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Breaking the Spiral of Negative Thinking

3 July 2022
Effective Top Tens - Podcast
Quick, practical tips on a wide range of management and personal development themes.
Let's face it: we all can be very self-critical, and give ourselves a hard time. These 10 tips may help you break that spiral of negative self-talk.

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“enough already”

just say to yourself: “enough already that's enough. Stop it.” It acts as a brake, and if you listen to yourself, it will force you to stop what you are doing or thinking….so then replace with a better thought or a different action.


“think consequences”

for this to work you need to get yourself out of the present, the here and now, and focus on the future – particularly recognising that what you are doing now is no help now or in the future. Think of two types if consequence: what do you want in the future that your present state is damaging? And what might be some unwanted future consequences if you stay like you are?


“stg, ltp”

this stands for short-term gain, long-term pain. Sometimes just wallowing and feeling bad about yourself and thinking you're no good and not being able to cope can actually provide the comfort of avoidance. It’s like diving under the duvet. You can retreat from the world, blame the world, and avoid any responsibility. And that can be comfoting. But it’s not true, won’t last, and definitely won’t offer any long term solution. it's a short term gain, but if you continue to invest in it, it will become a long term pain, as nothing will improve. So stop indulging in your misery, and start to change.


“stop and step”

this means stop now and step back. Stop this instant, whatever you doing. And then step away from it, take stock, reflect, and consider what your options really are. Is this good enough? Is this helpful? Is this doing you any good? In NLP (neuro linguistic programming) terms, theres a useful difference between being associated and being disassociated. Being associated is you're in the moment as if you were an actor in a film. and disassociated is as if you're in the audience, watching yourself acting in the film. So if your is associated, you're very much in the moment. If you're disassociated, you're watching yourself in the moment. By saying, stop and step, you’re moving yourself from being associated, in the moment, to disassociated, which is coming out of the moment, to detatch and to reflect.


“is this an opportunity for change?”

when you catch yourself in that negative mood, ask yourself “is this an opportunity for me to change”. You’ve done the same thing so many times, without benefit – so is THIS the opportunity now to change, to do something different?


“what would X do?”

“X” represents somebody else, someone you rate somebody, somebody who you have a high regard for. So you put their name in where I've just said X. Give yourself the opportunity to look at your circumstance and how you're dealing with it through somebody else's eyes, somebody else who you respect and have time for. Changing your focus from yours to theirs might just give you the kick start you need, and even provide a fresh way of thinking about your situation and how to move forward.


small moment, big picture”

this is about reframing what you're currently down about in terms of its overall impact on the big picture of your life. We sometimes get a wee bit obsessed, a bit over precious, about small things that really don't matter in the big scheme of things. But because we're obsessing with and focusing on them, they seem crucial, huge, and we get them all out of proportion. In fact, what happens is the ‘small moment, big picture’ can get reversed. What actually is small becomes huge, and what is really big picture important doesn’t get a look in. I once saw a mother and father shouting at each other, in a loss of temper, and they never noticed their 8 year old son crying and banging their head on the floor in the next room…


“is it the deckchairs or the Titanic?”

this is really the same idea as for tip 7, but expressed differently, as a metaphor. When the Titanic struck the iceberg, because it was thought to be unsinkable people didn't panic too much. In fact, the stewards went round on the upper deck, resetting all the deck chairs that had been dislodged due to the impact. And so their priority was to make the deckchairs nice and neat, which contributed nothing to saving the Titanic. Their actions would probably have been better spent marshalling the passengers and attending to the lifeboats. And so this phrase requires you to check out whether what you are focusing on is the equivalent of deckchairs or the Titanic…


“forward or back?”

suppose you've given yourself a good talking to about previous occasions when you've been stuck and in a negative spiral, and you've decided that shouldn't be the case next time, and so you've got a game plan for moving forward for doing something better or different. Then the next time you actually get stuck in that same old downward spiral, just say to yourself, “forward of back?” Give yourself that absolute choice. Are you going to move forward and do something different or are you going to go back, and do same old, same old…


“don’t stop – replace”

we sometimes say “just stop the world. I want to get off. But life’s not like that: you might stop – but life, and living life, won’t. If you stop something, something else will take its place. And that’s a choice you can make. To do two things: to stop what you are doing, and to replace it with something you do want to do.

Effective Top Tens - Podcast
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