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How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions

How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions

People have a distorted view of the world when they are in a negative state of mind. It becomes a cycle where negative thoughts reinforce negative emotions, which in turn produces negative actions.If the cycle is not broken, and left to run uninterrupted, it inevitably has a detrimental physical and mental effect on the person experiencing the spin. In addition, if these cycles spin often enough, they can lead to clinical depression and anxiety.

The key to avoiding this negative distortion and stopping the mental spin is to understand what initiates the cycle. Once mindful of the triggers, people can train themselves to avoid it, or stop it before it does any harm.

Triggers

Thoughts, actions, feelings and sometimes even physical reactions can be triggers. On its own, a single trigger has little impact on your view of the world or emotional state. You can easily dismiss a feeling of frustration after dropping a dish on the floor, because there are no further triggers to escalate a cycle, it is an isolated incident.

However, if someone says, “I cannot believe you broke my dish!” then frustration can turn into anger and the cycle begins.

A Negative Thought as a Flame

Visualize a negative thought as a flame. A flame burning in an empty concrete parking lot cannot do much damage. These fires are left to burn out on its own or easily extinguished.

Put that flame in a closed room filled with combustible material and you have a potential disaster on your hands.

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Unless quickly extinguished, the fire will use every piece of flammable material in that room to burn hotter, longer and faster. Left uninterrupted, that single flame will become an inextinguishable inferno that will burn until it has nothing left to fuel its flames.

People experience a similar situation when they are a host for so much negativity. By the time, it finally runs its course, all the anger, frustration, and blame has destroyed a person from mental, physical and spiritual exhaustion.

Example of a negative emotional cycle

A person is driving towards a business meeting when they take a wrong turn, which causes them to be 20 minutes late for a meeting.

This minor event has happened to everyone. Yet, in this case, the person experiences a wave of nausea and stomach tightening from stress.

The physical reaction triggers a negative thought. “I’m always late; I screw up like this all the time, and I’m going to lose my job.”

Without taking a moment to decide if these thoughts are rational, the cycle gains speed and initiates negative actions. Believing that the people in front of him are stopping him from making up lost time, our person begins a tirade of profanities and rude hand gestures at innocent motorists.

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This entire scenario can be resolved with a simple and rational thought like, “Well I am usually early for these events, and everyone makes mistakes. I’m sure my associates will understand.”

Recognizing the triggers

In order to avoid a negative spin you need to recognize the triggers that set off the cycle and the environments that make you more susceptible to these triggers.

As well, being in a positive state of mind or in a secure and nurturing environment allows for a measure of protection from a negative cycle.

Also, add another layer of defence by being mindful of your work environment, the type of career you choose and the interactions you have with people.

Weakening Triggers

Create an inventory of positive truths about yourself and your life. It takes a little bit of effort to remember the positive aspects of your life, but it is well worth the work.

Disarming triggers requires that you counter any negative thought with a relevant and equally powerful positive truth.

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For example, if you think “Everyone hates me, I’m unlovable”, you can counteract this thought by thinking, “My wife and children love me and they are always happy to see me when I come home.”  Extinguish the negative thought as quickly as it arises.

Be truthful and celebrate the good in your life. Take five minutes every night to write down all your successes, positive qualities and the things that make you happy. This creates a natural defence against negativity.

Disrupting the cycle by disrupting the pattern

There are going to be times when you are unable to recognize a trigger because you are in a weak mental state.

For example, you go to sleep in a positive state of mind and then unexpectedly wake up angry and grumpy. In these scenarios, breaking a negative cycle with positive thoughts is hard if not impossible to do.

In cases like this, starve yourself of any additional negative energy that might strengthen your state of mind. This requires you to break any established patterns.

If the usual routine includes having a coffee and reading a newspaper, then you have to catch your mind off guard and go straight to the shower.

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The bathroom is a place of solitude and allows you to avoid any irritating interactions. Moreover, the shower gives you a moment to pause and reflect on your mood.

Avoid any negative local, world or economic news that might further irritate your mood.

The earlier you get out of the house the better. Allow yourself ample time to treat yourself to a coffee, breakfast and a leisurely drive to work.

Conclusion

A negative state of mind not caused by a single emotion; it is the build-up of triggers that distort reality. Create an honest outlook of your life, by being mindful of your environment, and rejoice in all that is positive in your life.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

The Power of Ritual: Conquer Procrastination, Time Wasters and Laziness

Life is wasted in the in-between times. The time between when your alarm first rings and when you finally decide to get out of bed. The time between when you sit at your desk and when productive work begins. The time between making a decision and doing something about it.

