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Published on May 13, 2020

How to Turn Negative Thoughts Into Positive Action Now

How to Turn Negative Thoughts Into Positive Action Now

The golden question. The one to which we all want the answer…

Well, have you ever seen someone you idolize — someone who is just crushing it at life, overcoming obstacles and showing immense mental strength  — and thought: man, they must be wired differently?

Same.

Particularly if they’re doing their second Hell Week as a US Marine and you’re just trying to keep up with a 10-day yoga challenge you set for yourself.

Yes, it can seem like you’re worlds apart, but you aren’t. They are human, too, and although they have different neurological maps and habits, thinking they were born differently is a cop-out. Because then you can blame your lack of motivation, confidence, success, etc. on something else other than what it really is.

You should know that the question of how to turn negative thoughts into positive action is actually a trick question.

This is because a negative thought is like a freight train. It won’t magically turn into a fluffy white cloud or rainbow, but it can be redirected – this the secret: knowing that it’s actually inaction and indifference that will help you overcome negative thoughts.

Let’s dive deeper.

Where Do Your Negative Thoughts Come From?

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    Let’s start by addressing the elephant in the room — or more appropriately, the Chimp in the room — because you probably should know that you have one living inside of you.

    Yep, we all do. The sooner we all know this, the better (though some won’t, but hey, we need natural selection).

    If you’re feeling overwhelmed with emotions, out of sorts, and all over the place, then it’s likely that your Chimp has been freely frolicking inside the deep recesses of your subconscious mind. Roaming like the King of the Jungle—calling all of the shots and pushing all sorts of buttons and triggers.

    You’ve most certainly seen what it looks like when a Chimp goes rogue: people rampaging shopping centers for toilet paper, screaming at people who are just trying to help or, even worse, loading a gun and shooting anyone in sight.

    OK, that’s the extreme end, but ultimately the people that you look up to and admire for mental strength have trained their Chimps to work with them, like an army commanding its soldiers.

    It’s an important skill to learn, but they started right where you are, with the realization that they even had a Chimp. The next step is to know that your Chimp actually wants to help you, but it just sometimes gets things wrong—like, really wrong.

    What Is the Chimp and Why Do We Have It?

    Your Chimp is obviously not a real Chimp, but it’s a way to view the part of our subconscious mind that directs our lives, the primal and emotional part of us.

    The Chimp concept was coined by Professor Steve Peters in the Chimp Paradox, a book detailing how our Chimp (being a certain part of our subconscious mind) can either be our best friend or our greatest enemy—like ruin-your-life style enemy.[1]

    It is a paradox because it is the key to happiness and contentment but also the reason why so many of us suffer from our mental strength and wellbeing.

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    Your Chimp has been with you since you were born. It was there before your logical mind even developed. It told you to cry when you needed milk, to throw a tantrum to get your parents’ attention, and to laugh when something was funny.

    It stored your emotional memories and helped you make beliefs about life so that you could learn what you needed to do to survive.

    Kind of cute, right?

    Yeah, not so fast.

    Your Chimp is the reason you curse at someone whilst driving when they cut you off—the one that rages when you see an injustice or hear something that offends you. It’s also the one that gets in first and reminds you of all the times you failed and how painful it was so that you steer clear of any type of pain.

    This is separate from your logical, rational thinking brain – it’s operating in a completely different system, almost as if you had two brains.[2]

    One of them is virtually automatic and thinks for us without our input and is based on emotion. The other is under our control and allows us to think, as we want to. The trouble is that these two ’brains’ do not think the same way and they do not typically agree on the interpretation of what is going on. –– Prof. Steve Peter

    Our Chimp Thinks 200x Faster Than Us

    Crucially, the Chimp’s way of thinking is up to 200x times faster than the human, logical brain and a hell of a lot stronger (just like in real life).

    When your Chimp senses something is about to happen, something it thinks will cause you pain, it’ll immediately throw out all kinds of things to remind you why you shouldn’t do it. Anxiety, stress, panic attacks, negative thoughts… this is your Chimp.

