we strive to remain positive, encouraged, and eager for day-to-day experiences. However, life can run away from the specific desires we have, ultimately causing us to relinquish our control of our present circumstances. For example – an added project at work, a conflict with a friend, the loss of a loved one, or simply the canceling plans that we were looking forward to.
Coping with these sudden changes can sometimes make apparent the lack of control we already have, compounding our experience and shutting down our capacity to stay present. This can create a need to escape or soothe the experience or feelings that arise, ultimately causing changes in our mood, productivity, reliability, enjoyment, etc. Remaining present and mindful can be more manageable with a few helpful strategies:
Simply asking yourself, is this real (the thought I am experiencing or am I dramatizing a manageable situation)? Is the feeling that I am experiencing an accurate representation of the circumstance? Is this how I would like to respond in such a circumstance? If not, what would be a better response for me that best promotes who I am through this adversity?
I like to think of reframing as taking “thought challenging” a step further. Once you have identified a thought as true or false, you have the potential to reframe its impact on your future thoughts. Identifying a thought as true or false has allowed conscious engagement of the thought directly. Once bought into a thought, we can reframe its impact on our mind in a more positive manner. Actively reframing thoughts can be extremely powerful. For example, Reframing is the conscious effort of changing the present and more spontaneous thought to a thought that more accurately reflects the present circumstance, which can help alter your emotional response in the present.
Positive self-talk, and its development as a skill, can be life-altering in so many positive ways. We often ignore our human need to be “affirmed” and “reassured” personally because these terms have been defined as more exterior concepts – meaning they ought to come from other people, not from ourselves. Traditionally, I find that people ignore their need for self-affirmations/positive self-talk, because there is an unspoken expectation that we are “supposed” to do things that tend to be positive, so if this is the case, why focus time on recognition when it doesn’t propel one forward in any way, as it may feel like a waste of time. If this sounds like you, I would challenge you to consider this perspective as an absolute falsehood. The very basis of decision making involves our thought processes, it is how we think. Thoughts can be impacted by so many different things that happen in our lives, including the impact of unforeseen circumstances, emotions, experiences, etc. Positive self-talk allows a tangible way to set up our baseline state for success. Focusing on positivity embodied in us allows for freedom in the choices we make.
I would start with I statements when developing your positive self-talk, however this skill can be expansive. The focus should be on setting your thoughts up for a more positive baseline. For example: “I am worthy of my own attention”, “I can handle this challenge, because I know that I have the skill to solve this problem”, “I am good”, “The effort I give is the best of what I have”.
Finding a Balance
Finding a balance between emotional responses and the thoughts that ultimately drive action is crucial in making better decisions and feeling more in charge of your existence. The practical skills outlined above can be challenging to implement, but just like any lasting change, they require desire, effort, and practice. It may feel out of reach to even find a space to practice these as thoughts can become extremely overwhelming. In my next blog, I will discuss some strategies for anxiety reduction and calming practices that will make it easier to practice these skills.
If these strategies seem challenging to get started or to maintain day-to-day, I would welcome the opportunity to discuss how to do so together. Please reach out to us here at Optimum Joy today to get started. Healing is so much closer than you think!