I just read this mind-opening article by Steve Parton on The Science of Happiness: Why Complaining is Literally Killing You.
I am generally a positive and optimistic person; last winter, however, I succumbed to a surge of overwhelming negative thoughts. At the time, I was so “in it” that I didn’t know how to stop my mind’s thoughts.
I felt trapped by these very thoughts that were now defining my new reality. This reality was contributing to me behaving like a victim; I felt unlikeable and unsuccessful. I was demotivated and lethargic.
I was suffering from insomnia and while lying awake for hours each night, my irrational thoughts were spiralling out of control. As Steve Parton states in his article, “your thoughts reshape your brain, and thus are changing a physical construct of reality”. My default personality was morphing into a negative one – and I didn’t know how to stop or change it.
My life coach/mentor provided the compassion and support I couldn’t provide for myself. She allowed my process to unfold even though it felt unbearable for me at times. My life coach offered me the space to feel what I needed to feel at the time, without any judgement.
To be fair, there were several factors contributing to my state of being last year, and for the sake of transparency, I will share these before I offer you my takeaways:
- My family was going through financial challenges and, at the time, my husband and I decided to sell our home. This contributed to me becoming quite anxious, depressed and feeling powerless.
- I was physically sick for over 6 weeks. My regular routine of daily exercise was eliminated and I was not getting the endorphins that I was accustomed to.
- I had insomnia for weeks.
- Unbeknownst to me, I was simultaneously suffering from hypothyroidism. Little did I know that some of the symptoms I was having were related to my thyroid.
This painful experience has enabled me to have a broader and deeper view of the power of our thoughts and how they can impact our behaviours and personality. If we are genuinely optimistic to begin with, we most likely will continue to draw upon this default personality to help us through the more difficult times.
In some cases however, like mine, the circumstances can be so overwhelming (kind of like a system overload), that our thoughts take over and create a new default personality.
It’s critical to have people you can feel safe and vulnerable with to help support you during this time. Without people in our lives to support us when our negative thoughts are out of control, our brains will reshape and our default personality will change. As Parton states, “the synapses we have most strongly bonded together (by thinking about more frequently) come to represent our default personality.”
It is now a whole year later, I am on a thyroid medication and I feel like I am back to myself. I’m healthy and sleeping 8-9 hours a night. My life coach helped me during this difficult time to be present to what was going on but, at the same time, to challenge the negative and powerless statements that were not a reflection of who I am. I now have a renewed energy for life and wake up every day with the same enthusiasm and optimistic nature that I had before.
Here are the lessons I learned on how to deal with negative thinking:
- Surround yourself with optimistic people and feed off their positive energy.
- Find people that you can trust to be vulnerable with (i.e. life coach, counsellor/therapist, friends and/or relatives who really believe in you).
- Challenge the negative thoughts before they become your new construct of reality.
- Consider what circumstances and/or factors that might have changed
- Practice healthy habits (i.e. nourish your body, mind and soul). Examples include eating healthy, reducing sugar and liquor from your diet, exercise, sufficient hours of sleep)
- Practice mindfulness (i.e. create time for yoga, meditation and/or journaling)
- Be compassionate with yourself
About the author:
Andrea Shalinsky, certified life coach, is known for her compassion and empathy and for embracing life at its fullest – even when things are tough. Before becoming a life coach, Andrea worked with businesses improving performance through customized training. Throughout her career, what Andrea particularly loved was helping people discover their passions.
As a life coach, Andrea works with women who are ready to discover their unique passions and gifts – no matter what it takes. Having undergone many levels of transformation and change in her own life (i.e. overcoming limiting belief systems, body image and weight struggles, learning how to be authentic in relationships, grief and loss, aging parents and illness, overcoming financial hardships) gives Andrea an edge as her breadth and depth of experiences helps her clients feel like she “gets them.” Andrea’s softness combined with her “kick-in-the butt’ coaching style helps her clients feel safe and confident to make sustainable changes for a fulfilled life.
Andrea Shalinsky is a certified life coach who works with women ready to discover their unique gifts – no matter what it takes.