If you could listen to the thoughts of others, what would you hear? My guess is that if you listened, even for a small while, to just about anyone, you would hear endless thoughts of worry, negativity and loads of self-criticism.
Why do I think this? Because this is what is going on, most of the time, in my own head. And also because I have noticed that whenever I talk to other people, usually one of the first things out of their mouths fall into one of these categories. None of us are strangers to doubt, fear, or pessimism.
When the mind is in a negative state it can launch an endless litany of insults and animosity at us, all in vicious defense of our supposed worthlessness. It’s the reason we often look in the mirror with an agenda, searching only to see what we do not like, while blotting out the rest.
It may tell us that we are no good, that other people are better, that we will never be like those other people. It can say that we are doomed to fail, so we might as well not even begin. And on and on it goes, until the negativity grinds itself a deep trench within our minds, causing it to be the most traveled route for thought to take.
Negative self-talk is an epidemic, and one we need to heal. For if we can learn to be kind to ourselves, surely we will find it easier to be kind to each other.
Signs you are in a negative mind state
It is possible to be in a negative thought pattern without realizing it. If you can categorize your thoughts in any one of the following ways – you are in a negative mind state:
- Feeling sorry for yourself
- Thoughts of unworthiness
- Expecting the worse
- Victim mentality
How to Stop your Negative Self-talk
In the quest to quiet your negative thoughts, your first instinct might be to combat them with their positive counterparts. However, you’ll soon notice that your thoughts and words are too contrived, too earnest, and not at all sincere. You can’t force yourself into optimism. Attempting to do so will require far more stamina than most could endure. Besides, you can only fool yourself for so long.
You might also try to stop the thoughts altogether, and it may work – but only as long as you can keep your guard up. Fighting them will eventually turn into a cantankerous battle: you vs. yourself.
The problem quickly becomes obvious as the conundrum presents itself, for when you fight yourself you both win and lose, essentially getting nowhere. And, as the negative mind would say, you are still a loser.
But you can’t give in to the negativity. The damage negative self-talk inflicts on your well-being may be hard to measure, but it’s not hard to spot. At the very least, it can stop you from reaching for your personal goals, and at worst it can cause you to spiral into a cycle of depression and possible self-hatred.
Yet as damaging as negative thoughts can be, all they really are is a bad behavior that has formed itself into a pattern … which is actually good news. Why? Because patterns can be broken, and new ones can be formed. It may take effort, it may take courage, but it can be done.
Accept It and Move On
Change inevitably requires some degree of understanding. To swap your negative self-talk for a more supportive conversation, it’s important to differentiate between the mind’s logical and emotional dialogue.
The thoughts that are logical, such as “don’t jump off the cliff”, are there to protect you, so you must listen to those.
But the thoughts that are purely emotional, with no basis in fact, such as “you aren’t good enough”, are the ones that lead you astray. Acknowledge them, accept them, but don’t let them stop your progress, or scare you into inertia, claim your happiness.
Think of the negative self-talk as a crying baby; you probably don’t like to hear it, but at the same time you can accept it because you know it’s what babies do. The negative mind behaves the same way – it’s always going to be there, making noise when it wants to, and although you can’t stop it, what you can do is acknowledge it, appease it if need be, and then simply tune out of it and move on.
Change Your Negative Self-talk
To help you groove some new channels into your mind for positivity to flow, it’s important to couple your mental efforts with some physical action. This will help train your mind from dual angles, both mentally and physically. Meditation can do this for you, as it is the best practice to bring tranquility to the mind.
The following meditation works on the heart center, opening your energies to the experience of the positive self, while bringing mental balance to the psyche. Practice this one daily, and watch your negative self-talk turn into a whisper.
Meditation to Stop the Negative Self-talk
Posture: Sit with an erect spine. Keep the first two fingers straight. Curl the ring finger and little finger into each palm. Bend the thumbs over top of them to lock them into place.
Bring the arms close so the elbows are by the sides, and the hands are by the shoulders with the two fingers of each hand pointing straight up.
Bring the forearms and hands forward to an angle of 30 degrees from the vertical. Press the shoulders and elbows back firmly but comfortably. The palms face forward.
Eyes and Mental Focus: Close the eyelids. Roll the eyes up gently and concentrate at the brow point, the Third Eye area at the top of the nose where the eyebrows would meet.
Breath: Create a steady, slow, deep and complete breath.
Mantra: Mentally pulse rhythmically from the brow point out to Infinity the sounds: Sa ta na ma
(Sa is Infinity. Ta is Life. Na is Death. Ma is Rebirth/transformation. This describes the cycle of life. The entire mantra means, “I meditate on Truth, Truth that I am.”)
Time: Try it for 40 days. During that time eat lightly and speak only truth directly from your heart. Practice for 11 to 62 minutes.
To End: Inhale deeply and exhale three times. Then open and close the fists several times. Relax.
(Author is a KRI/RYT (Kundalini Research Institute, Registered Yoga Teacher). Meditation is a KRI teaching, as taught by Yogi Bhajan.)