Have you ever noticed the destinations of your trains of thought? Are they positive trains that make you feel good about yourself and your life? Or are they negative trains of thought that lead you directly to The Land of I Suck? For example, when you start on the train of thought:
“This chapter isn’t flowing” which leads to the thought…
“This is so hard” which leads to the thought…
“Writing is so difficult” which leads to the thought…
“I don’t know why I’m trying to do this, I suck” which leads to the thought…
“I’ll just go off to Facebook and distract myself from these uncomfortable thoughts” which leads to the thought…
“Oh shit, I’ve been on Facebook for an hour!” which leads to the thought…
And so on. Do you recognise that kind of train of thought? The train of thought that leads to some version of “I suck”?
I see this so often with clients – they get onto really unhelpful trains of thought, each thought leading them further into The Land Where Everything is Shit and I Suck.
Only here’s the thing about trains…you can get off at the next stop and get on a different train of thought…like…
“This chapter isn’t flowing”
“Hmm…that’s not a train of thought I want to go down”
“I’m only on sentence 3 of the chapter, maybe I can reserve judgement about whether it’s flowing or not for another few sentences”
“I love writing”
“I have been really stuck with articles before, and they turned out great”
“In fact, I have some articles I’ve written about that”
“I could go read them, I could meditate for a minute, or I could go dance around my office for 5 minutes to help unblock the creative pipeline”
“Haha – I wrote an article about that too.”
“I’m an extremely prolific writer”
Now isn’t that a better train of thought? It starts in exactly the same place, but ends up at a totally different destination. So if you’re prone to getting on unhelpful trains of thought, derail those trains and get on a different train.
One of my favourite techniques to do this is to find a better feeling thought. Simply look for a thought that feels slightly better than the original one (it might not be ‘positive’). And keep reaching for something that feels better until you’re in the Land of Fun and Positive Thoughts.
For example “I hate my job” -> “My boss is an idiot and makes my life hard” -> “She’s not the worst boss I’ve ever had” -> “It’s not the worst job I’ve ever had” -> “I like some things about it” -> “my colleagues are nice” -> “I’ve never had so much fun with people as we have here (it’s hysteria, mainly, but still)” – > “I’ve made friends for life here”.
Sometimes you’ll get to the “I rock” place, sometimes you just get to “it’s ok” – as long as it feels better, it’s good. And the more you do this, the easier it gets. I had a client do this exercise on a particularly persistent train of thought – every time they noticed the ‘starter thought’ that led to “everything sucks”, they stopped and looked for better feeling thoughts.
It wasn’t long before they’d totally derailed that habitual negative thought train and replaced it with a positive, fun thought train…which started from the same destination, but ended with “it’s all good” or “I need some serious tlc right now” instead of “I suck”. (Abraham Hicks wrote a whole book about this concept, with examples of using the technique in various scenarios – The Astonishing Power of Emotion, which I highly recommend if you need a bit more help with this idea.)
Another way to change trains is to pick a subject you’re feeling a bit meh about and find things you love about it. I often get clients to do this about jobs they hate, and despite telling me there is nothing to love, they’re usually able to find at least 5 things to love. For example “I love that they pay me”, “I love that I met my best mate there”, “I love that it’s round the corner from my house”, “I love the coffee machine”, “I love the cleaning lady – she’s like a hilarious Yoda”. (All real examples)
You can also just pick any subject to have a rampage of love about – your kids, your partner, your pets, the weather. The love train of thought is great fun no matter what you’re thinking about. And if you’re thinking about stuff you love, you’re off that negative thought train.
A similar technique is to have a rampage of gratitude. Again, you can do this about the subject you’re feeling meh about or just about anything at all in your life. For example, if you’re feeling bad about money, do a rampage of gratitude on all the things you have an abundance of (ideas, stationery, books, friends, Netflix shows to watch). The gratitude train of thought is also lots of fun and feels so good.
And most of us have so much to be grateful for…but we forget when we’re habitually taking negative thought trains to the Land of Everything Sucks! If you’re reading this, you most likely have a smart phone, tablet or computer (or all 3); a roof over your head, access to clean and plentiful water, so much stuff that you have a problem with clutter…it’s easy to forget how lucky we are. Gratitude rampages will remind you that even if things aren’t perfect (no one’s life ever is), you still have a lot to appreciate.
Do your best to really feel it – there’s no point just listing things you should feel grateful for if you’re not feeling it. I get clients to add ‘because…’ on the end of the “I am grateful” sentence, this deepens the practice and makes you think harder about why you’re grateful. For example “I am grateful for the roof over my head because it is keeping me dry today”!
All the above practices are great habits to get into – and you create those great habits the same way you did your negative trains of thought…by practicing them over and over and over again.