Kick the negative thought habit

  • Published
  • By Todd Goldsmith
  • McChord Field Resiliency Coordinator
I believe that negative thinking is a habit. Sometimes, bad stuff happens and sometimes good stuff happens. That's life.

Being Americans and living in the land-o-plenty, my theory is that we begin to think that the good times are "normal" and the bad times are "bad." We rob ourselves of the little victories that happen each day because we expect them to happen.

Example: You usually get a good parking spot at work, but an adjacent parking lot is being resurfaced so your lot is full and now you have to park 100 yards further from your building and it's raining. Your thought may be, "Wow, this is going to be a crappy day."

It's from this frame of reference, I believe, that we fall into the habit of negative thinking. When our inflated expectations aren't met, we start mentally grumbling to ourselves.

I know we all have different levels of chemicals in our brains and some people's synapses fire much more quickly than others, but with rare exceptions, we generally default our thinking to the negative or worst case scenario. Some people will try to explain away their negative thoughts as being a little "pessimistic." They'll say they were just born a "glass half empty" type of person.

My favorite rationalization is when someone says they are being "realistic" when they're really just being negative. Some people seem to love to worry. They seem to feel like they're really accomplishing something when they fret about stuff. I'm not saying they're "wrong" or "bad." We've all been there at some point in our lives; I'm just saying that they're giving in to a bad habit. And I can prove it to you.

Try this little experiment: Commit to yourself that you will quash all negative thoughts, words and deeds for the next 24 hours. Yes, you read that correctly, for the next 24 hours, don't think, say or do anything negative. Commit to it!

You will be absolutely amazed at how many times you'll catch yourself worrying or thinking foreboding thoughts. If you don't think you can make it for 24 hours, start with just one hour and work your way up to more and more time. Then try it for another 24 hours, and then another and so on. After only three or four days, you will break the habit and enjoy a much more optimistic and positive experience of life. And it cost you nothing.

More importantly, you will begin to establish a habit of positive thoughts that will encourage others and increase your satisfaction with life. Good luck!