Stopping Negative Self-TalkPublished on Thursday, April 13, 2023 by
It’s Time for a New Soundtrack
When I was a kid, I used to create mixtapes by recording songs on the radio. It was probably the original form of piracy. When I’d get tired of one soundtrack, I’d tape a new one over it. If it was a really good mix, I’d keep it, and record it on a new tape. I heard the concept of soundtracks from a book by Jon Acuff with the same title. We have a soundtrack to our lives. It’s playing on repeat in our heads. Most often this soundtrack is the biggest negative criticism we know, but it doesn’t have to be. We can record over those negative tracks.
Why are we so hard on ourselves?
Often the thoughts we have to go all the way back to childhood. They feel like so much a part of us that often we believe it’s our personality. That’s because thoughts become beliefs the longer you listen to them. When I was a kid I was called a procrastinator. I apparently had all this potential that I wasn’t living up to. What it felt like to me were pressure and judgment. These negative thoughts are also perpetuated by societal pressure, TV, social media, trauma, or past failures. Dr. Daniel Amen, a double board-certified psychiatrist, and brain doctor calls these thoughts our ANTs or automatic negative thoughts. Our head becomes infested and just like that mixtape, it just keeps looping.
“You cannot have a positive life and a negative mind.” ~ Joyce Meyer
Four Simple Steps
How do you turn down or eliminate those pesky ANTs? First off, it is not reasonable to think we will eliminate ALL our negative thoughts forever. We just need the proper tools to deal with them and a practice of reframing or recording over that negative mixtape. Here are four simple questions that will begin to help you challenge your negative thoughts:
- Is it true? Thoughts like I’m not good enough, I always mess things up, I’m stupid, I can’t do that, I won’t get the job, need to be questioned for validity. This is because thoughts become actions. How? When you say something thousands of times you begin to believe it, and so you act accordingly. So, test the thought. Is it really true? Like true 100% of the time? Probably not.
- How does this thought make me feel? Our feelings let us know a lot. Test the thought out. Do you feel good? Is it kind? How would you feel if I couldn’t have this thought? You will find that these thoughts make you feel bad. They aren’t kind, and it would be a relief to not have them anymore.
- Is it helpful? Now consider if this thought is serving any helpful purpose at all. The tendency is that over time these thoughts get louder but don’t provide any help. No solutions. Just noise.
- Turn the beat around. Now turn the thought to its complete opposite. For instance, I am more than good at plenty of things! Is there evidence that this is true? Is it truer than the negative thought? Make a list of the evidence, all the things you’re good at. How does it make you feel? Is it helpful?
Step four is a reframe. It’s the beginning of the new mixtape. It’s a good idea to begin noticing your negative thoughts. Write them down. Take them through the above exercise. Then focus in on the fourth step. Write out the reframe and build a collection of new tracks. Become mindful and aware of when those thoughts come up and interrupt them with the new track. Continue to challenge your negative thoughts. Practice self-compassion, as I wrote about in this article.
This will take time, and honestly, negative thoughts will always creep up. Meditate on the new tracks so that slowly they become the new soundtrack. With practice, the negative thoughts will be way less, and the good vibes of the new beat will be loud and clear.
I see you, and YOU are beautiful!
- Acuff, J. (2021). Soundtracks. Baker Books.
- Amen, MD, D. (2020, September 23). Negative Thoughts and Brain Health | Amen Clinics. Www.amenclinics.com. https://www.amenclinics.com/blog/do-you-have-an-ant-infestation-in-your-head/
- Eagleson, C., Hayes, S., Mathews, A., Perman, G., & Hirsch, C. R. (2016). The power of positive thinking: Pathological worry is reduced by thought replacement in Generalized Anxiety Disorder. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 78(26802793), 13–18. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.brat.2015.12.017
Deanna Salles-FreemanLife & Health Coach