Changing Those Discouraging Thoughts

Last column, I suggested some actions to help move away from “discouraging,” as changing what we do is the most effective route to changing what we feel.

The next most effective way to change a feeling is to change what we are thinking. What thoughts go with “discouraging”? How about: “I can’t…”  “I shouldn’t have…” “I’ll never be able…”? Continuously repeating thoughts of that ilk sets a discouraging tone, doesn’t it?

This article is one in a series  on discouraging
You can find the first article in the series here.

If you recognize that you have discouraging thought behaviours that you’d like to change, then here’s a few suggestions.

1. Recognize: “It only takes one.” One what?  For many of the important areas of our lives, it only takes one change to make a significant difference.

For example, if you are discouraging about a big decision, it only takes one good choice to make a difference. If work is the discouraging factor, it takes only one good job to transform your life. And, if it’s about not having a meaningful relationship, it only takes one partner. (In fact, more than one brings its own “discouragings,” eh?)

When you focus on what you lack, whether it’s a home, a friend, a recognition, discouraging reigns. A deliberate choice of thought, away from “I’ll never…” toward “It only takes one; I’ll focus on getting that one…” may help.

2. Shift your conversations. What do you talk about? Is there a repetitive reinforcement of everything that’s difficult, wrong, and unfair?

If conversations with friends or colleagues often bring you down, ask yourself, “Are these conversations making things better or worse?” I’m not suggesting that you give up your friends; however, try something different. Even if it feels artificial (and it probably will at first) try shifting the conversation toward different, more positive topics. “What are we grateful for? What’s working well?”

3. Choose replacement thoughts. To help prevent discouraging from being your overwhelming perception, make a decision to see and remember positive acts, not just the negative ones.

As an experiment, choose one day to pay attention to any positive behaviours (yours and others). Did someone hold the door open for you? Do you have someone who cares about you? Reinforce those positive perceptions and behaviours by talking about them or writing them down.

Even if you try every suggestion, you might not see a change right away. That can be discouraging! Consider this: You’re at the beach, having a swim. You start to get tired, and realize you can’t touch bottom. What do you do? Start swimming toward shore, of course. You don’t expect you’ll touch bottom immediately, but you know that if you keep swimming in the right direction, you’ll make it to shore.

Changes in behaviour may not bring immediate results. However, continuing those changes can help move you in the direction you choose to go.

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