Advertising
Advertising

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?

Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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.

    Advertising

    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

    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) Overcome Fear and Anxiety with These 4 Mindset Shifts

    Trending in Mental Strength

    1 10 Ways to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough 2 What Am I Doing with My Life? Find Your Answer Here 3 The 5 Most Important Things in Life You’ll Regret Not Pursuing 4 Why Am I So Sad? 9 Possible Causes You Shouldn’t Ignore 5 3 Steps to Know Your Value and Realize It in Life

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on June 2, 2020

    10 Ways to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough

    10 Ways to Keep Going When the Going Gets Tough

    Whenever you hit a rough patch in life, it can seem like the problems you’re confronting are unique to you and that the whole world is closing in. It might be that you are struggling to find a way out and just can’t see the light of hope anywhere when the going gets tough.

    Thankfully, although you might not see it, there is always hope. Nothing lasts forever—not even bad times—and doing things like remembering why you started in the first place and practicing using your courage muscle are just a couple of things that can shorten the difficult times.

    If you could find a way to not only survive but thrive when the going gets tough, how would your life change for the better?

    Here are ten ways you can do to make that happen today.

    1. Realize How Far You Have Come

    Whenever you get discouraged on the path to wherever you want to go, it is usually because you are only looking forward, not around you or behind you. Your journey through life will last until your final day, so it is no wonder that you still see a long and sometimes daunting path ahead.

    To keep going despite this, it’s important to take a moment or two to look around. Look at where you are standing now compared to when you first started. Look at how far you have come since you first began. Look at how many obstacles and challenges are behind you that you managed to overcome successfully.

    The benefits of reflective practice are also extensive, and it is little wonder why.[1]

    Looking back at how far you have come is usually the fire you need to keep on burning brightly into the future.

    2. Remember Why You Started

    When the going gets tough, you need something to cling to in order to keep your grit and remind yourself why you started doing something in the first place. Without this all-important “why, you will be quick to wander from your path.

    Whenever things are at their worst, your number one reason for doing the thing is going to be what pulls you through.

    As ex-Navy Seal and motivation master David Goggins puts it:

    Advertising

    “‘Why am I here?’ If you know that moment is coming and have your answer ready, you will be equipped to make the split-second decision to ignore your weakened mind and keep moving. Know why you’re in the fight to stay in the fight!”

    Sometimes, life can be a bit of a fight, especially within yourself. So, having your reasons for continuing will always help pull you out when times are tough. Try writing these down and posting them in places you look at every day to help them have even more impact.

    3. Make It a Habit to Move Forward

    Habits are some of the strongest behavioral predictors that we have. Most of our habits happen in our subconscious and are triggered by external or internal cues.

    The great thing about habits is that they can be formed through conscious, repeated behaviors, and when practiced enough, they can eventually take their place in the subconscious and guide your life.

    Of course, you want good habits to be guiding your life in the background, not bad ones. That’s why it’s a good idea to make it a habit to always move forward.

    Contrary to what most people say, moving forward doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to be better every single day for the rest of your life. There are going to be slip-ups, bad days, and circumstances that blow you off course.

    Moving forward is all about getting back on track as fast as possible. If you can make that a habit, you can always get closer to where you want to go.

    4. Use ‘If-Then’ Planning

    When the going gets tough in your life, one of the most effective frameworks that you can put into place is called the ‘if-then’ planning.

    This is the simplified version of something called Implementation Intention, a concept created by psychologist Peter Gollwitzer in the mid-’90s.[2] It helps you to make sense of confusing situations and to be able to take action when you are really struggling.

    The simplified process is as follows:

    “If x happens, I will do y.”

    Advertising

    For example:

    “If I start to have negative thoughts, I will take ten seconds to just breathe.”

    “If I feel extremely stressed for three days in a row, I will take the fourth day off to recover and reset.”

    If-then planning puts a strategy in place for when times are tough. It takes away the element of thinking, planning, and worrying as you already know exactly what you need to do in each situation.

    The beauty of using if-then is that you can change the if and then for different situations based on whatever works best for you at any given moment.

    5. Find Some Mentors

    With the internet becoming more expansive and accessible as it has ever been, there are so many ways to get a peek into the world’s top minds and see what they do in their own lives when the going gets tough.

    Most successful people have had to overcome some serious struggles to get to where they are. Do a simple search online, and you will no doubt find out about all of the challenges that your favorite people have had to overcome.

    Because of this, you should try to take inspiration from these people and find your own mentors. It’s worth recognizing that nobody trying to live their best life can ever get through it without their fair share of challenges to overcome. That’s just part of the hero’s journey.