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    And because your Chimp was there long before your logical mind developed, it could install certain beliefs into your internal computer before your logical mind could say:

    Hold on a second, I don’t think we need to assume everyone thinks you’re worthless just because you didn’t do well at school.

    When your Chimp senses something is about to happen, something it thinks will cause you pain, it’ll immediately throw out all kinds of things to remind you why you shouldn’t do it.

    How does it do this?

    Why negative thoughts of course! It pushes the “Go” button for anxiety, and it can cue the flow of negative thoughts whenever it thinks you need them.

    What to Do With Your Chimp and Negative Thoughts

    Now you know where your negative thoughts come from, here are four techniques you can use to manage your Chimp and any negative thought patterns you’re stuck in:

    Become Aware of the Irrational Beliefs That Your Chimp Holds.

    By looking over and around your childhood to find the reason why you don’t feel like you’re enough—why you hate public speaking, why you can’t make friends, or why you just don’t feel like you deserve happiness—that’s when you’ll start to see how pointless and irrational it is.

    Going into the subconscious and identifying memories is super helpful to understand where it picked up the belief and change it.

    Begin to Notice Your Thoughts as They Come In.

    Practice getting calm and noticing your thoughts through meditation.

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    Watch what happens when you throw logic at a negative thought, anxious feeling, or panic attack. The minute you question a belief or a thought you take the power out of it and into the knowledge that you don’t have to agree with it.

    You can just decide and say: “You know what, today I actually do want to feel good about socializing, and what I felt like when I was 12 is not relevant to me now. Here’s what’s going to happen…”

    Show it who’s boss.

    Tell It How You Want to Be.

    Put in the good stuff. Show it pictures and use exciting words. It will listen. Repeat it clearly and repeat it often.

    Lastly, Remain Consistent.

    This will take time to make changes but know that a few weeks can bring about real, neurological changes.

    If you feel panic, stress, or anxiety kicking in, trigger the Vagus nerve (it’s like the handbrake for the Chimp’s accelerator) by getting into deep breathing and turning off the limbic “fight or flight” system.

    Cold-water in the face, gargling water, singing and deep breathing are all ways to stop the immediate physiological effects and get into a calmer state where you can rationalize your way out.

    Final Thoughts

    Over time, using all of these techniques will change your brain and neuro-circuitry, and these tools will change your life.

    Give yourself time, develop an understanding of the Chimp, and you’ll realize you don’t actually need to overpower it. You just need re-route the negative thoughts and let them go somewhere else if they don’t serve you.

    More to Inspire Positive Actions

    Featured photo credit: Marcus Bellamy via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Chimp Management: The Chimp Model
    [2] Chimp Management: The Chimp Model

    More by this author

    Daina Worrall

    Lawyer, C. Hypnotherapist and RTT Therapist - Personal Development & Mental Health

    10 Ways to Live an Intentional Life How to Take Personal Responsibility and Stop Blaming Circumstances How to Cure Depression (Professional Advice from a Therapist) How to Turn Negative Thoughts Into Positive Action Now Self Care Tips During Difficult Times (A Therapist’s Advice)

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    Last Updated on August 10, 2020

    What Is Life About? 9 Ways to Find Your Meaning in Life

    What Is Life About? 9 Ways to Find Your Meaning in Life

    What is life about? What is the meaning of life? Why do we exist?

    Everyone, from ancient Greek Stoics all the way to modern lifestyle gurus, have answered these kinds of questions in an endless variety of ways. And yet, we still search for a satisfying answer.

    Neither this article, nor any other one, can deliver a tangible solution to the curious case of life. And that’s okay!

    The truth is, part of what makes the meaning of life so alluring is its engrossing diversity, mystery, and intangibility. However, it’s important to point out that the lack of a solid answer doesn’t mean it’s not worth looking for one. The search for what life is about is a journey that each individual person must embark on for themselves. Each person must look for their own, uniquely fulfilling answer to the question.

    Fortunately, there are many different behaviors, ideals, and actions that humans have found over the centuries that can be excellent methods to draw us towards that final, inner conclusion of why we exist. Here are a handful of ways to kickstart the adventure of finding out just what life is really about.

