Catastrophic thinking to possibility thinking

As we know, mindset matters – so what are some of the things we can do for ourselves in order to move from catastrophic thinking to possibility thinking? First, what is catastrophic thinking and why do some of us think in this way, as opposed to others who think in a more positive way.

Catastrophic thinking is a form of cognitive distortion which leaves some of us focusing on the negatives in life, rather than perceiving the positive aspects of life. We make mountains out of molehills, we expect the worst and fear is more likely to set in ahead of other positive emotions such as excitement when there are unknowns and uncertainty. Essentially, we overestimate the likelihood of negative events taking place and this prevents us from seeing the positives and the many other possibilities in a situation which can certainly impact on our mental wellbeing.

Some of this may be explained by our genetics and our desire to protect ourselves. It’s a throwback to our primitive human history where our ancestors had to look for danger in their environments to ensure their survival. However, in these modern times we aren’t faced with the possibility of imminent death going about our daily business but yet somehow for some of us our brains continue to recognise our more modern-day stressors with their reptilian brains.

So what can we do to train our brains to move from catastrophic thinking to focusing on the positives that already exist in our lives as well the possibilities available to us? Here are just a few tips:

  1. Acknowledge that life isn’t always rosy:  Life will always have its ups and downs and it’s important to acknowledge this. Accept that you’re going to have good days and bad days and know that its normal to have some days where you are able to reframe, refocus and find positivity in the day and others where you won’t master this, but the point is to go easy on yourself.
  2. Become aware of your thoughts: If you want to redirect your thinking, you first need to become aware of the automatic thoughts that are occurring. Where these are negative, they are called “automatic negative thoughts” and in order to make a change you need to identify the patterns. 
  3. Challenge your thoughts: Where your thoughts are ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) challenge them and ask yourself if this is a thought that is true and whether it’s adding any value to your life.
  4. Replace the ANTs with something that better serves you: Where you identify that your thoughts are irrational or untrue, replace the thought with something more positive. If you identify a repeated thought that isn’t helpful, write yourself a new and positive affirmation to train your brain to replace the irrational thought. You could write this out and put it in a prominent position that you’ll see on a regular basis. 
  5. Gratitude and appreciation: There is science to support the fact that stopping to take time to look for evidence of positive things in your life, changes your brain chemistry and literally rewires your brain. It’s a great idea to keep a gratitude or success diary to highlight all the wonderful things in your life. The act of putting pen to paper and acknowledging the positive aspects in your life will literally make you feel better!
  6. Practice self care: There are so many ways to make yourself feel better and some things may work better on different days. Why not write a list of some of your favourite go to self-care options. These could include, walking on the beach, journaling, meditation, coffee with a friend, playing with your dog, being in nature, dancing, having a hot bath or anything that generally just makes you feel good.  

Setting yourself up for success and developing a tool kit to manage your thoughts and feelings is a great act of self love. With a tool kit at the ready you can feel more in control. Whilst we’re all allowed to have ups, downs, highs and lows it’s a wonderful gift to yourself to look for ways in which you can improve the way your think and perceive the world. Afterall your thoughts and feelings are with 24/7 so it’s going to be a sweeter ride if your head space is a wonderful and supportive place from your mind to reside.

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