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Down with #NegativeSelfTalk

Making Constant Decisions to Defeat Negative Thoughts

You know the voices in your head are winning when you start feeling like the real you is being choked or muffled. If you have a desire and a plan to do something but that obnoxious roommate in your head, as Arianna Huffington calls it, just won’t let you, then it’s high time you realized that negative talk is not as harmless as it portrays.

At one point in my life, the voices in my head ALMOST won. It was a realization that shook me to the core. However, it’s the realization that saved my sanity and my life; and one that continues to boost my positive living.

What Happened to Me?

I am an ambivert; a person who enjoys and thrives in public but also one who enjoys and treasures her private time. My private time (I must be alone – four walls all to myself) is my time for my system to reboot. I can stay indoors for days on end and I can step out at will without much thought or effort.

And the Obnoxious Voice in My Head?

There was a period in my life when leaving the confines of my wall sent dread down my spine. Not that anything had ever happened to me in public and neither did my brain conceive a logic source of this dread. A few disguised voices in my head were putting me down; constantly convincing me of how much of a failure (or jinxed) human being I was and I was afraid of going out and meeting people who (already making headway with their lives) would question what I was doing with my life (which was nothing). Going out also meant seeing everything that everyone is achieving yet I was not only lagging behind but losing even the few resources I had.

I was working online so nothing (apart from groceries) required me to go outside my house. During that period, I had a few people I had bent backwards for regularly who could not only NOT CARE to check up on me but shut me down with the worst possible words any human can conceive. This reinforced my negative thoughts to feel even less than I did with my slow/ different journey in life. One weekend, I badly needed groceries but could not bring myself to open my door. That was it! I was going to address this! If I could barely get my own groceries (not that I had anyone who could run the errand for me), I could not even attempt to get a job (and trust me I am super qualified in my field).

  • The worst image that my mind drew was that of myself, 70 or 80 years old, alone and weak and I could not process how I had wasted 30-40 years too terrified to move out of my house. The frustration and anger that hit my 80 year old self (in my head) was so real at that point that there and then I decided to make a number of adjustments to counter this impending doom before it became reality.
  • My tips for kicking out that obnoxious roommate living in my head

    1. Bring voice(s) to the fore

    In Evicting the Obnoxious Roommate in your Head, Arianna ‘wishes’ a tape recorder attached to our brain would be invented to capture the kind of self talk that goes on in there. Oh yes, our minds process so much info that, unless we are consciously monitoring, can have much impact on our personas before we can trace the roots. I love her intense piece and it’s eye-opening.

    My take is this: if a negative thought, that voice in my head, is loud enough to distract and derail me, it is important enough for me to take time to conduct a thorough postmortem on it.

    I do not ignore such thoughts since they keep replaying in my head and it is exhausting and worrying. So I call that negative thought to attention, to my consciousness, and I process it to see the many directions it could take. Sometimes, such voices are like bullies who keep poking you but once you face them they retract; their status and your status are established and there is nothing for you to fear anymore. You get your peace of mind.

    Dissecting the Negative Self Talk

    I do what I call “calling myself to a meeting”. I will have serious discussions in my head with the voices. Sometimes I take out my iPad, open a new Notebook, take my pen and start writing – drawing charts, etc. trying to make sense of it-. Sometimes, if it is a hurt my mind is trying to deal with, I (offload) by taking out my laptop, opening, one of my very private emails, typing out (no editing, no structuring, no word/ page count) the surrounding events of that negative thought and its progression as my mind remembers it… at some point, my mind is exhausted and the negative thought has slowly taken its leave – I can relax then.. I do not have enough energy to read the narrative because the thought has been forcefully evicted. In the future, months, years later, when a similar thought creeps in, I do not need a full offload; I open my email and go through it – the new thought is squarely solved -.

    2. Take Small/ Big Action

    Sometimes, negative thoughts can be crippling that fr you to make change, you must start with the smallest steps towards your desired direction. Other times, making drastic changes is the only way of shocking your system into starting to accept change.

    a.) Part 1 of Taking Action: Avoid Triggers

    Stop going back to the same things that do you harm. Take a break if you need to.

    You know that saying about “winners never quit!” Well, it is not my favourite and I QUIT BIG TIME whenever a time warrants it. I have come far enough and I am experienced enough to know which fights to pick and which ones to avoid.

    We (my ‘voices’ and myself) reason together.

    I give some people more chances than deserve. I give my very best to everything I set my mind to. Ultimately, once I have made a decision to stop beating a dead horse, a horse that is spinning the negative thoughts to a point of risking my sanity and progress, that decision stands.

