Have you ever found yourself thinking “I blew it,” ”I’m such a doofus,” or ”Just like Dad said, I always miss the ball.” Today’s the day you stop. That type of negative thinking perpetuates itself. According to Dr. John Ratey, a Harvard psychiatrist and author of A User’s Guide To The Brian, those thoughts jumpstart your amygdala, a part of your gray matter that acts like a panic button. From there, the hypothalamus lights up – which links the mind to the body. Next thing you know, you’re sweating, your heart is racing, and you’re on the verge of a panic attack. Not only that, but negative self-talk damages your self-confidence – and when your confidence is down, so goes your performance. Self-doubt produces muscle tension, which messes up your timing and coordination. Thinking thoughts like, “I have nothing interesting to say” becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. At work, if you focus on how hard something is – you’ll find it tougher to start and you won’t do a good job. So here’s how to tackle the negative self-talk and push through it.
- Don’t try to ignore the negative thoughts that come into your head. The more you fight them, the more you dwell on them. Instead, argue with yourself. Identify the putdowns you typically say to yourself and jot down a comeback. You’re not pumping yourself up with false pride, you just want to recast unrealistical thoughts in a more positive light. So if you tell yourself, “I sound like such an idiot.” Your mental rebuttal may be, “So what if I say something lame, she’ll like me anyway.”
- Another trick for turning negative thinking around: Put a different spin on it. Re-label – “I’m so nervous” as “I’m so psyched!” Your brain will automatically shift from stress mode into ‘let’s roll’ mode. It re-channels your adrenaline into positive action.
- If all else fails, rapidly sweep your eyes from side to side about 25 times. Studies show it stimulates both sides of the brain and disrupts negative thinking patterns.