👀 Shifting Your Perspective
5 Strategies to Reduce Negative Thinking and Strengthen Self-Acceptance
Where we put our attention matters.
What have you been thinking about today? From what perspectives have you been viewing it? For example, this morning I’ve been thinking that I’ve not accomplished enough today. It’s 11:25 am, and I’m not as on top of things as I’d like to be. The reality is that I’ve already coached with a client, exercised, helped my daughter with a snag in her schedule, and responded to multiple emails. How might I refocus my attention to offer greater myself greater spaciousness, self-acceptance, and wellbeing?
What we focus on amplifies. With greater intentional awareness, we can choose to think about experiences in alternate ways. This is not about fixing, but rather paying attention to where you put your attention (Orenstein, 2021).
When I coach with people, strategizing to reduce negative thinking is a frequent topic. We can learn to interrupt habitual thought patterns. We can notice our thoughts, then intentionally shift toward perspectives that offer greater balance, compassion, and positive emotions.
You might wonder why shifting habitual thoughts and reactions would make a difference. Neuroscience reveals that the neurons (pathways) in our brains take action together repeatedly. When we engage in a familiar habit, thought, or behavior, that well-worn trail creates an automatic pathway that becomes our “go to.” We tend to repeat the same patterns, using these familiar pathways. For example, you feel afraid and you start eating snacks; you get mad and act out by behaving unkindly to loved ones; you make a mistake and label yourself dumb or stupid.
When you take a more mindful perspective, paying quiet attention to your thoughts, you may become aware of your well-worn habits – where they serve you well and where they don’t. Then you can begin to notice and change these habitual patterns, choosing more mindful, self-accepting thoughts and behaviors. Gradually, your new choices can strengthen different pathways in your brain and become new habits to propel you toward greater well-being and flourishing.
Mindful awareness can empower you with greater flexibility in situations you find yourself in. Paying attention differently and choosing a different thought pattern can help you adjust to situations with enhanced meaning and self-acceptance, enabling greater learning from mistakes and better choices (Carson & Langer, 2006).
🧘 5 Practices to Reduce Negative Thinking and Strengthen Self-Acceptance
- Offer yourself opportunities for new beginnings. Do you view yourself as a “finished product” or a “work in progress”? If you believe you have the potential to change, then learning and seeing things from differing perspectives can provoke personal growth. Dr. Ellen Langer’s research at Harvard University indicates that simply shifting from rigid language such as this is or I am toward possibility words such as this may be or I could be, can generate alternative possibilities (Carson & Langer, 2006). This expanded spaciousness creates opportunities for personal change and acceptance of self and others.
- Look for the humor. Inviting yourself to notice what’s humorous about a situation may help you respond more mindfully. A Stanford University study found that humor can facilitate changes in perspective, helping people reevaluate situations and shift to new thoughts and scenarios (McClure, 2011). Of course, seriousness has a place, but sometimes humor is the vehicle to shift attention and perspective.
- Consider other perspectives and possibilities. There are many ways to do this. Try viewing a situation through a more optimistic lens – Is this really the worst thing that ever happened, or is it a difficult, but minor setback you can overcome? Consider other options for problem solving. Talk to someone you trust about other possibilities.
- Notice and appreciate the good. Each day write down five things you feel thankful for – these items can be trivial and simple, or more profound. Research reveals that taking a moment to become aware of gratitude can boost positive emotions and well-being (Emmons & McCullough, 2003) (Shahar, 2012).
- Slow Down, Wake Up, and Breathe. At one or more points during your day, pause to pay attention as you breathe in the gift of gratitude for something or someone in your life and then breathe out the gratitude.
Where you put your attention matters. A mindful perspective can be a powerful strategy to help you reduce negative thinking and strengthen self-acceptance.
* This article is for informational purposes only. No content is a substitute for consulting with a qualified mental health or healthcare professional.
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- Orenstein, D. (2021). Daily sit: Go deeply into yourself and enjoy! New York, NY: Institute for Jewish Spirituality.
- Carson, S.H. & Langer, E.J. (2006). Mindfulness and self-acceptance. Journal of Rational-Emotive & Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy 24, (1), 29-43.
- McClure, M. (2011). Stanford psychologists find that jokes help us cope with horrifying images.
- Emmons, R. A., & McCullough, M. E. (2003). Counting blessings versus burdens: An experimental investigation of gratitude and subjective well-being in daily life. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 84 (2), 377–389.
- Ben-Shahar, T. (2012). Appreciate the good.
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Ilene Berns-Zare, PsyD, PCC, CEC, is an Executive and Personal Coach and Speaker. Ilene helps people live their best personal and professional lives by bringing mind, body, and spirit into flow with strengths, purpose, and potential. She inspires clients to find fresh perspectives and access their full potential as creative, resourceful, whole persons. Find Ilene online, set up a free discovery coaching consultation, and access free resources at https://ibzcoaching.com/.
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