“Every thought we think is creating our future.”― Louise Hay
Our thoughts and emotions shape our experiences. We become what we feed our minds. The decisions and choices we make determine the direction we take in our lives, and we do so by our thoughts. Thoughts if aligned with our goals and with what we want to achieve can take us forward—and, obviously, this is the direction most of us want to take. But many times, we fall into a repetitive pattern of negative thinking that often takes us in the opposite direction. Negative/ toxic thoughts become the driving factor in a negative lifestyle that take us away from our goals and objectives, whereas positive thoughts often lead to motivation and success.
Our thoughts have huge influence on the choices you make.
We are all engaged in a continuous internal dialogue in which the meaning and emotional associations of one thought triggers the next, without us being consciously aware of the process. We launch our desires in the form of a thought and they play an important part of our inner wisdom. A thought held long enough and repeated enough becomes a belief. We shape our lives by the choices made around these beliefs and build our identity around them.
We contribute towards the creation of every condition in our lives with our internal thought process influencing us. But when we get involved in negative emotions and feelings, we begin to compare, criticise, form opinions, and make judgments that can be detrimental to our well-being. Our minds like to throw lots of thoughts at us all the time and many of them are mostly unhelpful. Such unhelpful negative thoughts can create toxicity reflecting unhealthy comparisons between an ideal and reality.
What are toxic thoughts?
In our default mode, our mind hops from one thought to an other creating toxic thought cycles. Toxic thinking is a survival strategy our minds come up with, that constantly activates the body’s survival response. This is a way of dealing with feelings such as not feeling “good enough”, “deserving enough”, or “having enough”. Such feelings are natural way of dealing with issues and other stress situations. It is very easy for us to turn to toxic thoughts because we are hardwired to over think and be extra critical of ourselves.
How toxic thoughts sabotage well-being and productivity
Some of our toxic thought patterns create the conditions for our illnesses. Physiological reactions caused by toxic thoughts affect our well-being . This is because our subconscious mind manages all of the “built-in” processes that help our body function. This happens through neurotransmitters or brain chemicals that help communication between the mind and the body.
Our subconscious brain is hard-wired for survival and can not distinguish between real or perceived threats. Toxic thoughts ignite fear based thinking that signals the brain to release stress hormones and puts your body in high alert to cope with the perceived danger. Thus, when faced with threat, it triggers a psychological stress response and releases stress hormones which our body is only equipped to cope with for short periods of time. Unfortunately in our modern hectic lives, we are faced with stressors every day, be it real or perceived. This constant stress responses floods your body with stress hormones which can be harmful to your immune system.
Our brains constantly tend to flip-flop between the past and the future. Thus, past memories and perceptions can create repetitive patterns of negative thoughts. When we constantly replay in our minds, events and people that harmed us, or incidents that upset us or made us angry, we get locked in a negative loop. These recurring thought patterns are toxic to us both physically and mentally affecting our well-being and productivity.
Also, Self-deprecating thoughts can batter your self-esteem, self-worth and confidence. When you become your highest critic, you stop taking action, start making excuses, stop sharing and you start to live like you’re not enough. More negative thoughts, more are the chances of making bad choices and this can further sabotage your efforts of creating the life you would dream of. It is simple fact that positive thoughts lead to better choices and thus to a positive life. Negativity leads to limited and wrong choices.
How to let go of toxic thoughts
It is essential to notice when your inner dialogue is turning toxic. Adopting strategies to consciously acknowledge, identity, accept, and letting go of your toxic thoughts can be an effective way to detoxify yourself. To truly create long-lasting improvements in your productivity level and well-being, it is essential to let go of your toxic thoughts. Here are some toxic thoughts you can to let go in your future self improvement goals.
Procrastinating thoughts like “ I’ll do this later” or “ I’ll start tomorrow” is often an excuse for not taking responsibility of how to change or improve yourself. Putting off something you need to get done leads to more stress. Being intrinsically driven and adding structure to your routines can be effective in warding off your thoughts of procrastination. Stop giving into short-term gratification and be committed to long-term health and fulfilment.
