Its 3 am and these scary, creepy, toxic thoughts start creeping into your mind. What if you fail and the project you’re working on tanks? What if your best friend is backstabbing you?What if he is cheating on you? What if?
We go through life with so much negative mental chatter, its a miracle we survive at all. From the moment we are born, we are cautioned and protected. Watch out for that sharp edge of the kitchen counter. Be careful not to climb up too high on that chair. Don’t speak to strangers.
Most of us are lucky – our worst fears never come true.
The funny thing with mental chatter is – the more you entertain it, the more it flourishes, like a parasite eating through your brain until you have nothing left to give.
The fear-mongering limits us, clips our wings and makes us doubt who we are and what we stand for.
The only way to stop that debilitating mental chatter is to go to the source and cut it off from the root – your mind. Consider these common sources of negative mental chatter:
In the groundbreaking book, Emotional Intelligence, author Daniel Goleman talks about how our families and upbringing shape our destiny.
Early in childhood, we begin to form lasting perceptions about the human relationships around us. Countless moments of negative talk and harsh criticism over the course of childhood can shape some of our most fundamental ideas about ourselves – essentially determining the course of our lives.
While you cannot change your upbringing, studies show that even in adulthood, we have the power to change our emotional patterns and become adept at overcoming our negative thought patterns.
Often our closest relationships – lovers, spouses, boyfriends and girlfriends – bear the brunt of our toxic emotional conditioning. Even a small reaction such as a contemptuous expression can cause an increase in the other person’s heart rate, with prolonged conflict leading to a host of health problems. Since most of us live with a spouse or partner in adulthood, how we interact in our most significant relationship has a massive impact on our productivity and motivation.
Since most of us spend majority of the week working, our workspace can also be a significant source of stress that detracts us from being productive.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University found that social integration in the workspace employment and peer support are potent predictors of the productivity, quality of life, and surprisingly even mortality. When the focus is on the drama and conflict at work, it can be incredibly difficult to focus on the project at hand and be productive.
Negativity in the workplace wastes time, hinders creativity and innovation lower morale and decreased productivity.
The average American spends 51 minutes a day commuting to and from work. A Swedish study found that long commutes increase stress levels and reduce productivity.
Earlier this year, the UK’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) published its report on Commuting and Personal Well-being. The study found that “commuters have lower life satisfaction, less pride in their work, less happiness and higher anxiety than non-commuters.”
In fact, a 2012 study by the New Cities Foundation, San Jose found that if travel time could be made more interesting and less stressful then commuters would be more productive.
Internet and Other Media
Watch this TED talk to understand how social media is negatively impacting our internal dialogue and making us lonely. Sherry Turkle, a psychologist, sociologist and MIT professor talks about how our mobile devices aren’t just changing what we do, but also who we are. Social media has become so powerful that we don’t use it just as a tool to share our lives with other, but that technology has taken over our lives and we now simply find things to do so we can post them up. Our superficial interactions online have left us without the skills for self-reflection or face to face conversations. Turkle asserts that we are so lost now without social media that we cannot stand the discomfort of being without the constant online chatter when we are temporarily disconnected from our gadgets.
Joel Bain of Sour Grapes Winery puts it beautifully:
We are closer to each other than ever before, yet more distant emotionally and mentally than has ever been seen in human history.
These five common sources of negative mental chatter and toxic thoughts : family, spouses, workplace commutes, and social media are a testament to our increasing distraction from out own lives with constant, negative mental chatter. This constant chatter is what keeps us browsing, sharing, surfing all day – and yet, we have nothing to show for our ‘hard work’ at the end of the day.
Not only do these sources erode our productivity, sucking our energy, ruining our quality of life they also impact our morale and mental focus.
Listening to Authentic Voices
Your search for inner motivation and creativity can be counterproductive when all the information you are consuming is created by other people. Whether it is your family, spouse, or the negative thoughts that spring form your workplace, commute or social or other mass media media that are influencing your thoughts – know this – In order to access your inner strength and sit down and do some authentic work, you need to block these outside influences (even if it is temporary) and listen to your own little voice of dissent.
Below are 16 practical experiments you can do to eliminate mental chatter and toxic thoughts from your mind to unleash your productivity today:
- Go on a social media fast
- Take a vow of silence for a day
- Listen to a positive audiobook on your commute
- disconnect from the internet
- have a heart to heart conversation with a friend or family
- Make eye contact when you talk to someone – give them your complete attention
- Catch yourself criticizing or judging someone – give them a compliment instead
- Create an hour of solitary time just to be alone with yourself
- Make a cup of green tea – take each sip mindfully
- Sit on the couch with your spouse. Do nothing else.
- Hug your parents. Call them if they are far away.
- Write a letter to an old friend
- Do a walking meditation
- Roll your shoulders, close your eyes, look up and take a deep breath
- Play with a child
- Go for a run outside – especially if the weather is bad.
Which ones did you do? Tell us about your battle with mental chatter in the comments below!