Many people who have a mental illness/psychiatric diagnosis talk about struggling to change their negative thought patterns. Negative thought patterns are thoughts that come into one’s head that isn’t wanted or needed. Sometimes it is like one is hearing another person say the words and sometimes it is like one is saying the words about one’s self. The words often say things like
-You are too fat
-I’m so stupid
-I’m an idiot
-You don’t know what you are talking about
-Why did I do that?
-What was I thinking?
-I can’t do this!
-I am so lazy.
-You are worthless.
and the thoughts go on and on and on.
After a while the negative thoughts become a habit (of thinking) and because it’s become a habit, turn into something that happens much too often. It can be hard to change thought patterns. After a while the negative thought pattern becomes sneaks into thoughts more and more and more. Before one realizes it, the negative thoughts have taken over one’s life. Habits are tough to break.
Some people use a rubber band on their wrist. Every time they think a negative thought they snap the rubber band on their wrist. For some people it seems to work well, for others it seems to work not as well. Trying to resist a thought is hard. It may seem as if while one is trying to resist the negative thought the thought pattern gets even stronger because one is concentrating on it so much.
Many people say they have had success with thought replacement. When a negative thought continually appears in their mind, one can turn the thought with a question or another thought. People work at it until the negative thought triggers a less negative thought. For example:
If one is thinking, “I am so fat.” they might try to think right afterwards, “but I am working on being more healthy.” This is a type of thought redirection. You aren’t trying to muscle your thoughts into submission so you can then think more positive thoughts all the time. That can be really hard. Then for the next couple of minutes when you think of what you can and might do to become more healthy; it not only becomes a better place to be, but something that is helpful.
When one is working on this you try to make the thought change automatic. Like they are tied together. When one thought happens you want the second more positive thought to happen as automatically as possible.
Another way to turn things around can be to ask what you want. Say your mind keeps thinking, “I am so lazy.” This is a slightly different kind of thought linking so when you think, “I am so lazy.” You say, but feeling lazy feels yucky, what is it that I want?” Then you think things that you would like to do, “I would like to have enough energy to, clean my house or go to the mall or go for a walk.”
It’s another type of thought redirection. One is trying to think of what they do want, not just thoughts they don’t want or wish they weren’t thinking at all. Practicing this can make it more automatic. That way, there is a positive response for many of the negative thoughts you might have.
Other people use visualizations to help them think in a more positive way. Some people use scenes to try to see things differently. They might use humor or something they really would like to have happen. When the thought that they are lazy comes into their heads, they think about running a marathon, walking around the block or just being more healthy.
Whatever you choose to do, one thing that needs to happen is to make the positive thoughts automatic. This may not happen right away, but the more one work’s at it, the more natural it becomes.
When one thinks, “I can’t do this”, one can automatically ask “what do I want?” I want to get up and move more or I can do this. Or that.
That is the end goal. To automatically redirect. It would be nice to never have another negative thought every happen, but that isn’t realistic. What you want to do is have more control over what you are thinking. One way you can do that is by thought redirection.