    1. Love People

    Like life, love is one of the most commonly discussed yet, elusive things that humans encounter. Is it a behavior? A lifestyle? A person or object? A relationship with God? It’s used in all of these ways, depending on the context.

    However, one thing that always remains is that love is a powerful force for good. Many of the most meaningful things in life are borne out of love — whether we’re loving things, others, or even ourselves.

    One of the best ways to find the meaning of life through love is to practice connecting with our families. From parents and siblings to a spouse and children, loving our family is a powerful way to grow in our knowledge and appreciation of what life has to offer.

    A spouse, children, friends, life partners, and strong platonic relationships provide a unique and powerful feeling that is difficult to find anywhere else. This is largely because they’re intimately connected to the eye-opening, natural desire to reproduce and leave our mark on the world through posterity.

    2. Detox from Technology and Gain Perspective

    Next up, we have the extremely important need to detox from time to time. Modern life is fraught with dangerously addicting distractions like social media, that can take up gobs of time without our ever even realizing it. And the effects can go beyond simply frittering away time. In fact, one study suggested that perhaps as much as a staggering 30% of divorces originate with Facebook interactions.[1]

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    Life doesn’t simply happen in a vacuum, though. Once you’ve managed to disconnect from those devices and social profiles, it’s important to take that time and energy and redirect it towards a healthier mindset.

    Spend time meditating, praying, and even simply dwelling on an attitude of gratefulness. Find things that you’re thankful for and make an effort to express appreciation for what you have on a regular basis (you know, rather than envying others as we scroll through our Facebook feeds).

    One of the keystones to life that numerous wise men throughout history always hearken back to is the simple appreciation, gratefulness, and thanks that come with a good perspective.

    3. Look for Meaningful Ways to Give Back

    Donations and charities aren’t lacking these days. In fact, the phenomenon of charitable giving is at an all-time high. Awareness has skyrocketed in the age of information, and Americans gave a record-breaking $410.02 billion to charity in 2017 alone.[2]

    But just because we know how to give doesn’t mean we’re really, truly invested in giving back to others. Real, honest giving doesn’t come out of personal abundance and overflow, nor does it typically take the form of a crisp dollar bill. It comes out of a desire to help others — a desire that can be huge in helping to get a healthy perspective of life.

    If you want to find out more about life, consider genuinely giving back to the world around you. Don’t just scrounge up your extra cash and give it to a cause someone else is passionate about.

    Find out where your own passions are. What needs and hurts in the world get your heart racing and your mind searching for a solution? Find those, then invest yourself. Give until it hurts. The results are exhilarating. This article can help you: How to Find Your Passion and Live a Fulfilling Life

    4. Try a Hobby

    While we’ve already talked about what we can do for others, that doesn’t mean a little self-care isn’t needed once in a while too. We’re not talking about indulging those shallow, fleeting desires like a bowl of ice-cream or a trip to the spa, though.

    Small treats are perfectly fine, but they don’t go very far in helping us truly appreciate life itself. Instead, try looking for a new challenge.

    A challenge can be the perfect formula for helping to open our eyes to the beauty of the world around us. They provide value without the perpetual responsibility and financial concerns that come with our careers and professional lives.

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    Find a hobby that indulges your interests and simultaneously challenges your skills. Dive into a pursuit that has always intrigued or fascinated you, but you’ve never had the time to explore on your own. Practice a new instrument, go fly fishing, try painting, learn a language — the world’s your oyster! This list of 50 low-cost hobbies will inspire you.

    If you’re thoughtful in your selection, you may even be able to pursue an interest that can inadvertently develop your life skills and possibly even add to your resume.[3]

    5. Overcome Insecurities

    Let’s circle back around to the personal, inner thoughts and behaviors. One of the critical elements to a life well lived — and thus better understood — is overcoming insecurities.

    Let’s start by stating the obvious: Everyone has insecurities.

    Sometimes those insecurities are a bit difficult to pin down and see for what they truly are. One of the best ways to rise above the fears and anxieties of life is to work on your insecurities. Try to practice mindfulness, look for thought patterns, analyze your behavior, and identify when you’re being influenced by insecurities.

