This week I want to welcome back Jo from Fallen Angel Fitness! If you missed her Finding Fitness interview from a couple of weeks ago, make sure to check it out! Negative thinking is something I have fought with for a long time, so I’m especially excited for Jo to share her thoughts on it.
The mind is extremely powerful and self-talk can often influence the decisions we make. Ever heard the saying “If you tell yourself something often enough you’ll believe it”? There’s real truth in this.
Let me give an example from my weight training.
Beating the bar
When I was attempting a Personal Record (PR) on my squat some weeks ago, all I could think about was the weight on the bar even though it was just a few lbs heavier than what I’d lifted before.
The more I thought about it the more the doubts started creeping in. I told myself I was probably going to miss the lift and the more I thought this the more anxious I became. The weight ended up becoming the biggest thing in my mind as opposed to what I could do to make sure I made the lift!
To combat my preoccupation with the weight I found a way of distracting my mind. It has taken me some months to recognise that this works!
What I do is run through the mental ‘cues’ for each lift in my head. My mental cues for squat are that my knees need to go out at the bottom and I then explode on the way back up. I repeat these cues (e.g., “Knees out, explode up”) over and over in my head just before I attempt the lift.
This technique means there’s no room for me to worry about the weight or for doubt to set in.
What I’ve learnt through this process is that “It’s not necessarily the weight you’re lifting but the way you’re mentally approaching it that matters”.
Ways to deal with negative self-talk
I’m going to apply my weight lifting ‘mantra’ above to other areas of fitness. In fact, you could apply this to any goal that you’re trying to work on or problem you’re experiencing.
It’s not necessarily about [the goal/problem], but the way you’re approaching [the goal/problem] that matters.
‘The goal’ could be anything, for example, losing/gaining weight, or going to the gym more often. The main point is that negative thinking is one of the surest ways of derailing your goals.
Right at the beginning I mentioned the phrase “If you tell yourself something often enough you’ll believe it”, well use that principle to start telling yourself that you can achieve what you set out to do!
I’m sure we all experience negative self-talk and doubts. That’s okay. The problem isn’t so much that you have the thoughts in the first place, it’s how you deal with them that matters.
Here are some ideas for how to combat negative self-talk. Everyone is different so not all of these methods may work for you, but that’s alright. If you find one that works then stick with it!
- Focus on the solution rather than the problem. So, you might want to lose weight but your thoughts tend to be things like “I’m fat and useless, I’ll always be like this”. Turn this around and start thinking “I know I’m XXlbs overweight, but if I follow my diet and exercise plan then the weight will steadily come off”. This was what I did with my squats. Instead of thinking about the heavy weight, I focused on how I was going to lift it!
- Ask yourself “What would my best friend say?”Us humans have a nasty habit of being way harder on ourselves than we need to be. Imagine having a conversation with your best friend or someone you trust. What would they say in response to your negative self-talk? I bet it’s not nearly as harsh as they way you talk to yourself!
- Accept your flaws. This doesn’t mean you don’t have to do anything about the problem you’re concerned about, but be realistic because and accept that no one is perfect. We’re all a work in progress and whilst you might not reach your goals overnight, you will get there with perseverance and dedication. There are no quick fixes!
- Use your experience.Think about a time in your life that was particularly difficult. How did you deal with what was happening? What was good about how you dealt with it? What could you do differently next time? Every experience is a chance to learn; take your learning and apply this to new problems/situations.
- Distract yourself. Sometimes we just need to distract ourselves to stop the mind from wandering onto negative things. Often when we have time on our hands this is an opportunity to think…a little too much! Distract yourself with doing other activities…perhaps you have some errands to run, chores to do, or go out and see some friends. Do whatever works to help take your mind off the negative self-talk.
Ultimately, you are in control
Remember, you are more than capable of achieving what you want to do. The mind is a powerful thing and can affect how you go about working through problems. It can also influence whether or not you actually tackle your problems in the first place.
But you should also remember that you are in control of your mind; it’s your mind after all, and only you can change the thoughts you’re thinking.
Rather than focusing on the problem, think about the ways in which you can work through it. Set your mind to what needs to be done and plan how you will achieve your goal. If you experience any negative self-talk then try the techniques above and send those thoughts packing!
I hope this post has been useful. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions!
Sara here: Jo, thank you so much for sharing this wonderful post with us! Everyone, I definitely encourage you to go check out Jo’s blog and her social media. She is so inspiring!