January 26, 2011

The Power of Negative Thinking

"One fact of nature is that people have a 'negativity bias': we react to the bad more strongly and persistently than to the comparable good ... One consequence of the negativity bias is that when people's minds are unoccupied, they tend to drift to anxious or angry thoughts. And rumination - dwelling on slights, unpleasant encounters, and sad events - leads to bad feelings. In fact, one reason that women are more susceptible to depression than men may be their greater tendency to ruminate; men are more likely to distract themselves with an activity. Studies show that distraction is a powerful mood-altering device, and contrary to what a lot of people believe, persistently focusing on a bad mood aggravates rather than palliates it." ~Rubin, The Happiness Project

I couldn't agree more! As a coach, much of the work I do centers around the thought life of my clients. Through conversation, activities, and homework, we uncover the thoughts that the person is dwelling on or persistently returning to that are causing them to feel angry, anxious, or immobilized. I’ve certainly been in situations where shifting my focus from unpleasantness has proved difficult – sometimes seemingly insurmountable, so the strategies I share with my clients are definitely ones that I use myself!

It really is a shame that we can have a week of good and then the thoughts or feelings prompted by one bad day, moment, or experience sinks their claws in and refuse to let go without some effort on our parts to eradicate them. I haven’t yet discovered any real strategies for skipping this step altogether, but I have found ways to decrease the duration and clear techniques for shifting away from these persistent, tiring, and limiting thoughts.

If you find yourself stuck in rumination, unable to work past the thoughts that keep running through your mind, I encourage you to schedule a free 30 minute discovery session so that you can experience coaching first hand that is geared towards shifting your thought life.

P.S. I'm still running my 4 Free Sessions promotion, so, if you decide you'd like to go further, your first four sessions will be free - no strings attached!

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