    The more you become aware of your own insecurities, the more you’ll be able to rise above them, prevent selfish behavior, and enable yourself to do things that would have been impossible before.

    If you’ve been trapped in a job you don’t like, for instance, due to insecurities about financial failure or peer pressure, overcoming those insecurities at their roots will enable you to move on somewhere else, to ask for that promotion you’ve been eyeing, or even simply move horizontally within the company in order to find better work that better satisfies your personality and talents. [4]

    6. Never Stop Learning

    Twelve years of structured school (not to mention a mini-career arc through college after that) can leave many of us feeling like we’re done with academics, school, and learning in general.

    But the truth is, learning should be a lifelong process. Healthy humans are always in a state of learning. They see what’s around them and want to learn more, understand more, and see why everything is the way it is.

    This doesn’t mean you need to manufacture a desire to start reading textbooks on calculus in order to see what life is about. It’s simply an encouragement to start to take an interest in the world around you. Investigate, probe, and learn more about things that catch your interest, and your passion for learning will start to grow on its own before long.

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    For instance, even if you pushed yourself all the way through a masters degree already, don’t close the book on your academic career quite yet. Consider going back to school (no matter your age) in order to get a post-master certificate. [5] This won’t just give you an edge in the professional arena; it will also serve as a way to satisfy that inherent desire to learn.

    While that’s just one example out of many, the point is, it’s important to find ways to continue learning and growing on a regular basis.

    7. Go Minimalist

    It’s easy to hear about concepts like “minimalism” and think about extreme lifestyles, like Buddhist monks living in barren temples up in the mountains. But the truth is, minimalism is an easy lifestyle to adapt even in the cluttered, materialistic West.

    If you take small steps like avoiding purchasing unnecessary new things, storing seasonal items, and generally decluttering, you can ease into a minimalist mindset without much trouble.[6]

    This doesn’t just help with finances and your cleaning schedule, either. A life with less clutter often leads to a clearer, more grateful mindset. And a grateful mindset can be a key part of gaining deeper insight into what this life stuff is really about in the first place.

    8. Travel

    You saw this one coming, right? Those that seriously travel tend to gain a deeper perspective of life as a whole. The trick is, though, you can’t go into your travels as a fanny pack-touting tourist that’s only interested in “seeing the sights” and hitting up the pristine beaches.

    Here’s a good litmus test for you: if you expect everyone to talk to you in your native language as you travel, you’re not in the right headspace.

    If you take the time to travel, make sure to do so with the specific purpose of seeing the world outside of your own comfort zone. How are other cultures different from your own? How do other geographic areas affect how people live? What does a developing or war-torn country truly look like?

    If you set out with this perspective, you’re much more likely to have your heart and mind opened in ways you never could have expected.

    9. Try to Be More Aware

    Finally, we have one last, gigantic call to action: be more aware.

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    If a person can truly foster the ability to pay attention to everything around them, they develop the ability to break free from the self-centered mindset that all humans naturally slip into when we’re not paying attention.

    Just to clarify, this isn’t a call not to pay attention to your own thoughts and needs. They’re important too. In fact, the Dalai Lama said,

    “One must be compassionate to one’s self before external compassion.”

    Whether it’s ourselves at first or others afterward, truly developing the ability to be aware of and empathize with the life that goes on in and around us is a critical part of understanding just why we’re all alive in the first place.

    So, What Exactly Is Life About?

    Hopefully, by this point, you don’t really expect an absolute answer to that question. On the other hand, you may not feel it’s a hopeless inquiry, either.

    Remember, the reason we don’t have a good answer about what life is about is that it’s too complex to fit into words in the first place!

    The complexities and nuances of a “good life” are so profound that they take an entire lifetime of exploration — both of ourselves and the world around us — to even begin to formulate an answer. And even then, we’ve typically only scratched the surface.

    When you break it down, the meaning of life is so deep and valuable, it’s worth chasing, even if the end goal is only to catch a glimpse of the glory that keeps us all moving forward day after day.

    More About the Meaning of Life

    Featured photo credit: Emma Dau via unsplash.com

    Reference

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