Our brain has a natural negativity preference which means it constantly looks for, learns from, and holds onto anything it considers a danger with much more enthusiasm than something neutral or pleasant.
It has a good reason for its natural negativity. Our ancestors were more likely to live long enough to pass on their genes by remembering where they were chased by a predator than remembering a good place to sleep.
This tendency to notice and never forget the bad is just your brain doing its job – protecting you and even though you don’t need a brain that’s this sensitive now, this instant reactivity still exists and doesn’t do us any favours today.
Our brain is always on guard and looking for danger, this means we can be more negative, uneasy and anxious. It doesn’t automatically acknowledge the good that’s present in our lives. Being in a permanent ‘fight or flight’ mode can leave us feeling overwhelmed, stressed out and exhausted. So by intentionally looking for, and noticing the good, happiness, and joy in our daily lives and creating good experiences we can make new neural pathways in our brain and change the way we look at things.
Becoming mindful of the present moment, you can find the good that’s already in your life, shift your perspective and refocus your mind.
Practising gratitude and noticing small, good things every day helps to build positive energy in our brain. Happy thoughts causes it to produce feel-good chemicals which results in a happier, calmer you. Thoughts such as:
• You’re alive.
• You ate today.
• The sun is out.
• That trip to the beach last summer was the best.
• You exercised this morning.
• There’s a beautiful flower blooming on the bush in the garden
• You met your goals at work last month.
By using a gratitude journal every day we can train our brains to notice the good things in life not just the bad and this in turn will help us to cope better with the bad situations if and when they arise.
The practice of positive self-talk is something that can be learned and which can be extremely useful in managing the mental and physical symptoms of anxiety.
It is true that what we tell ourselves, we believe and by reframing the negative thoughts we have about ourselves and the world around us we can start to feel better.
Here’s how you can practice positive self-talk.
1- Discover what you are thinking.
Sit down with a blank piece of paper and a pen and write down the thoughts you are having. The process of writing down and recording your thoughts can bring a greater awareness to your thought processes. Using free templates from the internet or investing in a thought diary can help you to make time for this daily practice.
2- Challenge the rationality of your thoughts.
The more anxious you are, the more distorted your thought patterns can be so once you have written them down and stepped back from the anxiety that the thoughts are causing it might be helpful to question them. Was I exaggerating? Could that situation actually happen?
3- Rewrite your negative thoughts and make them positive
By replacing your negative thoughts with positive ones your thinking can become less distorted. Using positive statement and affirmations can help with this and you could carry them around with you on cards or maybe keep a list of them on your phone. Statements such as:
In this present moment I am calm and all is well.
I’ve done this before so I can do it again,
By facing my fears I can overcome them
Anxiety is a part of life; it is not bigger than life.
Want to learn how to do this with support? Come and work with me in my therapy room in Basingstoke. Just a few sessions will give you the confidence and tools you need to live an anxiety free life. www.alisonisaacstherapy.co.uk