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Easy Ways Proven By Science (And Neglected By Magic) To Get Rid Of Negative Thoughts

Easy Ways Proven By Science (And Neglected By Magic) To Get Rid Of Negative Thoughts
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The other night I sat down to watch Harry Potter with a bucket of ice cream and a s’mores spread guaranteed to make Girl Scouts proud. This is my standard consolation meal/movie when shi*t has hit the fan and I’m too tired to make it through Star Wars. I was watching the torture scene, enthralled as a woman rotated above a table, her whimpers of pain and ragged breathing echoing in the cavernous room. The others seated looked bored, abetting her anguish because A. They were bad, bad wizards and B. This witch believed and spread “unclean thoughts”.

As marshmallow oozed down my chin, I felt jealous of how easy this woman had it. Sure, she was being tortured for thinking a certain way but in the series, women and men were always trotting about casting spells to erase memories. And these torture fellas had romantically swept her off her feet, spun her in the air and put an end to the thoughts within minutes. Meanwhile, we wand-less have to labor for weeks, even months to wipe out negative thoughts. Lucky witch.

Negative thoughts are dominated by fear, panic, blame, judgment and doubt. It can be deeply intimate; creating your own private hell or insidiously vast; sweeping through a crowd like a virus. The Holocaust, Salem Witch Trials and the Cold War are all examples of negative thinking holding nations captive.

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The solution to this would of course be to stop the thoughts. Here are ways proven by science (and neglected by magic) to free your mind.

1. Whistle, sing, smile, dance, stretch

Do this without thinking it’s lame or judging yourself. Since your brain is wired to be connected to your body, negative thoughts zing straight to your body, causing negative energy (body aches, tenseness, tiredness, twitchiness). These loop back to the brain and repeat the cycle. Doing the happy actions above release happy chemicals in your brain, which then travel to the body and repeat the cycle.

2. Be aware of your attention

Thoughts of your car, money, associates, food and clothes are relationships in your life. If these things nourish and enrich you then continue to care for them. If you focus on something out of habit or obligation and it drains you, stop giving it attention. I stand at a gnome-like height of 5’2; slam dunks are clearly not in the cards. But damned if I didn’t try to be a basketball All-Star in high school. It took a lot of energy chasing that dream and even more letting go, when I could have realized from the start my body simply wasn’t built for that exercise. Know that things do not define you unless you allow them to.

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3. Slow down your rate of exchange

If you’re talking to yourself or others and bile is coming out, slow down. Examine the words. Why did you choose them and are they accurate? Did your mind jump straight to a tired, negative belief? How did you react to the language? How did they? I still can’t hear the word “bus” without feeling hot behind my ears (embarrassment about a gentleman soiling his pants and being trapped in that stench for 30 minutes in stifling summer heat). I can however, replace that memory with one of a public city bus taking me exactly where I needed to go and feeling good about that. A lot of us make statements like “Oh, I’m retarded”. But are you really? Did the doctor sit your mother down and explain your mental hardware was defective in grade school? Probably not. So you’re not retarded, you just made an unwise decision. And you’ll do better next time.

4. Choose

How you think sparks molecular pathways in your brain, like grooves in a piece of wood. You don’t use the other grooves yet, so they’re not well-worn. You can always start a new one with thinking in a new way, tracing the path until the molecules are trained. A scene in “The Terminator” shows our favorite robot in a hotel room when there is a knock at the door and a question posed. Internally, he sees possible responses:

Yes/No
Or what?
Go away
Please come back later
F*ck you, a**hole
F*ck you

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Granted, he chose “F*ck you, a**hole” but he isn’t an accountant, he’s The Terminator. And if you’re the guy at the bar who sees a man flirting with your girlfriend, you can choose not to jump up and slam a beer glass in his eye. Instead, you can simply walk over and say “f*uck you, a**hole”. Just like Arnold.

5. Don’t pretend to care when you’re indifferent

We all have different experiences, memories, hard knocks and joys. But what we all have in common is our conscious mind and our subconscious mind. If you were raised by church-going parents and feel guilty for not attending Mass in two years, recognize that’s okay. You are not on this earth to live up to other people’s expectations.

6. Declare, write and think of the positive things you want

This kick-starts your brain, literally heating up the part of your brain holding the thought and subconsciously bringing you closer to achieving it. Like a moth to the flame. Do not state what you don’t want, because by giving attention to it, you will draw closer to it.

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7. Label your negative thoughts as useless

If your mind is swirling in how you might fail, be embarrassed, made fun of or rejected, label these thoughts as useless and proceed with your day. This separates you from the thought, allowing you to see it objectively and skip over your fight-or-flight response. Do this quickly and don’t linger. In city traffic, I constantly see drivers yelling and honking and giving themselves a coronary. Does it change the ridiculous road habits of anyone? Does it make even one other person more considerate or aware? No. It’s only causing you stress. A caveat: if there is a hurricane warning and your negative thought is “Oh, we’re all going to die” recognize this might be an actual possibility and prepare for it. Labeling a category 5 hurricane as useless has no relation on how Mother Nature can rock your world.

