Updated: Jan 11
In my experience, negative thinking is one of the greatest plagues of our time.
If you're all too familiar with it, you know that it makes you feel anxious, can keep you stuck in a depressed mood, can be a source of re-traumatizing yourself, and also hold you back from paying attention to the things you want to focus on and do, and generally being happy in your life.
There is a great acronym that helps to dispel negative thoughts and take your personal power back—plus you'll have a lot of fun with it too. The acronym is THINK.
T = Is it true?
H = Is it helpful?
I = Is it inspiring?
N = Is it necessary?
K = Is it Kind?
We have all kinds of thoughts typically in a day and we have all experienced moments where we tell ourselves things like I'm unlovable, I'm worthless, or that things are never going to get better. When these moments hit, it's time to pause, take a deep breath, soften your body and employ the THINK strategy.
Here's how to do it:
1. Is it true?
Ask yourself, is this fact or is it really an opinion or feeling? Often the answer is "well, yes." This is the brain initially reacting—the autopilot you live with and believe is you. This is where you take it a step further and ask yourself if it is absolutely true or 100% accurate? Can you see the thought in a different way? Typically we realize it's not a fact which allows us to open the door a little bit for a shift in perspective.
2. Is it helpful?
This is where we challenge the narrative we are speaking to ourselves and ask if what we're telling ourselves is a helpful thought or is it useful in anyway. By doing this, it creates more of a space between stimulus and response. We may sit more into a space that recognizes that these thoughts aren't really all that useful. They're not helping you be healthier, happier, or more focused on what matters.
3. Is it inspiring?
Inspiring thoughts are information that tends to lift us up, pull us in a direction of the life we want to live, or the way we want to perceive life—the things we want to spend our attention on. Wherever our focus and attention goes, we invite energy to flow, so we want to focus on things that are inspiring to us. So when your negative thoughts kick in, ask yourself if these thoughts strip you of your energy and take it away or do they pull me to the place I want to be?
Now, this isn't always black and white. For example, if there is a thought that says "I'm worthless because I'm not doing anything in my life, sitting around like a vegetable and I'm not exercising or taking care of myself," and it does in fact inspire and motivate you to start moving and taking better care of yourself, then maybe it's ok. However, for most of us, these thoughts aren't typically ones that lift us up, bring us energy and are moving us in the direction of the life we want to live. This is where we start to get clarity and investigate our thoughts with curiosity.
4. Is it necessary?
I think about catastrophizing where we imagine the worst possible outcome such as the world is going to hell in a hand basket (and I know many are feeling this way over the last two years with our pandemic state), I just saw this news about COVID or something else happening in the world, or I'm going to lose my job now, whatever it might be. This is where we have the chance to ask ourselves, is me ruminating on this thought necessary? It might in fact be something you need to spend time thinking about. If it is, take time to journal about that thought. Or you may find it unnecessary to think about this thought any further because it's not inspiring and strips your energy away or takes away your focus from things that really matter, like focusing on your work, the people you love, time with family or reading or listening to more inspiring things. This is the time to reflect on what is necessary for you in order to re-energize and re-focus your thoughts like going for a walk, exercising, moving your body, meditating, or just bring in something that is going to bring a little levity to your life. When we do this, we start to get a clear sense on whether it's true, helpful, useful, inspiring, or necessary.
5. Is it kind?
The last step in this process is to ask if these thoughts are kind. Research shows that the more we bring kindness into our minds and lives, it has a positive neurological impact. It increases vagal tone, which is the 10th cranial nerve that connects the brain to your heart, which activates your parasympathetic nervous system and allows your body to relax faster after stress. When vagal tone is high we tend to feel better and when it's low we tend to feel more anxious and depressed.
Kindness can be tricky however. It doesn't just mean flowers and roses. Sometimes kindness is fierce and is about giving ourselves a kick in the pants to get moving and feeling better when we've been sitting on the couch for days at a time, or drinking or eating too much, and I haven't been taking care of our body. Kindness is also thinking about the people in your life that you care about and love and wishing them well, wishing them to be happy. Sometimes it's about self-compassion.
As negative thoughts kick in, simply ask if they're kind. If they're not, take note of them and look for more positive ways to infuse your mind with more kindness, truth, things that are helpful and useful, inspiring, and necessary. Look for ways to begin creating a garden for your mind and body around this.
We can learn to use this THINK acronym not only to dispel our negative thoughts, but bring ourselves through them by noticing and getting real clarity to strip negative energy away from them. We also open ourselves up to a whole new world of choice and possibility. One where we are able to focus in a way that brings the kind of energy we want in our life that's moving us toward a life that's more inspired, gives us more energy, fills us with hope and love in our life, and focusing on what matters so we can ultimately live like with more joy.
Struggling with negative inner talk? It might be time to rebuild your path to self-love and acceptance. Book a FREE 45-Minute Self-Love Breakthrough Session with me to discover how to get there.