Most of us have received plenty of negative messages growing up, which now manifest as incessant chatter inside our heads. Is there a way to escape from the negativity and criticism? The answer is yes.
Patti Clark, author of “This Way Up: Seven Tools for Unleashing Your Creative Self and Transforming Your Life” (She Writes Press, 2016) has developed her own way to help people through the various difficulties and challenges that we all face in life. Clark calls this process Creative Positive Reframing (CPR), which she says changes the neural pathways in your brain, so that limiting beliefs such as ‘I'm not good enough, young enough, smart enough, thin enough, or whatever-enough’ are transformed from destructive to supportive. Here are the seven tactics that you and your employees can use anytime to take control and banish the negative thoughts from your mind.
1. Pay attention to your thought processes.
Action: The best way to pay attention to your thought process is by focusing on how your body feels. Is there a knot in your stomach, a lump in your throat, a clenched jaw? Once you identify this negative feeling in your body, pause to notice what you've been saying to yourself. This tactic will require you to be quiet and check in with yourself consciously.
Practice: Once you've identified those tight areas and associated negative messages, shift your focus. Take a deep breath and interrupt your own train of thought with something positive or something you're grateful for. Interrupting the thought process of ‘not enough’ and focusing on gratitude stops the negative spiral from spinning out of control.
2. Get the negative out.
Action: When you are caught in a negative thought spiral–it's time to get rid of the negative to make room for the positive.
Practice: Pull out a pad of paper and write out all the garbage spiraling in your head. Write about not having enough, not being smart enough, pretty enough, or good enough. If you feel stuck, write about feeling stuck. Keep writing until the thoughts stop coming and then destroy that paper, tear it up or burn it.
3. Replace the negative with positive statements.
Action: Negative self-talk can be replaced by positivity with the help of a series of affirmations or questions. This creates new neural pathways and frees you from the negative spiral.
Practice: Create positive statements and questions. Affirmations often work, but sometimes questions work better. If your affirmation is "I am wealthy, I am wealthy," and your brain argues back “No you’re not!” then use a question instead such as "What can I do today to increase my wealth?"
4. Create an ideal scenario and recognize why it is important to you.
Action: If you have a negative loop about financial fear or sadness about being alone, then start thinking about the flip side and write about the ideal.
Practice: Describe your ideal situation in writing and be as specific as possible. Describe yourself living the life of your dreams and actually feel how good it feels, and then focus on whyit’s important. Examine why having more money or a great relationship would make a difference in your life.
5. Use creative visualization to embed your ideal into your brain.
Action: This next step takes the previous step and solidifies it; it is a powerful process. Creative visualization is a technique that uses your own power of ‘seeing’ to attain that which you most want or want to change. You already use this technique every day, but unfortunately, we often use it in the negative by imagining all the worst case scenarios.
Practice: The key to visualization is to first see what you want, and then create a mindset that you already have itand youbelieve you deserve it. Relax and be sure you won't be uninterrupted. Close your eyes and let the movie of you achieving your heart’s desire take over your mind—picturing yourself in a beautiful new home, feeling the warmth of the sun as it streams through the windows, visualizing the colors and the art on the walls, or transporting yourself to a satisfying and wonderful relationship, feeling cherished and loved. The more you do this, the more deeply embedded this vision becomes.
6. Keep a positive attitude as you practice.
Action: Happy people usually feel like they are in more control of their lives and therefore feel more confident and optimistic. Unfortunately, our brains are wired to look for and focus on threats, based on when we were hunters and gatherers, but times have changed so it's time for a reboot.
Practice: Be positive about it! Instead of focusing on threats, focus on love and compassion, forgiveness, and gratitude. Simply thinking about someone you love can shift you from a negative mindset to a positive one. Take time every morning to focus on something you are grateful for and on what it is you want to create that day and in your life. Developing this practice will immediately positively impact your day.
7. Be creative.
Action: An expression of creativity can shift our mood and remove us from a negative spiral. Try focusing on shifting limiting beliefs into more positive and supportive ones.
Practice: Start journaling and play with words; use oil pastels or colored pencils and play with color; use your hands and garden in the dirt; or cook and whip up a delicious dish. There is no right or wrong way to be creative. The only important thing is to allow ourselves to connect with our own creativity and to have fun with it and feel uplifted.
So, the next time you find yourself falling into a negative spiral, use these seven techniques to tackle those limiting beliefs and transform negative chatter into something that is supportive rather than destructive. You will be amazed at what you can create in your life.