Do you ever have those days when you’re so busy focusing on everything you aren’t, you completely lose sight of everything you are? Maybe it’s that so-and-so is better at their job than you are, or that there’s a little more of you to love after the holiday season. Perhaps it’s that you never get on top of cleaning the house, or you just feel like you’re not kicking goals at… anything. Don’t despair, positive psychologist Dr Tim Sharp says negative thoughts are normal, it’s how we co-exist with them that counts.
Is what I think… normal?
“No matter who you are or what your circumstances might be, we all have Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs),” explains Dr Sharp. “No one’s thoughts will be positive all the time.” The important thing is to know that “you don’t have to accept them or put up with them,” he says.
Research shows that optimists function better - both physically and mentally - than their pessimist counterparts, and according to Dr Sharp, the good news is that shifting your mindset is well within your control.
“Changing the way we think about things, including ourselves, or changing the focus of our thinking is just like any other skill,” he says. “The more we practice, the better we get.”
So where do I start?
“Firstly, be aware of how you think about yourself and which aspects of yourself you focus on more or less,” explains Dr Sharp.
“Set aside time each and every day to actively focus on what you’re good at, what you do well and where you excel.”
He also recommends thinking of yourself as you would a friend.
“We’re much more critical of ourselves than we’d ever be of others, but if we can be as compassionate, tolerant and understanding of our own shortcomings as we are of others then we benefit immeasurably,” he says.
It’s not me, it’s you
It can be difficult if what’s holding you back stems from an outside source, and according to Dr Sharp, in the same way you can question your own thoughts - you also “don’t have to accept what others say”.
“Just because someone else thinks you’re not good enough doesn’t mean you’re not good enough,” he says. “It’s just their opinion and it need not be yours.”
Dr Sharp says to focus on what you’re good at and excel in, instead of the negative comments.
The bottom line
The most important thing to remember here is that you’re not alone. “Being imperfect is not just okay, it’s normal - we’re all imperfect and this is what connects us as humans,” Dr Sharp says.
Practising positive mindset techniques can help us all become better at blocking out negativity and showing ourselves some love.
“We’ll never be perfect and it can take time, but our long-term goal should simply be to love ourselves a little better, each and every day.”