How to Stop Self Sabotaging Thoughts (7 Tips)
The constant stream of talk: I need to do this, I need to do that, I don’t feel like this, that’s so unfair, why did she say that?, I hate Mondays, and so on and so it on …it never stops!
First of all, it’s normal.
We all have that constant stream of thinking – for a few reasons:
It keeps us alive. As humans, we have the ability to decide in every second whether something is safe or not ..think of our ancestors and the approaching saber-tooth tiger.
It helps us make decisions – “Should I eat this or that? Go here or there?”
It is what makes us unique – each persons running commentary is different from the next person.
But what happens when these thoughts are primarily self-sabotaging, negative, and hurtful for us?
In fact, research shows that we think up to 60 000 thoughts a day with some 98% of them being repetitive and 80% negative.
What causes Negative Thinking Habits?
The humans’ negativity bias seems to be evolutionary however one of the biggest predictors of how you think is your early childhood programming.
Our early childhood experiences (before the age of 7) would be the greatest factor in explaining what our thinking habits are. You are slowly programmed with a set of beliefs (paradigms) that you are not conscious of.
If you were surrounded by pessimistic, sad, and depressed parents and role models in your early formative years it has no doubt shaped your current thinking patterns and vice versa.
Also, most negative thinking habits are almost always linked to:
Fear of the future – this is irrational as no one knows what the future holds.
Shame or Guilt about the past– Everyone has some of these feelings linked to the past however it is unhealthy if you are able to make peace with your human imperfection and move on from these negative thoughts.
Anxiety in the present – this can be grouped with fear of the future. If you are feeling anxiety or negativity in the present moment you are not focusing on the here and now. Your thoughts will be projecting “maybes”, “What ifs” and judgments of the present moment instead.
Examples of Negative and Self Sabotaging Thought Patterns
I can’t – When you constantly find yourself saying I can’t in any situation, task, or challenge before even considering it or weighing up your options.
Black and White thinking – Seeing this from this viewpoint leaves no room for growth, mistakes, or improvements. Examples are I can or I can’t; It’s either possible or not possible at all or I’m right and they are wrong.
Personalizing – Taking everything personal – assuming everything is about you. An example is perhaps if a friend is in a hurry and distracted and doesn’t greet, you assume you did something wrong and they are angry with you.
Emotional thinking – You assume your emotions are facts. Because you feel a certain way it must be true. As an example, you “feel” inadequate despite the fact that you have achieved a lot in life already (learning to walk, talk, going to school, learning to drive, etc)
Catastrophizing – Always expecting a bad or the worst possible outcome in any situation. As an example, your boss wants to see you and you immediately think you are in trouble.
Can You Change Your Negative Thinking Habits?
The answer is YES. A definite yes.
For or the best part of my life, I didn’t realize that these thought habits were actually separate from who I was.
It was as if my thinking mind and body were the same things – somehow I thought I was born that way and had no control over my mind or my happiness.
Only after I got to the point where I was sick of being depressed and self-abusive did I decide to change. That involved some spiritual seeking and quite a bit of cognitive therapy however the result showed me – I WAS NOT MY THINKING and I WAS NOT MY EMOTIONS. These are just the stories we tell ourselves.
But with a willingness to address these self-sabotaging thinking habits by using techniques discussed below it is very possible to change.
How to Stop Self Sabotaging Thoughts (7 Tips)
Distinguish between negative thoughts and critical thinking
We need to have a certain amount of self-critique otherwise we will never believe that we are doing something wrong. However, you need to recognize when that critiquing becomes negative self-talk that does not serve you and is harmful and destructive. When you can distinguish between these, it will lead to a better situation.
If you like to beat yourself up whenever you fail, you are in for a steep road ahead. You will fail, and you will do it many times in your life. Embrace this as a gift rather than a burden. Try to view failure as more of a lesson learned. Don’t tell yourself you are a failure, tell yourself that you just learned what doesn’t work. Every day is a new day to try again.
Repeat daily affirmations
You should look for affirmations that fit your current life situation. Use these as often as you can. Try repeating these affirmations every day. You should even write them out on a piece of paper and keep them close. The idea here is to program your mind for positive thinking. The more you keep at it, the more natural it will become. Ideally, those negative thinking patterns will eventually be taken over by happier and more positive thoughts.
