Retrain Your Brain to Think Positive Thoughts

One of the pitfalls of being a conscious species is that humans can never stop thinking. We will never be entirely free from our thoughts. For many of us, our thoughts are overwhelmingly cruel and self-deprecating. It can feel impossible to pull out of a downward spiral that is rarely apparent to anyone but ourselves. The more frequently negative thoughts come up, the more you will believe them. Self-deprecation is a cycle. The best tool to retraining your brain to be kinder to yourself is rephrasing negative thoughts. Just as your brain made you believe negative things about yourself by repetition, you can retrain your brain by repetition to believe positive things. The more you keep telling yourself positive affirmations, the more you will believe in your own self-worth. Here are some negative statements I find myself thinking throughout the day and my attempts to reframe them.

I am considered, at least by society’s standards, generally attractive. But I am not free of insecurities. Beauty may give an upper-hand in job interviews, in attracting sexual partners, even in getting off with a warning instead of a speeding ticket. However, beauty does not ensure self-esteem, confidence, or happiness. I worry that people are only interested in me because of my physical appearance. I consciously rephrase that into “I have traits beyond just my physical appearance which attract people”. I’ve slowly come to believe that physical appearance is truly just that: physical appearance. What is more important to me, and to others, is how I act.

I also tend to find myself boring and uninteresting.  I suspect that it is common to lose interest in yourself; makes sense, considering that you are the only person you are forced to hang out with 24/7. Your exciting and unique characteristics are lost on you because they are part of the same day to day life you lead. But someone else learning about you is probably in awe; to them you are new and exciting. Change “I am boring and uninteresting” to “as long as I am authentically myself, I will never be boring or uninteresting”.

Especially as a student in college, we face immense pressure to succeed while learning in an environment tailored to people who learn in the traditional way. When faced with a grade lower than my perfectionistic standards, I always catch myself thinking “you’re so stupid, how did you not do better?” But intelligence cannot be limited to those who can ace a certain subject. Intelligence is not based merely on knowledge of calculus, or accounting, or chemistry. The scientific community has discredited the idea that an objective test, like an IQ test, can test intelligence. Similarly, don’t let your test scores and GPA define your intelligence. Reframe “My test score means I’m stupid” to “I learn differently than how the professor taught or this subject isn’t my strength, but I am still smart”.

Social media has given me the perception that everyone else is out there having a great time all the time with their large and happy friend group. It is all too easy to compare my social life to others’ with the insidious help of social media. Scroll through Instagram to see all the happy couples, besties and skinny beauties to cue massive insecurity. It’s important, but difficult, to step back and remember that no one’s life can be perfect. Instead of playing the comparing game (which you will always lose) reframe “I wish I had that [body, boyfriend, exciting friend group] to “I am grateful for the gifts that are present in my life”.

Be aware of how changing your thinking can change your life. Reframing negativity into a positivity takes a lot of work and time. The time will pass either way; you might as well spend it trying to become more loving. Take ownership of your life; recovery is always easier than the alternative.