8. Repeat a mantra

In the morning, I typically say “I am beautiful, kind, intelligent, loved and loving”. When I offered this suggestion to my brother, he chose “I am going to kick life in the taint today”. What can I say? He’s awesome. Repeating a mantra does two things: 1. It sets your mood for the rest of the day and 2. The brain is incapable of thinking two thoughts at once. It just can’t do it. If your thoughts are actively positive, you are incapable of thinking negatively in that moment. And then you are free to go out and kick life in the taint

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Last Updated on July 20, 2021

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)

How to Overcome the Fear of Public Speaking (A Step-by-Step Guide)
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You’re standing behind the curtain, just about to make your way on stage to face the many faces half-shrouded in darkness in front of you. As you move towards the spotlight, your body starts to feel heavier with each step. A familiar thump echoes throughout your body – your heartbeat has gone off the charts.

Don’t worry, you’re not the only one with glossophobia(also known as speech anxiety or the fear of speaking to large crowds). Sometimes, the anxiety happens long before you even stand on stage.

Your body’s defence mechanism responds by causing a part of your brain to release adrenaline into your blood – the same chemical that gets released as if you were being chased by a lion.

Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you overcome your fear of public speaking:

1. Prepare yourself mentally and physically

According to experts, we’re built to display anxiety and to recognize it in others. If your body and mind are anxious, your audience will notice. Hence, it’s important to prepare yourself before the big show so that you arrive on stage confident, collected and ready.

“Your outside world is a reflection of your inside world. What goes on in the inside, shows on the outside.” – Bob Proctor

Exercising lightly before a presentation helps get your blood circulating and sends oxygen to the brain. Mental exercises, on the other hand, can help calm the mind and nerves. Here are some useful ways to calm your racing heart when you start to feel the butterflies in your stomach:

Warming up

If you’re nervous, chances are your body will feel the same way. Your body gets tense, your muscles feel tight or you’re breaking in cold sweat. The audience will notice you are nervous.

If you observe that this is exactly what is happening to you minutes before a speech, do a couple of stretches to loosen and relax your body. It’s better to warm up before every speech as it helps to increase the functional potential of the body as a whole. Not only that, it increases muscle efficiency, improves reaction time and your movements.

Here are some exercises to loosen up your body before show time:

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  1. Neck and shoulder rolls – This helps relieve upper body muscle tension and pressure as the rolls focus on rotating the head and shoulders, loosening the muscle. Stress and anxiety can make us rigid within this area which can make you feel agitated, especially when standing.
  2. Arm stretches – We often use this part of our muscles during a speech or presentation through our hand gestures and movements. Stretching these muscles can reduce arm fatigue, loosen you up and improve your body language range.
  3. Waist twists – Place your hands on your hips and rotate your waist in a circular motion. This exercise focuses on loosening the abdominal and lower back regions which is essential as it can cause discomfort and pain, further amplifying any anxieties you may experience.

Stay hydrated

Ever felt parched seconds before speaking? And then coming up on stage sounding raspy and scratchy in front of the audience? This happens because the adrenaline from stage fright causes your mouth to feel dried out.

To prevent all that, it’s essential we stay adequately hydrated before a speech. A sip of water will do the trick. However, do drink in moderation so that you won’t need to go to the bathroom constantly.

Try to avoid sugary beverages and caffeine, since it’s a diuretic – meaning you’ll feel thirstier. It will also amplify your anxiety which prevents you from speaking smoothly.

Meditate

Meditation is well-known as a powerful tool to calm the mind. ABC’s Dan Harris, co-anchor of Nightline and Good Morning America weekend and author of the book titled10% Happier , recommends that meditation can help individuals to feel significantly calmer, faster.

Meditation is like a workout for your mind. It gives you the strength and focus to filter out the negativity and distractions with words of encouragement, confidence and strength.

Mindfulness meditation, in particular, is a popular method to calm yourself before going up on the big stage. The practice involves sitting comfortably, focusing on your breathing and then bringing your mind’s attention to the present without drifting into concerns about the past or future – which likely includes floundering on stage.

Here’s a nice example of guided meditation before public speaking:

2. Focus on your goal

One thing people with a fear of public speaking have in common is focusing too much on themselves and the possibility of failure.

Do I look funny? What if I can’t remember what to say? Do I look stupid? Will people listen to me? Does anyone care about what I’m talking about?’

Instead of thinking this way, shift your attention to your one true purpose – contributing something of value to your audience.

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Decide on the progress you’d like your audience to make after your presentation. Notice their movements and expressions to adapt your speech to ensure that they are having a good time to leave the room as better people.

