The Art of Redirecting Negative Thoughts
Buddha described the human mind as being filled with monkeys, swinging from branch to branch, screeching and chattering nonstop. That’s why the mind is often referred to as your “monkey mind.” With so much going on in your life, it’s understandable how you can get lost in your thoughts. This is especially true when one monkey, fear, is particularly loud with warnings of potential threats, both real and imagined. The more you try to ignore it, the louder it seems to become.
Fear serves a specific purpose—to protect. This is such a primal instinct that it can easily dominate your thoughts and, when left unchecked, leads to negative thought loops that play over and over like an old record player that gets caught on repeat. Some examples of negative thoughts loops are:
- I am not good enough.
- I am afraid to fail.
- I never have enough money.
Without intervention, repeated negative thought loops over time become strengthened and eventually a circuit is created in the brain, forming a habit. This self-defeating cycle can lead to varying degrees of:
In any of these states, it’s hard to imagine the possibility of not feeling that way, or worse, you may assume it’s a normal state of being, which assuredly is not true. The good news is, there is something you can do about it.
The human brain is an amazing creation and knowing what it’s capable of brings hope that change is possible. Research in neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections in response to learning or experiences, shows that this ability extends into late adulthood.
That means it’s time to start training (emphasis on training) that monkey mind of yours to be positive. As new habits are developed, you are essentially re-wiring the brain and creating new circuits. Remember all the time and energy it took for the negative thought loops to form? That same energy and dedication needs to be applied to redirecting negative thoughts patterns toward thoughts that are more life-expanding rather than life-limiting. Today is a good day to get started.
Take Positive Action
Those who garden know that you must keep on top of pulling weeds; otherwise, they proliferate quickly and can crowd out the vegetation you wish to grow. In this case, you want positive thoughts to be like weeds and crowd out the negative thoughts. To get started, ask yourself, “What are some things I personally love doing? Who makes me feel happy when I’m around them?” Then, make it a point to make plans that incorporate that positivity into your life.
Here are some other actions you can take that inspire positive habits: