Challenging negative thoughts

Chapter 4 of Owning It by Caroline Foran discusses the Negativity Bias, which Foran defines as “the way in which negative experiences weigh more heavily on the brain than positive ones.”

The exercise provided at the end of the chapter entitled ‘Cognitive Restructuring’, is designed to help you look at your negative thoughts logically and reduce your belief in “unhelpful thoughts”, in other words, to give your thoughts a fair trial. It consists of eight steps and as I list them out below, I’m going include my own situation that this exercise helped me with immensely just yesterday.

Step 1: Identify the situation

I’m going to a show in the city centre by myself. I feel sad (pathetic) going by myself. I’d rather go home and be in my comfort zone. I’m going to have to rush from work, plus I have no idea where or if I can get food beforehand. I probably won’t enjoy it.

Step 2: Analyse your mood

  • Dread
  • Sadnessdownload (6)

Step 3: Identify the automatic thoughts

  • I’ll end up with an empty stomach all night
  • It won’t be enjoyable
  • I’ll stand out like a sore thumb
  • It’ll go on too long
  • It’ll be mad late by the time I get home

Step 4: Find objective supportive evidence

  • It used to take me up to an hour to get into the city when I went to college in the evenings from work
  • I don’t know where I can eat – there are no food places around the venue

Step 5: Find objective contradictory evidence

  • There is a restaurant down the road from my office, according to my co-worker, and I can always have snacks if worse comes to worse
  • I’ve seen people attend shows solo plenty of times
  • Shows usually go on no longer than three hours
  • Traffic is clear at night so I’ll be home quickly
  • There will be a break halfway through the show so I can decide if I want to stay or not – I’m not a prisoner!

Step 6: Identify fair and balanced thoughts

  • If it’s not enjoyable, I’m not obliged to stay
  • Ninety minutes is plenty of time to get food and get into the city
  • I’ll more than likely be home at my usual time when I’m out with friends
  • Who cares if I’m alone?

Step 7: Monitor your present mood

  • Calmer
  • Less tense

Step 8: Create positive affirmations

  • I am confident
  • I am a good time-keeper
  • I make good choices

It turned out that the show actually started later than I had originally thought so I had plenty of time to get food in a traditional fish & chips restaurant nearby and made it in to the city with plenty of time to spare, so much so that I had to pass time. This exercise really helped me, though I was afraid to admit it at the time. I didn’t feel dread anymore, instead my anxiety settled as I looked at the situation from every angle and it no longer seemed scary.

And yes, I had a great time!

I can’t help it, it’s the shoes!

When I first started getting into running, the first thing I knew I needed was a pair of decent running shoes. I swear by Skechers so I invested in a pair from their GoRun range. When I eventually gave up running I always looked at these shoes each morning with a sense of failure as they gathered dust. I figured they would motivate me to keep going.

I started running again recently and they’ve been getting a good work out (pun intended!), but now…

Thanks to reading Owning It by Caroline Foran I’ve finally realised that running just isn’t for me. I should be doing an exercise that makes me feel good, whereas running is hit and miss with me; when I do good I feel good, but when I do bad (which is a lot) I really beat myself up.

And then there’s Aqua Fit…

I don’t think I’m bad at water aerobics but it’s not something I look forward to or even feel a sense of achievement afterwards. Perhaps I need to do it more than once a week instead of combining it with jogging and cycling, but €8 per class is a bit much for my budget.

Now I’m trading my exercises. Firstly, I’m walking [briskly] instead of jogging. And the great thing about this is that I can still wear my GoRun shoes, I’m sure they won’t mind the slower pace!

Secondly, I’m trading Aqua Fit for yoga. I did yoga a few years back and loved it so this is the perfect opportunity for me to get back into it. I’m going to attend 8-10 classes initially and then switch to doing it at home because – again – budget!

But what about my swim shoes?

Yes, I bought swim shoes! They kept me from slipping during the various jumping exercises in the pool. Will they now stare at me miserably each morning as they sit underused? My fiancé and I have unofficially committed to going for a swim once a month so maybe they won’t go entirely to waste.

But just incase, I won’t be buying shoes for walking or yoga (there are actually yoga shoes!).

#365_Today #142_Orange

The difference between positivity and denial

Positive thinking is one of my goals, but how do I know when I’m truly being positive, instead of simply kidding myself? I was placed in a situation on Thursday evening where I was essentially told the opposite of what I wanted to hear. I vowed to not feel down about it, but instead to find the upsides and set myself new goals. And it worked…for about two hours.

Then I crashed.

Suddenly I felt hopeless and accepted that all of my positive sentiments were merely a form of denial that the situation I had found myself in was never going to work out, no matter what way I looked at it. Was it really denial? I feel better about the situation now and yes, I have found some positives about it, but are they positives or delusions? Apparently denial doesn’t feel good. You’re essentially trying to convince yourself of something that really isn’t there, such as your mounting debt or crappy job. You may convince yourself that you love your job but deep down you know it isn’t true.

Now, going back to my Thursday incident, do I feel bad now that I’ve found positives in the face of rejection? I can’t say I do. The positives give me hope and I find myself able to focus on other stuff, even though now and then my mind will drift back to thoughts of hopelessness. Mindfulness teaches me to acknowledge these thoughts and to not engage with them. I’m positive that I can learn to do that…someday!

#365_Today #140_PathwayOrWalkway

Old Monza Track