Carla GS, practicing what she preaches. Source: Supplied.
“I really hate her. Why did she go behind my back like that?”
That’s what I was thinking as I scrubbed at a saucepan last night. Every night, as I do the dishes, negative thoughts appear. It sounds like I’d just had an argument, but actually, I was reflecting on a workplace incident that had happened two years ago.
When my mind has a chance to wander, it often goes back to those times when I felt bad about myself – when I felt betrayed, unconfident, sad or angry.
I’ve finally found a way to banish these thoughts, and guess what – it fits into my pocket. My little trick is simple: I listen to podcasts, to occupy my mind and fill it with interesting and new things, rather than the old things that pissed me off. (Post continues after gallery.)
For some of us, the inner workings of our minds can have a big impact on our daily moods and actions. It’s called “self-talk”, and you can have positive and negative self-talk. Reach Out describes self-talk as “basically your inner voice… a subtle running commentary going on in the background of your mind”.
Negative self-talk can make you feel bad about yourself, and have a gloomy effect on your mood. An example of negative self-talk could be as innocuous as, “My hair looks bad,” to something more destructive, like, “No-one likes me because I’m boring”.
Dr Suzy Green, clinical and coaching psychologist, and the founder of The Positivity Institute, calls negative thoughts “ANTs” – that is, Automatic Negative Thoughts. Of these, she says:
“If you find yourself in a pattern of negative thinking for a long period of time, that’s a real worry, because you won’t feel good in yourself.”
Changing the way that we think is a very difficult thing to do. In my experience, this is largely because many of my thoughts are automatic and unchecked. As I wrote in my story about the Happiness Detox, I didn’t notice how many negative thoughts I had until I made an active effort to change them.
There are various techniques for changing your thoughts, such as Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. This is something which requires a lot of hard work, over a long period of time, and often the helping hand of a psychologist.
For me, something that’s worked in the short-term is plugging in my earphones, and listening to a podcast. I do this during the long periods of time that my mind is idle, such as when I’m on public transport, walking my daughter in her stroller, or doing the dishes.
For you, it doesn’t have to be a podcast – it can be the radio, music, or even the TV on in the background.
I feel like a super, multi-tasking brain machine when I listen to podcasts. Not only am I stopping the ANTs, I’m also learning about new things. During and after my podcast session, I think about the interesting stories I’ve listened to, and the intriguing people who have spoken.