Have you ever noticed that negative thoughts seem to have a mind of their own? And “think positive thoughts” when you’re full of negative ones is like “feel warm” when you’re sitting in a winter snowstorm without a coat.
There’s a reason negative thoughts are so tricky… and there’s a strategy for stopping them. In other words — rather than trying to “feel warm”… there’s a coat!
The Reason Negative Thoughts are So Difficult to Stop
Negative thoughts tend to sneak up on us. They appear out of nowhere. They’re also usually closely followed by negative emotions… which lead to more negative thoughts… which lead to more negative emotions… and so the cycle continues.
The reason negative thoughts are so difficult to stop is because they never travel alone!
Introducing: Gateway Thoughts
The key is to spot what I call “Gateway Thoughts” — and nip those in the bud, before they bring their friends.
If you saw a small cockroach in your home, you wouldn’t say “Ah, it’s just a small one…” and go about your day — because you know that one small cockroach is bound to come with friends and family. So, you would immediately take action.
Negative thoughts are the same.
The longer you wait before taking action, the more difficult it is. Because that cycle of negative-thought-negative-feeling-negative-thought-negative-feeling… grows very quickly.
Think of whatever you want in your life (happiness, health, relationships, success, money, etc.) as a destination you’re aiming for.
Negative thoughts are detours to places along the way. Places you have no desire to visit.
When you see the road-sign: “Welcome to Crap” you know you’ve veered off the road, and are heading in a direction you don’t want to go. In other words, when you notice the negative feelings, you know you’ve allowed one negative thought to lead to others.
Right then — as SOON as you notice you’re off the road, immediately turn that wheel and head back in the direction of the main road to your desired destination.
As SOON as you notice those negative thoughts and feelings, do whatever it takes to get your focus onto something that feels better.
Seemingly harmless single thoughts like: “I don’t know what to do” or “Why haven’t they called?” or “Why do I always ________?” or “Typical!” or “How am I going to pay that bill?”… and so on — are Gateway Thoughts.
It never stops at that one thought. That thought will always lead to more… which will lead to more negative emotions… and more negative thoughts… and before you know it, it’s too late to turn around. You’re marinating in stress chemicals!
Gateway thoughts are the rumble strip on the side of the road. As soon as you hit that rumble strip (as soon as you notice a negative thought — no matter how small or innocent it may seem at first), that’s when you want to turn that wheel (that’s when you want to take action using one of the suggestions, below).
Although it’s ideal to catch that Gateway Thought and turn around immediately, if you didn’t catch it at first, and now you’re way off the road (those negative thoughts and feelings have picked up momentum), it’s still important to turn around, wherever you are. In other words, don’t keep heading off into the wilderness.
My favorite Gateway Thought used to be: “I don’t know what to do.” I would wonder around the house, saying “I don’t know what to do”.
As soon as I started to become aware of this, I would catch myself, and immediately say: “I DO know what to do. I ALWAYS know what to do!” — EVEN THOUGH I really DIDN’T know what to do! I said it anyway.
That’s like noticing you’ve headed off the road, and are lost in the wilderness… and then turning the wheel of your car in the opposite direction — toward where you know the road is, EVEN THOUGH you can’t see the road from there!
At least you’re heading back toward it. It may take a while before you get there, but you’re no longer heading deeper into the negative wilderness.
What to Do When You Recognize a Gateway Thought (or signs you’re already lost in the wilderness)
(If one doesn’t work, do another one — keep going until you’re on a “positive streak”)
1. Change it to the opposite, positive, and empowering — immediately, in that moment (EVEN IF you don’t mean it or feel it!). For example: “Why do I always screw up?” — immediately say to yourself: “Why am I so AWESOME?” (Even though you really don’t feel awesome. Remember — your subconscious doesn’t know the difference between reality and imagination).
2. Imagine yourself as a child in front of you, and imagine hugging that little you and telling him/her that you love them no matter what. And then, for bonus points, reassure him or her with the opposite thought, above.
3. Use your “Touchstone Moment” — a moment in time that represents what you’ll do and say when you have what you want. For example: high-fiving a friend and saying “YES!! I DID it!!” or “Thank-you, Thank-you, Thank-you!!”
4. Look for three or five things to be grateful for. You don’t even need to find them, just looking for them will start to change the chemical state of your brain.
5. Think of a favorite memory, and give yourself the treat of spending a few seconds in it — as if you’re there again.
6. Sing a funny, quirky, or uplifting song in your mind.
7. Think of hugging someone you love.
8. Imagine being hugged by someone who loves you.
9. Do a little silly dance, on the spot, to amuse yourself.
10. Think of something funny you heard or experienced that makes you smile.
Of course, in order to recognize Gateway Thoughts, you need to become aware of what you’re thinking and how you’re feeling in the moment. You need to become more aware of where your focus is.
This, like any habit, just takes practice. It takes conscious choice and practice.
Start by putting notes around your environment, to remind yourself. Little notes that simply say: “Where’s my focus, right now?” — to remind you. Once you’re in the habit, you won’t need those anymore.
Think of your mind as a mansion with many rooms. And yourself as a ball of light floating around it. Each room is a different emotional state. Happy, sad, worried, anxious, loving… ask yourself which room you’re in right now. And if it’s not a happy, positive room, do whatever it takes to float your ball of light presence into a happy room Immediately!
Remember: There’s no such thing as just one small cockroach. There’s no such thing as just one lone negative thought. They WILL bring their friends, unless you take action as soon as you become aware of them!
Got Questions? I love answering questions, so please feel free to post away, in the comments section, below. 😊
For more on this topic, watch this video — where we go into more detail:
For a fun, easy way to train your brain and body to feel good most of the time — which makes it easier to “get back on the road” no matter what’s going on around you, check out the Master Your Emotions Superpower Course: