Why Smart People Practise Positive Thinking -- Malti Bhojwani

Why Smart People Practise Positive Thinking -- Malti Bhojwani

‘What determines how we think are our thinking filters’

You can’t stop thinking a certain way, you just have to start thinking a new way. In order to stop being negative, you need to start thinking positive. 

Thought is a form of electrical energy, and it takes one second to change it. Emotion, which is directly affected by our thoughts, is chemical, and can take 10 to 15 minutes to change. Emotions are brought about by thoughts, and will create physiological changes in our bodies. Worry and fear will cause our heart-rate and breathing to quicken, and we can go into ‘panic’, causing us to feel even worse. It is a vicious cycle. 

Neuro-science research suggests that negative thoughts can over-stimulate the Amygdala (the small, almond-shape set of neurons, located deep in the brain's medial-temporal lobe, which can be responsible for more fear, stress and panic). The double whammy is that this, in turn, also shuts down our physical ability to release serotonin in our brains, which is a contributor to us being able to think positively and creatively. 
 

When we put ourselves in this state, there is no “getting out of the self-dug rut”. It is like digging a hole in the ground, jumping in deep, up to a level that is way over our heads, and being unable to climb out to see the sunlight, because we are crouching, and looking down, the whole time, seeing the dirt on the ground, and the walls around us. In this state, we block positive memories, fantasies and “hope” of a joyful outcome. 

What determines how we think are our thinking filters. A good analogy for these filters are sun-glasses. If you are wearing purple lens glasses, everything you look at will have a purple hue. 

Below are some common disempowering thinking filters, also known as “cognitive distortions”. Read through the list, and be brutally honest with yourself. How often do you catch yourself thinking thoughts through these filters?
 
Thought Filters
 
1. All or nothing thinking (always/never, black/white)
E.g.: This always happens to me. [Is this really true? Always?]

2. Over-generalisation and stereotyping
This is similar to the first one, all or nothing thinking. 
E.g.: All men are... 
All mechanics are... 
This is India...

3. Glossing-over the positive, and magnifying the negative. Disqualifying the positive.
E.g.: “What a pretty dress!” Nah... this is so old and ugly, I got it at the market... This old thing? Nah...

4. Clinging to negative views
E.g.: Why don’t you go to the gym? Yeah... but all the people there are so weird...
Why don’t you get a job? Yeah...but who will want to hire me?

5. Jumping to conclusions.
In NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), we call it “mind reading” or “fortune telling.” 
E.g.: He hasn't called me yet = He does not like me!!! 
She looked at me in a funny way = She thinks I am stupid.

6. Magnification and minimalisation
“Awfulising” the unpleasant information and “down-playing” the positive. 

7. Emotional reasoning
Ignoring facts and considering emotions as evidence, rather than being objective.

8. Should statements 
‘Shoulding’ all over yourself! Self imposed expectations that lead to stress. 
E.g.: I should not... or I should...

9.Labelling and mislabelling
Caging people into roles that don't always apply. Defining people in a one-dimensional view. This is similar to Nos. 1 and 2. 
E.g.: If you don't vote in favour of gay marriage, then you're homophobic.
If you're not going to heaven, then you're going to burn in hell.

10. Personalisation
Always blaming yourself for everything. 
E.g.: I am sorry, but can I have a glass of water. (Ask for a glass of water. Why are you sorry?)

Which 3 most apply to you? Once we become aware of how disempowering some of these ways of thinking can be, we can change them. Negative thoughts pretend and attempt to protect us. They prepare us for bad things, but they actually decrease our ability to be creative and resourceful and, in fact, can reduce the probability of things going your way.

How to start practising positive thinking
 
Don’t beat yourself up for having negative or disempowering thoughts. You are, after all, human and, unfortunately, we have been hard-wired to worry and feel fearful of undesirable outcomes. Become mindful of your thoughts and when you notice your body crouching down, shoulder drooping, a frown on your forehead or your language and your words becoming negative, take a moment and stop. Use the negative thought as an “alarm-bell” to distract yourself with anything. (Flip-switch as the late Lynn Grabhorn* explained in her book “Excuse Me, your Life is Waiting: The Astonishing Power of Feeling”). You can do this by humming a happy tune or noticing your surroundings and appreciating what is there. If you were working with a coach, they would ask you to think about how you would like the situation to pan out, encouraging you to set goals and see a hopeful bright future. 
 
When alone, ‘dis-identify’ yourself from the thought. Imagine that the thought is outside of you, just like a movie running on a screen. Clear the screen and play an empowering thought on purpose. Anything beautiful, positive and happy will do. Even if you feel guilty, bad or silly doing this, even if you feel like you are being frivolous, flippant or irresponsible, or if you are concerned that people will think you are crazy, do it anyway. Which is more important to you? Do you want to appear “normal” to others or be happy and resourceful inside? Visualising a positive outcome is an extremely powerful tool used by peak sportsmen.

The other day, I received news that really upset me when I was just about to leave home to go for my dance class, and a part of me wanted me not to go to class. “How can I go for dance after this news?” But I knew that though I would be distracted during dance, the happy Bollywood music and the exercise would release endorphins and help me feel better. On the way back home, humming the tunes, I was able to think clearly and see the situation as a huge opportunity and the catalyst for me to step up, rather than a problem.

The 10 Cognitive Distortions above are derived from the concept, which is the guiding principle behind cognitive therapy, a type of psycho-therapy developed by psychiatrists Aaron T. Beck & Dr David D. Burns in the 1960s.

*Lynn Grabhorn began her working life in the advertising field, in New York City, founded and ran an audio-visual educational publishing company in Los Angeles, and later owned and ran a mortgage brokerage in Washington State. Her first book was Beyond the Twelve Steps. Along with her sweeping multi-media programme, "Life Course 101," her books too have received high acclaim. She died in 2004, aged 73.
 
 
Malti Bhojwani is a professional life coach, author and facilitator of transformation and self discovery. Having been on her own in the personal development industry for over 15 years, she brings her years of experience to scores of individuals, teams in corporations and entrepreneurs all over the world. She is an affiliate with Aberkyn - a Change Leadership Partner, co-founded by McKinsey & Company who have recently set up their SEA office. You can visit her site at www.maltibhojwani.com  
Views expressed and claims made in the articles on this site are the contributors' own, and nrizone does not necessarily agree with them, or endorse them, in any way.
Contributions are published in good faith, with due diligence, and liabilities for authenticity or copyright lie with the authors.
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