If your own focus isn’t beneficial and what it should be when you’re speaking, then shift it to what does. This is also key to establishing trust during your presentation as the audience can clearly see that you have their interests at heart.[1]

3. Convert negativity to positivity

There are two sides constantly battling inside of us – one is filled with strength and courage while the other is doubt and insecurities. Which one will you feed?

‘What if I mess up this speech? What if I’m not funny enough? What if I forget what to say?’

It’s no wonder why many of us are uncomfortable giving a presentation. All we do is bring ourselves down before we got a chance to prove ourselves. This is also known as a self-fulfilling prophecy – a belief that comes true because we are acting as if it already is. If you think you’re incompetent, then it will eventually become true.

Motivational coaches tout that positive mantras and affirmations tend to boost your confidents for the moments that matter most. Say to yourself: “I’ll ace this speech and I can do it!”

Take advantage of your adrenaline rush to encourage positive outcome rather than thinking of the negative ‘what ifs’.

Here’s a video of Psychologist Kelly McGonigal who encourages her audience to turn stress into something positive as well as provide methods on how to cope with it:

4. Understand your content

Knowing your content at your fingertips helps reduce your anxiety because there is one less thing to worry about. One way to get there is to practice numerous times before your actual speech.

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However, memorizing your script word-for-word is not encouraged. You can end up freezing should you forget something. You’ll also risk sounding unnatural and less approachable.

“No amount of reading or memorizing will make you successful in life. It is the understanding and the application of wise thought that counts.” – Bob Proctor

Many people unconsciously make the mistake of reading from their slides or memorizing their script word-for-word without understanding their content – a definite way to stress themselves out.

Understanding your speech flow and content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others in a conversational manner. Designing your slides to include text prompts is also an easy hack to ensure you get to quickly recall your flow when your mind goes blank.[2]

One way to understand is to memorize the over-arching concepts or ideas in your pitch. It helps you speak more naturally and let your personality shine through. It’s almost like taking your audience on a journey with a few key milestones.

5. Practice makes perfect

Like most people, many of us are not naturally attuned to public speaking. Rarely do individuals walk up to a large audience and present flawlessly without any research and preparation.

In fact, some of the top presenters make it look easy during showtime because they have spent countless hours behind-the-scenes in deep practice. Even great speakers like the late John F. Kennedy would spend months preparing his speech beforehand.

Public speaking, like any other skill, requires practice – whether it be practicing your speech countless of times in front of a mirror or making notes. As the saying goes, practice makes perfect!

6. Be authentic

There’s nothing wrong with feeling stressed before going up to speak in front of an audience.

Many people fear public speaking because they fear others will judge them for showing their true, vulnerable self. However, vulnerability can sometimes help you come across as more authentic and relatable as a speaker.

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Drop the pretence of trying to act or speak like someone else and you’ll find that it’s worth the risk. You become more genuine, flexible and spontaneous, which makes it easier to handle unpredictable situations – whether it’s getting tough questions from the crowd or experiencing an unexpected technical difficulty.

To find out your authentic style of speaking is easy. Just pick a topic or issue you are passionate about and discuss this like you normally would with a close family or friend. It is like having a conversation with someone in a personal one-to-one setting. A great way to do this on stage is to select a random audience member(with a hopefully calming face) and speak to a single person at a time during your speech. You’ll find that it’s easier trying to connect to one person at a time than a whole room.

With that said, being comfortable enough to be yourself in front of others may take a little time and some experience, depending how comfortable you are with being yourself in front of others. But once you embrace it, stage fright will not be as intimidating as you initially thought.

Presenters like Barack Obama are a prime example of a genuine and passionate speaker:

7. Post speech evaluation

Last but not the least, if you’ve done public speaking and have been scarred from a bad experience, try seeing it as a lesson learned to improve yourself as a speaker.

Don’t beat yourself up after a presentation

We are the hardest on ourselves and it’s good to be. But when you finish delivering your speech or presentation, give yourself some recognition and a pat on the back.

You managed to finish whatever you had to do and did not give up. You did not let your fears and insecurities get to you. Take a little more pride in your work and believe in yourself.

Improve your next speech

As mentioned before, practice does make perfect. If you want to improve your public speaking skills, try asking someone to film you during a speech or presentation. Afterwards, watch and observe what you can do to improve yourself next time.

Here are some questions you can ask yourself after every speech:

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  • How did I do?
  • Are there any areas for improvement?
  • Did I sound or look stressed?
  • Did I stumble on my words? Why?
  • Was I saying “um” too often?
  • How was the flow of the speech?

Write everything you observed down and keep practicing and improving. In time, you’ll be able to better manage your fears of public speaking and appear more confident when it counts.

If you want even more tips about public speaking or delivering a great presentation, check out these articles too:

Reference

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