Pensive woman with negative thoughts

Are Negative Thoughts Holding You Back?

Negative Automatic Thoughts (NATs) are often more prominent than positive thoughts and can make us feel inferior and hold us back. I sometimes suffer negative thoughts, but I want to share a book and tips that helped me.

In their book The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance – What Women Should Know, the authors Katty Kay and Claire Shipman found that NAT’s are much more common in women than men. Their advice is that we re-frame those thoughts and replace them with an alternative positive thought solution.

An effective exercise

As tedious as it sounds, before we can erase them we must first write them down. They suggest we do this at the end of each day for several days. I tried it and these were just a few of the negative automatic thoughts that were circulating in my mind:

Some of my negative thoughts:

  • My trip to Ontario means I’m going to be way behind in my work and emails when I return.
  • Ugg! The yard is looking pretty shabby. The trees and bushes need to be trimmed and I’m not going to get it done before leaving.
  • My dance class participants are not going to want to return after missing class for a few weeks.
  • I desperately need a colour and cut but I’m not going to have time to book an appointment before I leave.

Re-framing negative thoughts

As they suggested I tried the re-framing exercise to come up with positive thought alternatives. This is what I came up with:

My negative thoughts re-framed:

My Ontario trip means I’m going to get behind…
My family deserves my uninterrupted attention while I’m there and of course I can check emails in the evening. Non urgent stuff can wait until I return. I’ve done this before and managed just fine.

The yard is a mess…
Yard maintenance can continue when I return; it’s not going to hurt the plants one bit. And the fact that it’s going to rain while I’m away means the plants will thrive.

My dance participants are going to miss class…
The participants that have been attending regularly will be excited to start up again.

I desperately need a hair cut…
I can do this in Ontario. In fact my sister and I can go together and we can enjoy some bonding time.

Surprisingly Freeing

Doing this exercise was surprisingly freeing. I felt less stressed and it freed up space in my head so that I could be more in the moment and concentrate of what needed to be done; the rest of it could wait. What are your experiences with negative thoughts, what tips or advice do you have and what have you found that helps.

Posted by Joanne Blake – Executive coach, etiquette expert and positive thinker

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About the author 

Joanne Blake

Canadian speaker, corporate image consultant & business etiquette expert. If you're interested in booking a presentation, keynote or coaching, contact me. Based in Calgary / Edmonton, Alberta in western Canada.

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