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Redirecting negative thoughts

Our thoughts shape our reality. We can achieve almost anything simply by focusing our thoughts on our goals (and taking action, of course!).

  • Reduce the “quantity” of thoughts ➡️ Fewer thoughts.
  • Improve the “quality” of thoughts ➡️ More positive thoughts.

By continuously improving in the above 2 areas, we can start to see our goals manifesting in our lives.

But how do we do this? How do we restrain and redirect our monkey mind from thinking too many negative thoughts to fewer positive ones?

The answer lies in improving our awareness. If you find this topic relevant, it’s likely because you’ve noticed negative thoughts and want to dissolve them. Recognizing this is already a step towards awareness.

The challenge, however, is that we often notice these recurring negative thought patterns only after they’ve taken over, ruining what could have been a productive day.

How do we catch these thoughts in the act and subdue them immediately? Or even better, how do we prevent them from arising in the first place?

The key is to build our awareness to a point where the “observer” within our minds is always alert. As long as the observer is vigilant, the monkey mind will not stray too far in the wrong direction.

This brings us to the next question: How do we build a strong, alert observer?

One method is meditation. Sit down for a few minutes each day, close your eyes, and focus on one thing, such as your breath or a mantra. Whenever your mind wanders, observe it and gently bring it back to your focus.

The more you practice this, the more aware you become of your mind. You start to realize that you and your mind are not the same. You can train your mind and use it as a tool, rather than letting it control your behavior.

I’ve been meditating consistently for a few years now, and it has helped immensely in controlling my emotions. However, I still noticed a significant number of negative thoughts.

These negative thoughts are usually triggered by familiar events and past associations with those events. For example, if you’ve associated shame with failure, you’ll feel shame whenever you fail. If you’ve associated others’ success with envy, you’ll feel envious when you see someone successful.

While meditation can help you become more aware of these thought patterns, it can be difficult to catch yourself in the act of slipping into negative emotions. This often happens so quickly that you only realize it after the fact.

So, how do we address this problem?

The idea is simple. Write down each event that triggers a negative thought and what thoughts or emotions you would prefer to associate with those events instead.

Some examples:

Event: I usually feel a sense of shame whenever I try something new and fail.
New association: The next time I try something new and it doesn’t go as expected, I will feel curious about what happened and why. Then, I will feel a sense of having learned something new. I will also feel courageous for trying something new, even if it felt risky.

Event: I feel stressed, overwhelmed, and anxious when starting an important project, feeling there’s not enough time to finish everything.
New association: When I start a new project and see a long list of tasks with limited time, I’ll remind myself that my life is not a race with anyone else’s. My journey is unique, and the only thing that matters is steady, consistent progress. I have plenty of time as long as I keep improving.

Event: I feel a sense of insufficiency each time I check my weight on the scale.
New association: When I check my weight and it’s higher than I want, I’ll remember that losing weight and getting in shape is a process. By taking small steps each day and improving bit by bit, I’ll see the scale go down in a few months. I’ll also remind myself that while the scale may show a high number, I’m already noticing myself becoming more energetic and positive, after each exercise session.

Event: When I see someone looking/talking/behaving in a way that I don’t like, I become judgmental of them.
New association: When I see someone who doesn’t match my definition of perfect, I’ll remember that each of us is God’s creation. And that each of us is unique. And that each of us in on our own unique journey. I’ll also feel grateful for whatever success I’ve had in my own life. Finally, I will try to evoke a sense of compassion in myself for the other person, look for something good them in them and then appreciate them for that quality.

And so on.

The key is to pre-program our minds before we engage in actions that typically trigger negative emotions, so these actions can become triggers for positive emotions instead.

For this method to work, the following steps are important:

  1. Write it down. Just thinking about it will not suffice.
  2. Keep adding to your list, every time you notice new negative thoughts.
  3. Review your new associations frequently.

The list can get long initially.

But keep at it and wait for the winning moment…when the list starts to get shorter.

That’ll happen when the redirection process starts working and you notice yourself becoming more positive.

It’s not the current situation that’s the problem; it’s our negative perception of it. We can always choose to change our perception and see the situation in a new light.

As Mahatria says: “Control the direction of your thinking and always manage to hold positive thoughts as your most dominant thoughts, and see how you navigate through life.”

Try the above method and let me know how it goes for you! 😊

Bonus: Already practicing meditation? That’s amazing. The above practice is very complementary to meditation and will help you heighten your your awareness faster.

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