Slowly, your day is whittled away from all the unused in-between moments. Eventually, time wasters, laziness, and procrastination get the better of you.

The solution to reclaim these lost middle moments is by creating rituals. Every culture on earth uses rituals to transfer information and encode behaviors that are deemed important. Personal rituals can help you build a better pattern for handling everything from how you wake up to how you work.

Unfortunately, when most people see rituals, they see pointless superstitions. Indeed, many rituals are based on a primitive understanding of the world. But by building personal rituals, you get to encode the behaviors you feel are important and cut out the wasted middle moments.

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Program Your Own Algorithms

Another way of viewing rituals is by seeing them as computer algorithms. An algorithm is a set of instructions that is repeated to get a result.

Some algorithms are highly efficient, sorting or searching millions of pieces of data in a few seconds. Other algorithms are bulky and awkward, taking hours to do the same task.

By forming rituals, you are building algorithms for your behavior. Take the delayed and painful pattern of waking up, debating whether to sleep in for another two minutes, hitting the snooze button, repeat until almost late for work. This could be reprogrammed to get out of bed immediately, without debating your decision.

How to Form a Ritual

I’ve set up personal rituals for myself for handling e-mail, waking up each morning, writing articles, and reading books. Far from making me inflexible, these rituals give me a useful default pattern that works best 99% of the time. Whenever my current ritual won’t work, I’m always free to stop using it.

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Forming a ritual isn’t too difficult, and the same principles for changing habits apply:

  1. Write out your sequence of behavior. I suggest starting with a simple ritual of only 3-4 steps maximum. Wait until you’ve established a ritual before you try to add new steps.
  2. Commit to following your ritual for thirty days. This step will take the idea and condition it into your nervous system as a habit.
  3. Define a clear trigger. When does your ritual start? A ritual to wake up is easy—the sound of your alarm clock will work. As for what triggers you to go to the gym, read a book or answer e-mail—you’ll have to decide.
  4. Tweak the Pattern. Your algorithm probably won’t be perfectly efficient the first time. Making a few tweaks after the first 30-day trial can make your ritual more useful.

Ways to Use a Ritual

Based on the above ideas, here are some ways you could implement your own rituals:

1. Waking Up

Set up a morning ritual for when you wake up and the next few things you do immediately afterward. To combat the grogginess after immediately waking up, my solution is to do a few pushups right after getting out of bed. After that, I sneak in ninety minutes of reading before getting ready for morning classes.

2. Web Usage

How often do you answer e-mail, look at Google Reader, or check Facebook each day? I found by taking all my daily internet needs and compressing them into one, highly-efficient ritual, I was able to cut off 75% of my web time without losing any communication.

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3. Reading

How much time do you get to read books? If your library isn’t as large as you’d like, you might want to consider the rituals you use for reading. Programming a few steps to trigger yourself to read instead of watching television or during a break in your day can chew through dozens of books each year.

4. Friendliness

Rituals can also help with communication. Set up a ritual of starting a conversation when you have opportunities to meet people.

5. Working

One of the hardest barriers when overcoming procrastination is building up a concentrated flow. Building those steps into a ritual can allow you to quickly start working or continue working after an interruption.

6. Going to the gym

If exercising is a struggle, encoding a ritual can remove a lot of the difficulty. Set up a quick ritual for going to exercise right after work or when you wake up.

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7. Exercise

Even within your workouts, you can have rituals. Spacing the time between runs or reps with a certain number of breaths can remove the guesswork. Forming a ritual of doing certain exercises in a particular order can save time.

8. Sleeping

Form a calming ritual in the last 30-60 minutes of your day before you go to bed. This will help slow yourself down and make falling asleep much easier. Especially if you plan to get up full of energy in the morning, it will help if you remove insomnia.

8. Weekly Reviews

The weekly review is a big part of the GTD system. By making a simple ritual checklist for my weekly review, I can get the most out of this exercise in less time. Originally, I did holistic reviews where I wrote my thoughts on the week and progress as a whole. Now, I narrow my focus toward specific plans, ideas, and measurements.

Final Thoughts

We all want to be productive. But time wasters, procrastination, and laziness sometimes get the better of us. If you’re facing such difficulties, don’t be afraid to make use of these rituals to help you conquer them.

More Tips to Conquer Time Wasters and Procrastination

 

Featured photo credit: RODOLFO BARRETO via unsplash.com

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