Hello and welcome back to The Joy Within podcast. Today I want to talk about a few of the ways in which our negative thoughts are controlling us, often without us ever realizing it.
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This concept is absolutely essential to understand, because I think this happens to all of us, all of the time. And, if you’re not careful, if you don’t take action to guard your mind against these negative influences, they will creep in, and the more you let this negativity in, the stronger it gets, until all of a sudden you get trapped in a downward spiral.
And if you’ve ever been in one of those negative spirals, it is NOT easy to break out of. Trust me, it is much, much easier to stave off negativity early, to stop it before it becomes a big deal, than to try to climb out of a deep, downward spiral, when it can seem like more and more bad thoughts just keep coming at you.
So, today I want to outline what I see as the 5 most important types of negative thoughts to become aware of, and then over the next few episodes we’ll do a deep dive into each. Sound good?
But, first, I want to stress that these 5 types of negative thoughts impact all of us. I honestly believe that every single person on the planet struggles with this in some way, but that the problem – the real problem – is that we often aren’t even aware of it.
These little, subtle negative infleunces are so common that we often don’t even realize we’re thinking negatively. We often think that’s just the way life is, and we don’t take action to change…Even though that positive change doesn’t have to be hard. Often, we just don’t ever realize there’s a better way to live.
I call this problem unconscious unhappiness. It’s what happens ot most people, most of the time. It’s that state where maybe nothing’s “wrong” but deep down you know it’s not great. Maybe you feel liek you’re just kind of getting through each day. Maybe you’re just going through the motions, or maybe you just feel a little stuck, but you can’t quite put your finger on why.
If that sounds familiar, then it’s a sign you’re probably unconsciously unhappy. If you’re not sure, there’s a simple test you can use –> and I talked about this a bit in the last episode too — just ask: Are you outrageously happy, boundlessly joyful, and immeasurably fulfilled, every moment of every day?
If not, then chances are you’re unconsciously unhappy — and that’s ok. It’s actually not that hard to fix, and simply identifying that’s where you are, and identifying these 5 main types of subtle negativity, is the first step out of the trap.
So, as we go through this list, think about which of these areas you struggle with. Be open and honest with yourself. Remember, we’re talking about a level of negativity that isn’t always obvious at first glance. But, as you start to reflect, you might begin to notice it in a new way. Maybe all 5 apply to you, maybe there’s 1 or 2 that really stick out, and that you feel are the main culprits for you.
So, are you ready?
The first is stress, which I like to think of as stress, anxiety, and overwhelm. It’s important to recognize that even though we usually think about stress in a work or financial context, it can actually be present in any area of our lives. It can crop up as little worries you might have, or even in things like your posture.
It’s not uncommon to hold a slight tension in the physical body, which we don’t consciously think about, but can be a sign of stress or worry. So, take time today to ask yourself in what ways you might be stressed or worried, that you hadn’t ever considered before.
The next category related to doubt and disbelief. This could come in the form of self-doubt, those little naggin questions you have about your own ability to be, do, or have whatever it is that you want, or it could be uncertainty about other aspects of your life.
For example, if you have a stretch goal – a really big dream – you might not fully believe that the dream isn’t actually possible, and that might not look like a doubt about yourself, but could come from a lack of belief that the big dream is even possible.
Number 3 is about internal criticism, which often appears as different forms of negative self-talk. It’s the constant, inner stories we tell ourselves about what we can or can’t do, or what we should have said, or the mistakes we’ve made, or might make.
It’s the voice we hear that — if anyone else spoke to us that way, we’d tell them to get lost — but when it comes from within, we just let it happen, we keep beating ourselves up, and it wears us down and saps our energy and our happiness.
The flip side of internal criticism is external criticism. In other words: complaints. External criticism can be complaints we make about others and the world around us. We do this so often that we often don’t even realize we’re complaining.
We think we’re just commenting on what’s going on around us, and we don’t notice just how negative it is because it reflects judgments and beliefs we hold that do not serve us.
Lastly, there’s overactive thoughts. If you struggle with this you might feel scattered, unfocused, or disorganized from time to time. You might feel that you can’t concentrate because the inner stories – the ego’s narrative – has taken over.
The challenge is, most of us don’t realize just how pervasive our thoughts really are. New meditation students often comment that in the first week they feel they have more thoughts than they had before. But they’re not having new thoughts. The thoughts have always been there…always an overactive mind, just below the surface, they just never noticed it before. That’s how tricky these thoughts can be.
Now, I obvsiouly can’t dive into all 5 of these areas in one day, so over the next few episodes we’ll do a deep dive into each. For now, the main point is to start to think about the ways these 5 thoughts are influencing you. There are many, many levels to each of them. They can be intense and obvious, or beind the scenes, just subtle enough for you to be completely unaware of them. But, as you start to reflect, you will become more aware of them. You can begint rying to peel back those different layers of subtlety, and bit by bit, start to take back control of your mind. There are many tools and strategies you can use, so if something I said today struck a nerve – if you are fed up of dealing with these negative thoughts, head over to thejoywithin.org and check out happiness university, and I’ll walk you through a simple system that will help you change them.