Like A Phonograph Needle Stuck On Vinyl, It Can Be Hard To Get Your Brain Out Of Its Groove.
A few months ago I attended a lunch and learn where the topic was stress management. The psychologist that was giving the presentation told us that we have around 60,000 thoughts a day and 90% of them are repetitive. Wow! Am I really thinking the same thing over and over at that level? What I’ve read since that time supports that statement plus, to make matters worse, the majority of our thoughts are not only repetitive, they are negative.
It’s called a brain loop. The psychologist at the luncheon said that we have the same thoughts over and over and eventually they make a little grove in our brain – just like tire tracks on a gravel road – and it becomes so automatic for us to fall into our routine of thinking these negative thoughts, we don’t even realize we’re doing it.
90% Are Repetitious and Most Of Those Are Negative – Not A Good Place To Be.
Think about your thoughts for a minute, or at least the 90% that are repetitive. What do they sound like? Are they positive? Or do they remind you incessantly that your thighs are too fat, you’re tired, no one appreciates you, you don’t have time to exercise, you need just a little ice cream. Here’s a few more: I’m bored. I’m thirsty. I need a break. Nothing ever goes right. I can’t take it anymore. He makes me sick. I wish I looked like her. It’s not my fault. Everybody blames me. Why does this always happen to me? I’ll never keep the weight off. What else can go wrong?
To get this brain loop stopped you have to take some action. The first step is to think about what you’re saying to yourself and recognize how detrimental it is to your heath and well being. Repetitive negative thoughts can sabotage your attempts at starting or sticking with an exercise or weight loss program, your plans to quit smoking, drink less alcohol or eat more nutritious meals.
How The Power of Positive Affirmations Helped Me
It’s been almost a year since I enrolled in the American College of Sports Medicine Wellcoaches program. At the time, it seemed like something that would be relatively easy for me to complete considering my background and experience. Plus my employer was behind me. They even agreed to pay for the course and the certification even though that wasn’t my intention when I originally signed up for the program.
The Wellcoaches certification is not a cakewalk. It is a lot of work; participating in weekly telephonic classes, reading and studying tons of material (13 chapters plus additional literature), listening to downloads of coaching scenarios, acquiring practice clients that you can document data and progress on, and passing both a written and practical test.
If was all going well for me until it came time to take the tests. I had exactly one year from the day I started the program to complete the course – tests and all – or I would have to pay an additional fee to re-enroll. That didn’t seem like a good option since my company paid my way. Time was running out so I began the process of studying for the tests. That’s when the panic started and my brain began etching a path of destruction that would no doubt ensure the imminent failure I was about to experience.
I tried to study but couldn’t focus. I pictured myself walking into my boss’ office to tell her I failed the tests. At one point I actually thought it would be easier to pay back the money then to have to go through the embarrassment of flunking out.
One afternoon when I was experiencing my usual anxiety while trying to study for the written exam, my phone chimed and one of the positive affirmations from an app that I had downloaded several months ago interrupted me. The affirmation said, “I am doing everything I can do.” That was a light bulb moment for me. I realized that the affirmation was absolutely true. I was doing everything I could possibly do to prepare to pass the exams.
That text message – that I had sent to myself several months ago – calmed me down and from then on whenever I got stressed I would repeat those seven words to myself. Once I got my brain under control I did manage to pass the tests and complete the certification on time.
Since that time I’ve added more affirmations to my phone app and when they arrive I read them and it helps stop whatever brain loop I’m in at the time and I’m reminded that all of that negativity isn’t helpful AT ALL!
There’s Hope For You Too.
You too can get ahead of this loop. In the world of behavioral psychology this technique is called ‘thought stopping’. A common way to remind yourself to exit the train is to put a rubber band around your wrist and snap it when you catch yourself in a loop. I like being interrupted by the vibration of my phone that tells me, “I’m happy and healthy” better. I’m using the Positive Affirmations phone app for Android. There are many other options for smart and iPhones. You put in the affirmations that will help you and schedule them to interrupt your day as needed.
If you’d like to read an excellent article about the impact of your negative thoughts, I found one while googling this afternoon. It’s all about the self-punishment brain game we all play called “Your Negative Thoughts Won’t Motivate You.” It’s worth reading and the link to it is here. Kate Fridkis, the author, writes mostly about body image. The best part is Kate’s blog is called Eat The Damn Cake. I love that! I wonder what the author of Eat The Damn Cake thinks about a blog called Put That Cookie Down Now!? I’ll bet she thinks it’s really lame. Oops. I did it again.
Don’t be afraid to ‘share’ or tweet’ with the buttons below. I’m sure there are plenty of us playing the blame (ourselves) game.