    6. Get out of Your Head

    Sometimes, all of the reasoning, thinking, planning, and ruminating in the world doesn’t get you anywhere. In fact, for the serial thinkers and problem-solvers out there, it is oftentimes that too much time in your head results in even more struggle rather than a release of it.

    Yes, some things can be solved by thinking. But when the going gets really tough, it is usually just pure heart, emotion, and grit that are going to carry you through. Your mind can become a tyrant, and it is worth being aware of this.

    When you feel your own thoughts weighing you down and can’t stop the incessant thinking and worrying about the past, present, and/or future, it is time to step out of your mind for a little while and get into your body. Lift some weights, go for a run, or take a pleasant walk.

    Advertising

    The mind and body are much more connected than most people think—especially when it comes to emotions and fears and doing something beneficial for the body often benefits the unsettled mind as well.[3]

    7. Ruthlessly Forgive Yourself

    One of the worst things you can do when the going gets tough is to come down hard on yourself. Everyone has these external and internal struggles, and the harder you are on yourself for having them, the more difficult and traumatic the episodes will be when you inevitably slip up.

    A lot of people are far harder on themselves than they are on other people, and to keep going in tough times, you need to be just as empathetic with yourself as you would be with your best friend.

    Made a mistake? Forgive. Are you still giving yourself a hard time? Forgive. Are you still getting angry over small things “even though we talked about this”? Forgive.

    The hard times are much easier to get through when you are at peace with yourself. You will be astonished by how much less pressure you feel when this happens.

    8. Take Smaller Steps

    It is common for people to stumble in life because they are simply taking on too much at once. Whether it be too much ambition, unrealistic expectations of themselves or others, or some extra curveballs, big steps can sometimes be too much to take.

    The truth about big steps is that they are rare, disruptive, and difficult to keep up without crumbling. The big steps—the real life-changing goals and dreams that you have—can often be broken into much smaller steps that are more manageable and that will get you to the same place.

    If the going is getting particularly tough, it might be the case that you are simply trying to do too much at once. Try taking smaller, more manageable steps, and see if obstacles and difficulties become easier to navigate.

    9. Use Twenty Seconds of Insane Courage

    Everyone will agree that the courage we have stored within ourselves is often finite and difficult to sustain for long periods. We tend to think that making a big change in our life and getting out of a rut requires courage for long periods that we simply cannot manage.

    The good news is that this isn’t true. Most of the pivotal moments of change in your life—including pulling yourself out of a hole when the going gets tough—come from small, courageous decisions in short, precise moments.

    Quite often, using twenty seconds of insane courage when it is needed is enough to completely change the trajectory of our lives. Whether it be asking for that promotion, deciding to go to the gym for the first time in months, or having the courage to break through your insecurities and ask someone out, most of these only require a few seconds of insane courage.

    Advertising

    Standing up and walking into your boss’s office, getting the gym kit on, picking up the phone or sending the text—you only have to be courageous in these few moments, and then you can relax and let life unfold.

    Twenty seconds? You can do that, easily.

    10. Accept That Your Motivation Will Wane

    One of the main reasons that people get discouraged and struggle to keep going in hard times is that they never expected their motivation to dip.

    When we start a project or enter a relationship or take something new and exciting on in our lives, our motivation is high, and we are in a mindset of excitement. We start thinking about all of the positives that could come from these things.

    However, as time wears on, motivation levels inevitably drop, and you start to focus on the negatives of what’s happening or the added responsibility that you forgot to consider.

    When this happens, you have two choices:

    1. You can put on your rose-colored glasses of the past and falsely remember how perfect everything was;
    2. Or you can put on your realistic glasses, face the difficulties, and keep moving forward into something better.

    The true test of character comes when you hit a dip, motivation wanes, and you just don’t feel like doing stuff anymore. The secret is to realize that all of this is temporary and that you don’t need motivation to act.

    It’s nice to have motivation, but the true test of character comes when motivation inevitably wanes. In those moments, will you keep going?

    Final Thoughts

    So there you have it. Each of these ten ideas for how to keep going when the going gets tough is versatile enough to be applied to almost any difficult situation that you find yourself in.

    Life is going to present many difficulties. This isn’t something to fear but something to embrace. With these steps, you can navigate these stormy waters a little easier.

    More Inspirations to Help You Stay Strong

    Featured photo credit: Gaelle Marcel via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Psychology Today: What Is Self-Reflection and Why It Matters For Wellness
    [2] American Psychologist: Implementation Intentions: Strong Effects of Simple Plans
    [3] The International Journal of Psychoanalysis: Emotional Processing: The Mind-Body Connection

    Read Next