    Any person, situation, etc. that triggers extremely negative thoughts (and voices) which would take me days, months or years to recover, I will avoid with every fiber of my body.

    b.) Part 2 of Taking Action: Take Steps Towards My Desired Ideal

    Arresting the negative voices in your head and dissecting them should bring you to one conclusion: a realization of how inhibiting the voices are to your growth, hence your desired life goals. It is amazing how at the verge of loss, the human brain finally figures out the most important things. I think ‘life flashing before your eyes’ at the perceived moment of death capture this phenomenon.

    Allow your dreams to grown before your eyes (visualize it on a piece of paper if possible), then back track to see the actions you need to start taking now to reach your goals in x amount of time.

    3. Remember Past Triumphs

    It is so easy for the mind to totally forget all the previous triumphs and glory in the face of adversity or one negative thought.

    Lest the obnoxious roommate in my head tries to deceive me into feeling/ thinking that my lif has been gloom from the day I was conceived, I take time off regularly to recap my life’s events.

    4. Work-Out

    h yes. Did you know that physical exercise releases endorphins (feel-happy hormones)? Our bodies have the mechanism they need to ‘reboot’ the physiological, mental, and emotional systems.

    I have a variety of simple and intense workout regimes. I do NOT strain myself ; the goal of my workout is to relax and cheer my body and mind, not add to the stress.

    My simple, indoor (time-saving) physical workout include: jump ropes (I just whip out my jump rope, do as many skips as my body can take), a variety of press-ups, sit-ups, short AIMLESS walks (I insist on aimless because I love the idea of just walking to clear my thoughts. I know we all have so many errands to run and we barely get time to do ‘nothing’, which is why I insist on NOT conditioning my body or mind to dread every time I leave the house.

    Sunny Vitamin D

    When the sun is out, the warm rays of the Sun on my skin makes the walks feel heavenly. When it is cold, I wear warm and still walk or take short bike rides. The body generates heat, in effect lifting the gloom that the cold creates on the body and mind.

    My intense physical workout include long cycling sessions, 1.5+ hours of walking, and swimming (haha, more like playing with water – I am not much of a swimmer -). Water therapy works magic on the body.

    5. Choose To be Thankful for All That is Well

    I consciously choose to be thankful the little or the big milestones in my life at present. You would be surprised by how much better your mind feels if you were stressing over something and then remembered how far you have come and what you have now.

    I have had a long life (my age not withstanding). My outlook on life is filled with reality checks (of what life can dish out or take, with or without anyone’s input) and I know the things I am absolutely gratitude for: life, absolute physical health, sanity, great emotional state (there was over a decade of my life when my sanity and mental health were on the edge constantly), relative financial stability, etc.

    My sorted social life is bliss: hahahaaa, I do not chase after people who could care less about me; I do not cross bridges for arrogant entitled brats who would not walk a minute for me; I am free to love, help, and interact with any and everyone.

    Of course I have additional gratitude in day to day, situation to situation occurrences.

    6. Do Stuff That Cheer the Mind

    I am a creative; mentally and skill-wise. I love DIY projects.

    There is something about seeing something come together that elicits absolute pride and evicts most negative thoughts. On great or bad days, I open my DIY boxes (I wish I could share a photo with you but there is no way I would not be considered a seriously mental case ) and work on something.

    The things I own would shock you (but I love my life, my DIY projects are as wild as my mind can conceive). I knit, design and sew, crotchet, make furniture, make shoes (think every bit of a shoe and shoe-making tool), cook, do hair, decor, etc. I love when I compete a project and rock it (clothes and shoes, I wear), decor for my house, etc.

    OH, something else that kicks that obnoxious voice in my head right out is binging on comedy… FRIENDS,KANSIIME, BECKER, KING OF QUEENS, PROF Hammo, JEFF DUNHAM, beautiful music, etc. I know some of these comedies are decades old but they never cease to intrigue my mind.

    7. Read or Watch Inspirational Material

    The mind does not know the difference between reality and imagination; the reaction is the same.

    When I was learning how to cycle (at 34) I was so terrified of falling off or colliding with anything on my way. My first instincts were to hold the brakes even before I had learnt anything else. My body and mind would always brace for impact. In the dreams that involved cycling, my body and mind would still brace for impact.

    I love silencing the negative thoughts that try to convince me how badly off I am and how impossible achieving a certain state of mind or life. My favourite inspiration I wrote after coming across the stories of the people I consider icons. I wrote the piece for me; to remind myself of the human resilience and capacity: 10 people whose lives started at their worst moment; they wear their scars like crowns. I wear my scars like crowns and on days when negative thoughts seem to drown the joy of life from me, I slowly wear my crowns and dare that obnoxious roommate to contend with me!

    Take Away

    You too can find ways and techniques (however big or small) that work for you. Whatever you do, find ways of kicking out that obnoxious roommate living in your head.

    Do not let anyone convince you that your techniques are silly. If s/he knew how much your peace of mind means to you, and how much that voice is wracking havoc in your life, s/he would support you.

    Originally published at un-tell.com

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