Today’s question on Q&A Monday: What are the quickest methods to shift your state from a negative one to a positive one?
It’s a great question and we have all been there. And I’m most susceptible to going down a negative spiral on low-energy days. When didn’t have enough sleep or haven’t exercised in a while and then discover many tiny bombs at work.
But, there’s something we can do – especially because the negative state of mind, bad feelings or shitty mood almost always come from our own thoughts and stories.
Here are 3 tips that I use frequently and teach to teenagers, employees and leaders:
1. Get clear on what is real and what’s your story.
Start by writing down what you’re thinking. Of course you can do this in your head, but writing thoughts down frees up mental capacity to then do the next step.
Then ask: Is that true? Can you be 100% sure that is is true? What do you know for sure? What examples are there that show this is not the full reality?
Getting curious like this often shows us that we have been dramatising much of what was causing us pain and gives us a chance to focus on the facts. From that place finding solutions is much more easy.
2. Start thinking about solutions.
Write down the problem/ issue. Now stop focusing on this one thing that isn’t working and start to brainstorm options and solutions – or even just what steps you can take to gain ore clarity.
Our brain is naturally wired to spot negative things. This helped us survive and not be eaten by a tiger. In today’s working world though, there are no tigers and leaving our negativity bias unchecked is not very helpful. So putting in a bit more effort to redirect our attention to what’s possible instead of what’s not working is worthwhile. To make things better and to feel better as well.
3. Strengthen your optimism muscle.
Scientists have found that the difference between optimistic and pessimistic thinking is down to how we explain the world to ourselves. Now this next step is not about being delusional or having rainbows and daisies everywhere. When life is sh*t, it’s ok to feel bad. But again – I think much of what happens at work is not worth the pain, so you can try this:
Let’s say something not-so-cool happened at work. Or maybe you made a mistake. Write down the 3 to 4 things or thoughts or reasons that show how you explain this to yourself. Then switch up the language:
Instead of thinking “this happens all the time”, what happens if you shift the explanation to “today this happened”.
Instead of saying “I’ve ruined this” ask “what else might have contributed to this”.
Instead of transferring this one misstep or failure to your entire life (“I just can’t get anything right”), how do you feel when you say “I’m not good at this – yet”?