Thoughts of victim hood like “It’s all their fault… “ or “ I am a genuine victim” Playing the victim card can be a huge obstacle in pursuing your goals and makes you feel that someone else should take care of you, take responsibility for different areas of your life including your health and happiness. Stop blaming other people or circumstances for your problems or difficult situations you are in. If you don’t like where you are now, begin to take personal responsibility to empower yourself to change your circumstances and situations to achieve your desired goals.
Thoughts of constant comparison like “I am inadequate” or “ I should have” or “ if only I was” result in thoughts of insecurity, jealousy, resentment or unworthiness. We compare ourselves to other people and take the differences and create toxic thoughts around them. It is important to understand that everyone has their own struggles and it’s not right to compare our lives to what we think others’ lives are like. This leads to thinking that we are deficient or defective, failing at life or broken. This type of thinking can quickly impair your ability to succeed both personally or professionally. Instead of always trying to keep up with something, work on improving yourself.
Thoughts that focus on the past like “my past equals my future.” or “ I need to stay safe.” Many people operate from this idea that past equals future, i.e., if you had faced rejection in past, therefore they avoid taking risk or to come out of their comfort zone. Similarly. a lot of negativity comes from the past especially when it comes to personal or professional relationships. We all tend to keep a piece of our past with us to protect us from being hurt again. But if you continue to bring past into your present, you will end up self sabotaging your present and create toxic thoughts that constantly resist ‘what is’. Look to the past to prevent yourself from repeating mistakes but do not obsess about the past so much that it impacts your present and future.
Worrying about the future like “ I’ll never get what I want.” Just as dwelling on the past is toxic, over worrying about the future can make your thoughts more toxic. Tying your happiness an achievement in the future is like postponing your happiness to a later moment which is not in your control. Instead change your thinking pattern so you are not always waiting for your circumstances to change. It’s important to give some thought to the future so that you can come up with a plan to reach your goals, but over obsessing is never good. Forgetting to live in the present can have serious implications on your happiness and success.
Worrying About What Others Think like “I must be approved of by everyone or I am not a good person.”This is an extremely toxic thought because you think others are judging you. Constantly wondering what the people around you think is useless because no matter what you do- good or bad- someone somewhere will always think something. No one is judging you as much as you are judging yourself. So, Let go of worrying about what others think about you and pursue what makes you happy.
The need to be always right or “I know I am always right.. “ or feeling that you always need to prove that you are right. It feels good to be right, but sadly the world doesn’t always work to your advantage and there will be times when you are flat out wrong. Such times, admitting that you are wrong is a much more noble and mature thing to do. Always wanting to be right becomes limitation in learning new things and leads to stagnation. The first step in getting unstuck is to stop telling yourself you always have to be right. Besides, everyone has a different opinion. So why not have yours and let them have theirs.
Thinking that you can change others. You can only inspire and motivate people to be their best selves to some extent. You cannot change other people, you can only change yourself. It is not your fault that other people are the way they are. We all have free will to do what we want with ourselves and it’s not your responsibility to try and change that. Only they can truly change themselves.
So, which of these toxic thoughts will you let go starting from today? what other toxic thoughts are holding you back and interfering with your well-being and productivity? How many “could-have”, “would-have”, “should-have” and “if-only” statements are part of your inner voice? How many times have you replayed in your head a conversation or situation that pained you or that hasn’t even occurred yet? Are your goals and purpose aligned with your thoughts? How distorted is your thinking about the future? Are you forming a personal identity around an illness or condition? Focusing on these questions can help you narrow down to your toxic thinking patterns.
It’s all too easy to get wrapped up in negative, toxic thoughts and let little things get you down. Make time each day for a mindfulness meditation. Focus on your breathing and being present in the moment. Identify your toxic thoughts that are interfering with your personal and professional goal-striving. Accept and let go of them to clear and detox your mind of the negative, so you can stay healthy, optimistic and productive.
“Letting go of toxic thoughts and people who bring a lot of negativity to your life, are major steps towards being happy.”
⁃ Neeraj Singhvi