Have you ever experienced a sudden wave of negative thoughts entering your mind? Some faded off but some linger on, becoming unpleasant chatters in your mind for hours or days.
Some incidents, news or conversations may have triggered the sudden surge. Or these thoughts are from your subconscious mind. They play in your mind and expanded. At times, very noisy. These noises can be disruptive, when they pull your attention away from things you're working on. Your time is wasted by it.
The noisy chatters may even drain your energy if you give them enough attention. Some thoughts may affect your emotions. Risking to trigger off anger, sadness, anxiety, regret, resentment, hopelessness or frustration. And some emotions may influence the way you interact with others, impacting relationships.
For the lucky ones, mental noises may fade away gradually as time passes. For others, these noises are regular visitors popping in and out as they please. Unfortunately for some, the noises stay on and become chronic. Affecting important aspects of their life especially career, social life or relationships.
Let's zoom in to the worst kind of noises
The worst kind of negative thoughts are the self-bashing ones. Some examples - "i'm stupid, i'll screw things up, i'll make a fool of myself, i'll make a mistake, i'm a bumbling fool, i'm slow, i'm hopeless, i'm an embarrassment, i'm weak, i'm ugly, I'm not good enough, i'll be rejected, i'm a failure".
If self-bashing thoughts go on for years, they will eat away your confidence and self-esteem. You'll remain boxed in that "miserable zone". The noise will bury and hide your unexplored potentials even deeper beneath. You can't move forward. Something must be done or else you'll remain stuck.
Let's explore how to deal with mental noises
Everyday, thousands of thoughts come and go whenever they please. The debate is ongoing among Researchers on where thoughts come from. For now, many agree that thoughts are coming from the mid-brain. We can't control or get rid of the thoughts because they're coming from a built-in natural defense mechanism for humans. There is no on-off switch for thoughts.
Nothing can stop the thoughts from floating in and out. If we try to suppress or ignore the thoughts, they'll come back with a vengeance. When we struggle or debate with our own thoughts, we are giving too much attention to it. One of it will certainly hook us.
So what can we do about the unwanted thoughts that are bothering us?
Cognitive Therapists recommend a 2-Step approach :
- ACCEPTANCE - accept the fact that thoughts will come and go as they please
- DEFUSE - distance the thoughts to tame it and to lower its intensity
With ACCEPTANCE, we admit unwanted thoughts are natural. We can't get rid of them. We can only tame them and let it pass by. The main objective of DEFUSE is to take away our time and energy from entertaining those unwanted thoughts by lowering its intensity.
Here's how to DEFUSE the negative thoughts which just appeared
- Observe and Label - oh here's the "i'm an idiot" thought again. Label it playfully. Not sarcastically.
- Ask ourselves - is this thought helpful for my future? If it is not, then get back to paying attention on what you're doing.
- Get engrossed - stay focus on what you're doing. Let the thoughts be on the background.
- Brain rejuv - After waking up, while sitting down take at least 10 deep breathes. Inhale through the nose and exhale through the mouth. NOTE: Don't think of anything while doing it.
- Positive Affirmation - Say your favorite motivational statement 3 times when you wake up and 3 times before you sleep
- Positive Friends - Hang out among positive friends
- News Diet - reduce your time reading or watching news media
Any time a negative thought appears, ask this question. "I am having the thought of "I'm a failure". Is this thought useful for my future? If not, I have more important things to do.".
In another example. "I am having the thought of "I'm not good enough". Is this thought helpful for my future? If not, I have more important things to do.
Notice the effect of labeling the thought and questioning about its usefulness. We are observing the thought as a visitor. Putting a bit of a distance to it. Taming it.
Remember. The minimum you can do is to ask yourself, " I am having the thought of ...... Is this thought helpful?"
Practice the DEFUSE exercise everyday. Gradually, you'll find negative thoughts will no longer distract you from important work and will not affect your emotions as much as before.