"How do you have automatic positive thoughts?" , a client of mine, asked.
Well, the answer to that is - you probably don’t - especially if your default is to have more negative-feeling thoughts than good-feeling ones.
It doesn't just depend on the subject, it can also be about your general habitual outlook on life.
So if your habit on a specific subject, or on life in general is more tilted in the negative slant….
It’s going to take some practice.
“Practice?”, you say…. “Why not just do it and skip the practice?”
Well, when you first learned to walk, did it take some practice?
How about when you first learned to brush your teeth, did it take some repetition?
Or what about when you first learned to climb a rock wall, did it take some training?
The word Practice is defined as:
The actual application or use of an idea, belief or method as opposed to the stories about such application or use.
Repeated exercise in, or performance of, an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.
Perform (an activity) or exercise (a skill) repeatedly or regularly in order to improve or maintain one’s proficiency.
Positive thoughts – or good-feeling thoughts – aren't commonly a habit that most people have. We're used to looking for what's wrong, needing to fix what's wrong, and talking about what's wrong by asking people, "what's wrong"?
In fact, often oblivious to how our thoughts feel, we're shocked to recognize that the majority of what we think and feel does not feel good - that our thought-filter is slanted a few or several degrees more on the negative notch. In this case, we're better, or more practiced, at negative thoughts than positive ones.
Recently, another client listened to the recording of our call. She said it was a stark contrast between what she thought she was saying and the side of the conversation she was on, vs. what was coming out of her mouth and how she felt about it.
She couldn't even cover up with words how she really felt.
She thought she was being positive, but hearing herself on the playback pointed out her habit on the subject we were talking about.
Out of 13 minutes, she said 8 positive things, which translated into 35 whopping seconds that she spoke about what she wanted and what felt good on the subject, vs. what she didn’t want and what didn’t feel good about it.
She had all kinds of “yeah buts”, justifications and reasons why it couldn’t be, or wasn’t, the way she wanted it to be – habits of thought that she was so used to practicing, that she didn’t know she was doing it. (And by the way...I got her permission to share this)...
Could you be doing this as well?
When I’m coaching someone into new habits of thought and new ways of approaching different subjects in their life, I tell them it’s all about practice. It's about substituting the old habit with a new one, but you have to practice that as much as you have to repeatedly play the piano to get better.
If you have an "auto-default" way of thinking about things in your life, it's going to be your go-to, so if you want to think differently about it, you have to practice thinking differently about it.
At first, it seems awkward. It feels like you have to pay more attention. But, like anything, the more you practice, the easier it gets. Soon enough, you have a new "auto-default" and along with that, you notice that you feel better. And because you like to feel good, you decide that you're going to keep-at-this-practice of positive thoughts because why...??? Because you like to feel good. It feeds upon itself.
Positive thoughts and related good-feelings translate into positive, good-feeling manifestations.
So how do you practice?”
Well, you start by asking yourself different questions throughout your day.
You ask yourself questions that feel good when you ask them.
You ask questions like, “What’s good about this?”. Or, “What do I like about you?”
You think about the subjects that are easy for you to feel good about.
You pay attention to how you feel in general, and make a decision every-day-all-day that you’re going to put your attention on more that feels good.
You decide that feeling good matters and you do something about feeling good or better if you don’t feel good.
It’s substituting a new habit for an old one.
It’s giving yourself time to acclimate to thinking differently.
It’s being kind to yourself at every opportunity you get, even when/if you feel bad.
It’s being kind to others rather than criticizing.
It’s stopping yourself pre-sentence, mid-sentence, or after you’ve had a long conversation and asking yourself, “Did that feel good?”, being as light about it as you can, and making a decision to pay more attention to how what-you’re-about-to-say, or what-you’re-saying-now, feels. And choosing. Choosing to tell a different story. Choosing to stop yourself from telling that story again. Choosing a different version of the story rather than regurgitating the old one just because it's familiar to you and to everyone who knows you.
You know you're on to something when what you're thinking about or saying, feels better. Even if it's only a slight degree better, you've started a new practice.
Like any new skill you’ve ever learned that you now do automatically, training your thoughts to be more positive and good-feeling takes the same deliberate application. And when you don't do it, let it be clarity that you want to be more conscious of your choice. Let it be clarity that you like to feel good and want to keep practicing the art of feeling good by choosing more good-feeling thoughts. You weren't all that good at eating when you first gave-it-a-go, were you? But now...look at you! You've mastered getting that utensil to your mouth. :)
At first, it'll feel a little more like effort – you'll have to remind yourself often to do it. Then, over the course of time, you'll find yourself just doing it…just climbing that rock wall as if you’ve always done it.
Your thoughts are nothing more than a habit.
Practice anything and it becomes more permanent. Practice it more, and you become proficient.
Practice your way into more automatic positive thoughts and soon it'll be your new way of thinking and being.