“Toxic” thoughts are the negative thoughts tied to our beliefs about ourselves and the world around us. These thoughts can influence our decisions, our emotions, and our behaviors. Examples of negative thinking include all-or-nothing thinking, focusing on negativity, condemning labels, and catastrophizing. Patterns of negative thinking can turn into beliefs about ourselves and others when we seek evidence that validates this absolute way of thinking.
How do you “detox,” or restructure, automatic negative thinking? It is important to note it took many years learn this type of thinking. First, you must be intentional about restructuring your thoughts. It is easy to view the world around us in a positive light when things are going our way – we find all of the ingredients needed to prepare a tasty, nutrient-dense lunch, we fit in a morning walk before the kids are out of bed, etc. Challenges arise when incidents outside of our control disrupt our daily functioning. Our beliefs about these situations (e.g., “I am worthless for sleeping in and not going to the gym.”) that influence our emotional responses (e.g., shame, embarrassment) and behavior (e.g., avoiding the gym for a week).
In order to challenge your thinking, try jotting down some of the negative thoughts you experienced throughout the day. As you reflect on these negative thoughts, reflect on the situation and evidence that supports this way of thinking. Finally, challenge the negative thought, and consider positive alternative facts you may not have considered at the time. Identify at least one of your strengths. Lastly, write down a game plan for when you may encounter more negative thoughts. If you have a difficult time coming up with ideas, consider what you might tell a best friend if they were expressing negative thoughts to you.
Additional Tips for Improving Negative Thinking
– Each night, take time to reflect on your day. Remind yourself of 3 ways you put your health first (e.g., choosing to take the dog for a walk instead of letting her roam around the yard)
– Practice positive self-talk. Write positive self-talk phrases in places and on objects in your environment (e.g., your bathroom mirror, on a banana peel in your fruit bowl).
Your mental thoughts are super powerful. Just as you fuel your body with the right nutrients, super charge your thoughts by practicing some of these techniques.
Dr. Lauren Easton is a Doctor of Philosophy, Health and Psychology of Physical Activity from the University of Kansas. She also holds a Ed.S. in Counseling and a Master’s of Science in Kinesiology- Sport Psychology from Georgia Southern University. Dr. Easton areas of specialty include goal orientations, optimizing experiences with physical activity + nutrition, exercise psychology, goal-setting plans, and strategies for health-related behavior changes. Dr. Easton is a key component to the Simple Weight Loss Program, assisting patients in experiencing growth throughout the weight loss process and maximizing their experience in physical activity, nutrition, and other health-related behaviors. Dr. Easton also leads the Simple Wednesday Walking Group every week starting at 7am in the Simple Wellness parking lot.