Sitting on the couch, mindlessly scrolling through Facebook, I realize over twenty minutes have passed since I decided I should get up and go do the dishes. But I’m still sat here, mindlessly scrolling.
“Why do you always do this!” the little voice inside my head screams at me. “You waste so much frickin time! Just get your ass up already and get stuff DONE!”
Frustrated and angry, the little voice continues to yell at me, asking me why can’t I just get on with things? Why do I waste so much time on inane social media when I have more important S&%t to do? Why do I keep falling into these unproductive, useless behavior patterns?
“This is why you don’t achieve your goals” it says. “You’re too damn lazy and undisciplined. Imagine what you could achieve if you could just break out of these negative habits!”
Whether it’s wasting time on social media, constantly ruminating on miserable thoughts, eating too much, or getting caught up in relationship drama, we all engage in thought and behavior patterns that are damaging to us. Many of these negative patterns of thought or behavior have evolved over time as coping mechanisms to help us deal with emotional or mental stress. Yet even when we are able to bring into conscious awareness the root causes of our behavior or thought patterns, they can still be extremely difficult to break.
One strategy I have found extremely effective in interrupting a negative thought or behavior pattern is to ask yourself one simple question whenever you engage in a behavior/thought you wish to disrupt.
“Is this helping or hurting me?”
Ask yourself if the behavior or thoughts you are engaging in right now are helping or hurting you. If the answer is that it is hurting you, then ask yourself what could you do right now that would help you instead?
For example, take ruminating over an argument or conflict. When we feel we’ve been slighted by someone the emotional intensity of anger, frustration, or hurt can quickly pull us into a spiral of overwhelming negative thoughts about the situation. To break the pattern, ask yourself “is this helping or hurting me? Am I helping or hurting myself by ruminating over this negative situation?” Inevitably, engaging in such strong negative thoughts does not solve anything, and only serves to make you feel worse.
Recognizing that your behavior is only hurting you is the key to this strategy. Asking yourself this specific question allows you to identify your current behavior as negative in a more compassionate way. When we become consciously aware that we are once again carrying out a negative behavior pattern, the angry little voice in our heads start to berate us and make us feel bad for being weak. Asking ourselves if our behavior is hurting us, and if so, what could we do that would help ourselves instead comes from a more compassionate, accepting place, opening up the opportunity for us to redirect our behavior to thoughts free from the internal beatdown we would normally inflict on ourselves.
“Ask yourself if what you are doing right now is helping or hurting you. Then adjust accordingly.”Louise Keller
I use this simple strategy on an almost daily basis, on everything from procrastinating to feeling angry/miserable/frustrated to getting my butt up off the couch to work out. Each time I find myself engaging in a behavior or thought pattern I wish to break I ask myself if it is helping or hurting me and what I could do instead that would better serve me. Instead of letting the little voice in my head start yelling abuse and making me feel worse, I take control and accept that I need to step in and take care of myself, recognize when I am doing something that is not in my best interests, and gently redirect myself to something more beneficial.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and if this works for you. Please share in the comments below!
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