Do you ever notice that you are going about your day and you find yourself on a negative thought train? You keep repeating the same negative sentence over and over again.
- “I don’t like about my job.”
- “I don’t like about my body.
- “My life just isn’t what I want it to be.”
As you stay on this negative thought train, you notice your body feeling tense and your overall enjoyment of the day going down. Research shows that obsessive thinking and rumination are associated with binge-eating, anxiety, depression, lack of self-esteem, and greater irritability and restlessness.
Our ability to make judgements about our environment helped us survive when we were hunter-gatherers. However, this way of thinking doesn’t benefit us so much at the supermarket, in the office, or in bed. Furthermore, obsessing and ruminating about the past or the future will only lead one to feeling disempowered and frustrated. Why? Because all we have control over is right here in this present moment.
This is good news and research has found that by training the mind to be here with mindfulness, we can reduce anxiety (1), depression (3), enhance focus and attention (2) and reduce binge eating (4).
Be Mindfully Incredible!
When I’m teaching mindfulness at different organizations, I try to bring part of the work culture into the classes. When I was teaching meditation at Pixar, I would use the following six short and quirky suggestions to get people out of negative thinking. The Incredibles is one of my favorite Pixar movies and so I named the meditation course “Be Mindfully Incredible.” I strongly feel that when we are mindful and tuned into our inner wisdom, we have the greatest ability to tap into our potential and “Be Incredible.” I was sharing with my students at Pixar that when we get stuck in the negative, our focus gets stuck there, too. If we are thinking small, we aren’t thinking from our “incredible” place. I invited them to turn it around. When mindfulness is present, you can get on the negative thought train or the “Mindfully Incredible” thought train, which might say, “Carley, you are amazing!”
1. Label your thought.
This is a moment of mindfulness. You are able to see that you have been lost in a negative thought and now can acknowledge it by labeling your experience and let it go.
2. Swat it away.
I sometimes think of negative thoughts as bothersome flies in the air. They are buzzing around you, you think they are gone, but then they come back. Imagine these negative thoughts as flies that just need a good swat. You can simply say to yourself: Not now, Stop, Be Here.
3. Take a mindful walk.
One of the best things we can do when the mind is worked up is to get out of our heads and into our bodies. Find balance in your body by going for a walk where you can take in all the nature and outside scenery.
4. Sing a happy song.
Sometimes when I find I am in a negative state of mind, I sing something upbeat, empowering, and positive.
5. Use a positive antidote.
If you notice you are feeding a certain thought like, “I don’t have enough,” change your tune and feed the opposite of that thought. For example: “My life is blessed with a lot of abundance and support.”
6. Take in your good worth.
Often times when the mind is stuck in negativity, it is often directed toward ourselves. Incline the mind towards seeing your good worth in the world. Be compassionate and versus critical towards yourself. You are doing the best you can.
Our thoughts have a huge impact on our actions and thus our habits. Be mindful of your thoughts and feed the ones that serve you and all beings.
- Vollestad, Nielsen, and Nielsen (2011). Mindfulness and acceptance-based interventions for anxiety disorders: A systematic review and meta-analysis.
- Chambers, R., Lo, B. C. Y., & Allen, N. B. (2008). The impact of intensive mindfulness training on attentional control, cognitive style, and affect. Cognitive Therapy and Research, 32, 303–322. doi:10.1007/s10608- 007–9119-0
- Corcoran, K. M., Farb, N., Anderson, A., & Segal, Z. V. (2010). Mind- fulness and emotion regulation: Outcomes and possible mediating mech- anisms. In A. M. Kring & D. M. Sloan (Eds.), Emotion regulation and psychopathology: A transdiagnositc approach to etiology and treatment (pp. 339–355). New York: Guilford Press.
- Kristeller, J & Wolever, RQ. Eat Disord. 2011 Jan-Feb;19(1):49-61. doi: 10.1080/10640266.2011.533605.