You know that voice in your head? The one that tells you that you aren’t doing enough? That you are fat and getting old? That you are a horrible parent and an even worse spouse? It’s a horrible voice, isn’t it?
I am here to tell you that you don’t have to pay attention to that voice. If you can teach yourself to talk back to it, to change your thoughts to be happier.
But how, you ask, do you talk back to the thoughts in your head? It is possible: all it takes is a little awareness and effort.
#1 – Recognize that the thoughts in your head are just thoughts.
They are not the truth – they are something that your brain has made up. For some reason, our brains are naturally inclined to go to the worst possible denominator when something goes awry.
If we make a mistake at work we think “I am terrible at this job and I am never going to be able to do it and I should just quit right now and crawl into a hole.”
Take a moment and think about this thought pattern, right now, with a clear mind. Is that the truth? Do you really think that because you failed at one thing you are a complete failure? Of course not.
In the moment, or moments, around an incident that is where your brain goes. The key is to recognize it and to reframe it immediately. Instead, tell yourself “I made a mistake this time and I have learned from it and I won’t make it again.”
If you don’t let your brain take you down to the darkest depths it is easier to rise back up from a mishap and move forward.
#2 – Don’t judge yourself for your thoughts.
Once we start to recognize where our brains go in difficult situations another phenomena sets in – we start to judge ourselves for our thoughts. This is another brain trick, one we need to get around.
Your brain will make you think “I am such a loser. Why does my brain always tell me I am so worthless? I must be worthless if I can’t stop my brain from going there.” Don’t let it! Instead of judging yourself, recognize that your brain is playing tricks on you, that there is nothing you can do to stop it but that you have the power to change it. Don’t let the guilt seep in. Block it and shut it down.
Power is a very valuable thing to have.
#3 – When you make a mistake, think of an earlier success.
ack to the example above. When you make a mistake, instead of saying to yourself “Oh I messed this up, how will I ever be successful at anything ever again?” a good idea is to think back to a difficult situation that you have been in before and gotten past.
What happened? How did you get past it? What did you learn from it? Remind your brain that you have had successes, many of them, and that this one mistake isn’t going to bring down the rest of your life.
#4 – Do something to give your brain a rest.
We get these thoughts in our head all day/ every day, no matter how well our lives are going. An important tool in not letting these thoughts get the best of you is to give yourself a break from them.
This kind of a break is what yoga and meditation are all about: focusing your thoughts on something other than the thoughts that are bringing you down. Yoga and meditation are great but not everyone’s thing.
You can give your brain a break by watching your favorite show, reading a book, singing along to a song, talking to a friend. Whatever you need to do to give your brain a rest, to stop running those negative tapes over and over. After your rest you will be more resilient in talking back to your brain when you need to.
#5 – Love yourself like you love your kids.
If you think about it, every day our kids say out loud things that are very similar to those voices we hear in our heads. And, because they say them out loud, we are able to help them work through them, to guide them in reframing their thoughts. And we do this because we love them and want them to be happy and healthy. Love yourself like you love your kids and teach yourself to reframe those thoughts.
Remember, those thoughts in our head don’t always benefit us and they are NOT the truth. They are just thoughts. Learn to recognize, reframe and move forward and your life will be a happier place. See? It really is possible…
Are you struggling to change your thoughts to be happier?
I know it can be really, really hard. Let me help before giving up feels like the only option!
Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s get started!
I am a NYC based Certified Life Coach and mental health advocate. My writing has been published on The Huffington Post, Prevention, Psych Central, Pop Sugar, MSN and The Good Man Project, among others. I work with all kinds of people to help them go from depressed and overwhelmed to confident and happy in their relationships and in their world.