By Michelle Uy
“See the positive side, the potential, and make an effort.” ~Dalai Lama
Even though I’m a yoga teacher, I still find it’s easy to fall prey to negative thinking. Having negative thoughts play out like a movie can only bring you pain, something that I’ve experienced many times throughout my life.
Negative thoughts drain you of energy and keep you from being in the present moment. The more you give in to your negative thoughts, the stronger they become. I like the imagery of a small ball rolling along the ground, and as it rolls, it becomes bigger and faster.
That’s what one small negative thought can turn into: a huge, speeding ball of ugliness. On the contrary, a small positive thought can have the same effect blossoming into a beautiful outcome.
I’d like to share with you an example of how one small thought can turn into a very negative experience.
I have lived on my own for the last ten years. Obviously, during this time I’ve grown accustomed to living in a particular way; I have my routines with cooking, cleaning, and living happily in my place.
My boyfriend of two years, who I have had a long distance relationship with, will soon be moving here and we will be living together. Lately I’ve had negative thoughts of moving in with him knowing that my living routine will have to change and we will have to create a new routine together.
Unfortunately, I’ve already jumped into the future and have had thoughts that we will not be able to come up with a living arrangement that will make us both happy. In my mind I have seen myself already getting angry about our cooking and cleaning situation.
He came for a surprise visit this past weekend, and boy, was it a surprise for him. We had a miserable weekend together.
I did not enjoy his company because I was already angry with him, and he was confused and equally frustrated with me. What could have been a really fabulous weekend ended up being a painful and heavy weekend.
When we start to have negative thoughts, it’s hard to stop them. And it’s much easier said than done to shift your focus to positive thoughts. But it’s the only way, especially if you want to avoid going down a path that is painful and unnecessary.
Here are ten things I did to help overcome my negative thoughts that you can also try:
1. Meditate or do yoga.
One of the first things I did was head to a yoga class. It took my focus away from my thoughts and brought my attention to my breath. Yoga is also very relaxing, which helped ease my mind. Yoga helped me stay present to my experience so instead of jumping to what could happen, it brought me back to the now—the only moment, the most important moment.
I didn’t do much of this during the weekend, so I literally had to bring myself in front of a mirror and force myself to smile. It really does help change your mood and relieve stress. I also felt lighter because it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown.
3. Surround yourself with positive people.
I called a friend who I knew could give me constructive yet loving feedback. When you’re stuck in a negative spiral, talk to people who can put things into perspective and won’t feed your negative thinking.
4. Change the tone of your thoughts from negative to positive.
For example, instead of thinking, “We are going to have a hard time adjusting to our living situation,” think, “We will face some challenges in our living situation, but we will come up with solutions that we will both be happy with.”
5. Don’t play the victim. You create your life—take responsibility.
The way I was thinking and acting, you would think I was stuck. Even if our living situation becomes unbearable, there is always a way out. I will always have the choice to make change happen, if need be.
6. Help someone.
Take the focus away from you and do something nice for another person. I decided to make a tray of food and donate it to the Salvation Army. It took my mind off of things and I felt better for helping someone else.
7. Remember that no one is perfect and let yourself move forward.
It’s easy to dwell on your mistakes. I felt terrible that I acted this way and that I wasted our weekend. The only thing I can do now is learn from my mistakes and move forward. I definitely don’t want to have a weekend like that again.
I don’t remember lyrics very well and it’s probably the reason that I don’t enjoy singing, but every time I do sing I always feel better. When we sing, we show our feelings and this provides an amazing stress relief.
9. List five things that you are grateful for right now.
Being grateful helps appreciate what you already have. Here’s my list: my cats, health, a six-week trip to Asia, a new yoga class that I’ll be teaching, and for my mom’s biopsy coming out clean.
10. Read positive quotes.
I like to place Post-It notes with positive quotes on my computer, fridge door, and mirror as reminders to stay positive. Also, I’d like to share with you a quote by an unknown author that was shared in a meditation class that I attended:
Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.
Happy positive thinking!