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How to tame your inner pessimist: Part 1

Do you ever think of the worst thing that can happen and then hold onto that, convincing yourself that it WILL actually happen?

Do you tend to replay conversations in your mind and think of every tiny detail until you begin to get a headache?

Do you ever worry so much your mind goes around and around in circles?

Do you have a positive belief about worrying? You believe that if you worry enough it can help the situation. Well, it doesn’t!

Our negative thoughts influence our emotions, which in turn drive our behaviours and resulting thoughts. A cycle is formed.

Do you want to get back in control of your thoughts and emotions? Do you want to learn how to reframe your negative thinking styles?

You’ve come to the right place.

Here are a number of negative thinking style with strategies on how to reframe them to be positive.

1. Using a mental filter to focus on one detail which is negative

Imagine if as a teacher I had a great lesson with high levels of engagement from students, but one student got under my skin by being disrespectful and talking back to me. I may walk out of that lesson and ‘filter out’ all the positive aspects and focus on that one part of the situation, the misbehaving student. I will probably then classify the lesson as a ‘disaster’.

This way of thinking is similar to ‘tunnel vision’ whereby we focus on a small negative detail and ignore the rest of the positive information.

How to reframe this:

  • Identify all the positives in the situation. You can even make a list of all the positives and negatives and note which side outweighs the other.

  • Try to look at the bigger picture.

2. Black and white thinking

Do you classify situations as right/ wrong or success/ failure? This kind of thinking only looks at extremes and not the grey options in between.

For example, I mucked up as a parent, so I am a terrible parent. Or, I mucked up at work, so I am a failure. I may even wonder, "If I am not good at something, why should I bother?"

How to reframe this:

  • Rate your performance on a scale from 1 to 10.

  • Consider what you did right and what needs improvement? Remember you have strengths and weaknesses, no one is perfect in every situation.

3. Catastrophising

I love this word. It sounds as big as it is!

This is when we take a situation and blow it up in our minds way bigger than it actually is. We think of the worst case scenarios and believe these may or will actually happen.

Words such as ‘terrible, disaster and horrible’ then come to mind.

How to reframe this:

  • Consider the whole picture with all aspects. Considering this, ask yourself ‘is it logically likely to happen?’

  • Rate the likelihood of each event occurring from 1 to 10.

  • If the worst happened, what could you do to cope?

This next one is my favourite and is highly effective in nipping things in the bud.

  • Ask yourself, will this issue matter in the next 5 years? Will it matter in the next year/ month/ week?

4. Comparing yourself to others and feeling inferior

When we compare ourselves to the next person, we make judgments of them (which are not based on a full picture) and compare these judgements to how we think we should be living our lives. We often find we don’t measure up and then feel bad about ourselves.

How often do I look at someone who seemingly looks ‘sorted’ in an area in which I may be struggling and think “he or she is so successful, I will never be able to do that.” Whether it may be someone who is more successful in their job, a good parent, completed a degree, bought a house… you name it. There’s always someone that has done something I have not, has seemed to made it in an area, where I have not.

How to reframe:

  • Remember, this is not a fair comparison. You do NOT have the full picture. The only person you can compare to is YOURSELF.

  • What have you achieved this year? Have you improved in any areas? What positive changes have you made? Have you done anything new?

Remember, it's all about the way you view a situation. You have the power within yourself to change the way you think, feel and this will ultimately lead to positive behaviours and outcomes. When we feel we are winning this ultimately leads to more positive thoughts- feelings and behaviours.

Stay tuned for Part 2, with more tips and strategies of how to rewire your negative thinking patterns to positively transform your inner pessimist and lead a life of happiness and contentment.

Take control today. Be empowered. You can do it!

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