Limit your exposure to people who are negative
These people thrive on negativity and enjoy dragging others down with them. If you cannot avoid them altogether, spend as little time with them as possible. You already struggle with negative thoughts, so you don’t need them to add more negativity. If you spend more time with positive people that build you up, your negative self-talk will naturally reduce.
Let go of judgment
If you are always thinking negatively of others, it makes sense that you will more naturally think negatively about yourself. Being more open-minded towards others will help you be more accepting of your own flaws as well.
Negative thinking is a choice
Even though you have been bombarded with it since you were a child, thinking negatively is something you choose to do. Conversely, once you realize this, positive thinking is just as much a choice as negative thinking. Choose positive thinking. This isn’t an easy quick fix, it takes a lot of work and practice so start now!
Strengthen your self-belief
Negative thinking often occurs due to a lack of belief in yourself. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy, a vicious circle.
Instead, when you strengthen your confidence, it will help you get through those times that bring you down. It also helps to have faith in some form of Higher Power that you can hold onto when the going gets tough.
Resources to Change your Thinking Habits
A)Books to Retrain your Brain
A New Earth – Eckhart Tolle.
Eckhart Tolle has a chapter on what he describes as the “pain-body”. This was the first time I had encountered this theory and to date has been the best explanation for why people return to their negative states despite doing the work to heal, as I had tried so many times. It is without a doubt one of the best gifts I gave myself.
The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success – Deepak Chopra
A short, practical guide to daily living.
Loving what is -Byron Katie
4 Simple questions to ask yourself that will change your life forever.
The Breakthrough Experience – Dr. John Dermartini
Although a bit more scientific at times it is both fascinating and provides a logical method to use his “Quantum Collapse” process to dissolve emotions such as negativity, anger, and jealously that so often occupy so much space in our heads.
B) Programs that teach you how to Change Thinking Habits
One of the best investments you can make in yourself is to hire a coach or join a mentoring program.
Mindset mentoring has been proven to be the most beneficial of all the self-development tools out there.
I highly recommend this program from one of the most highly respected men in the self-improvement industry:
If you have negative feelings about money I highly recommend you check out this Money Mindset program.
4 Action Steps to Reverse Negative Thinking:
Step 1. The first step is to become aware you are the thinker – thinking the thoughts.
You are allowing the thoughts to continuously run in your mind. You are in control here, not the other way around.
Now it’s time to monitor these thoughts. Pay attention to what is popping into your mind.
This is not easy to do as it’s a process that carries on for all your waking hours. (Despite doing this for years I still have to remind myself at times that I am not paying attention and just allowing thoughts to pop in. As discussed most of these stray thoughts are negative).
Step 2. Each month find a new positive and uplifting affirmation that you can repeat to yourself daily.
Consistent use of affirmations will help you switch your focus from negativity to positivity.
Step 3. Set up a negativity journal and write in it whenever you think of a negative thought.
Write down all your feelings and if possible, the reasons why you came to that negative conclusion. Then write down the reasons the negative thought ISN’T true.
Step 4. Write down three aspects of your life you are grateful for. It can be anything you want.
Think about your family and other people in your life. Think about your job or your business. Repeat this as often as possible.
” It is not what happens to us that is important,
but how we respond to it that matters”.
To recap, you can choose what to think. First, learn how to notice your thoughts. Write them down. Use affirmations. Learn how to stop self sabotaging thoughts by changing them to something that is more positive and loving.
Your mind is like a muscle. It needs work. This process is not a one-time effort. This is a constant exercise – if you want to improve your life, that is. But the good news is it gets easier and easier to do with practice.
The thoughts we are thinking are really the way we decide to see the world. It is how we perceive the world. Is your world loving and kind or hostile and hateful?
PS. My life is totally different now as opposed to 10 years ago. In fact, I look back on “that person” with some embarrassment. I was a slave to my faulty thinking and negative emotion. To this day I still have bouts of “sadness and depression” but I am able to see them for what they are, nurture them for a while, and then release them lovingly without self-destructing in the process.
How to Stop Self Sabotaging Thoughts (7 Tips)