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How to change your thinking from destructive to constructive, with God's help and biblical teachings
Reviewed in the United States on March 16, 2016
1. Our thoughts feed our emotions, which feed our attitudes, which feed our behaviors. Are your thoughts shaping you, or are you shaping your thoughts? "The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart" (Luke 6:45). "As he thinks within himself, so he is" (Proverbs 23:7).
2. Humor helps our brain function in a healthy way, helps us be more creative and flexible, and strengthens our immune system...When we dwell on old hurts and wounds, stress and its toxic effects surface with increasing speed, and we are more likely to express ourselves in a negative way...It is never wise to react to the first emotion we feel.
3. The author suggests each of us can become calm, disciplined, and self-controlled, with a well-balanced mind, by memorizing and dwelling upon Scripture. "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7).
4. Although scientists are not sure why we get intrusive thoughts, we do have the freedom to choose which thoughts we dwell upon. The author suggests we can begin doing this by labeling our recurring negative thoughts so we can identify them and by saying your negative thoughts out loud so you can challenge them.
5. Use your imagination to form positive, biblical, mental images of who you are.
I am an individual whom God chose in Christ before the foundation of the world (Ephesians 1:4).
I became a child of God when I received Christ (John 1:12).
I am loved with the immeasurable love of God (Ephesians 3:19).
6. Our families instilled in us a pattern of thoughts, some positive and some negative. Even parents who mean well can be too critical. Research indicates that as much as 75% of everything we think is negative, counterproductive, and works against us. In challenging these core beliefs, the author suggests that for one week, we ask ourselves three questions:
(1) "What do I believe about myself
(2) What do I believe about other people? And
(3) What do I believe about God?"
and then complete the statement: "This belief came from..."
After identifying negative core beliefs, the author say we should find evidence to the contrary, however small, that shows how the opposite belief could be true.
7. If a person identifies a negative core belief of "I can't do anything right," and they then find examples of things they do well, they can change their core belief to
"There are a lot of things I do well," or
"Even though I make mistakes, I learn from them to do better next time," or
"I have these specific skills (name them), which have been useful to others.
8. Ruminating, going over a negative thought or belief again and again, can cripple us from taking positive steps. One study showed that those who ruminate about their problems are four times more likely to develop major depression than those who don't. Examples of negative marital thinking are "God gave me my spouse to make me happy," "My spouse should know what my needs are after all these years of marriage," and "I wish my spouse would compromise more." A positive marital thought would be "I can learn many things from my spouse."
9. The best way to respond to your mind when it wanders is accept it as a normal process and be aware of when it happens.
10. Memories are made up of bits and pieces from what we remember of the past, including feelings, images, and perspectives, and they are not entirely based upon facts...It doesn't matter who your parents were. It matters who you remember they were...Engaging in new, accurate self-talk can blunt the intensity of painful memories.
11. Ways in which we sabotage ourselves with negative thinking:
Regretting the past or worrying about the future...Setting unrealistic expectations for yourself...Self-criticism or discounting yourself...Avoiding risks...Associating with negative or critical people...Comparing yourself to others.
12. When a husband changes his thinking from "I don't understand my wife" to "I'm going to learn how to improve my listening skills," he is practicing "reframing."
13. Suppose you are trying to change your own negative thoughts about your job. Your negative thought is: "I don't like working here any more because I've been passed over for promotion three times. This is awful." An example of a thought that properly challenges this negative thinking could be,
"I'll see if I can find out the reasons why I was passed over and then make any necessary corrections or improvements."
14. The first three statements are false are assumptions. The fourth statement challenges the other three.
(1) It is more Christian to please other people than to please myself.
(2) Pleasing others is an insurance policy that guarantees people will be nice to me in return.
(3) It is wrong and un-Christian to think my own needs are important, when compared to others.
(4) It is a misbelief that I must please other people and be approved by them.
15. One of the best ways to get rid of negative thinking is to write down each negative thought and then challenge its truth or accuracy. Also, write down and then verbalize positive thoughts out loud, that will take the place of negative thoughts. Do these two things every day for at least 21 days until a new habit of thinking positively is established.
16. The result of labeling our spouse with negative titles such as callous, selfish, controlling,, insensitive, manipulative, unbending, crazy, and so on:
It creates a one-sided depiction of our spouse, excluding their positive qualities.
It doesn't result in forgiveness of our spouse.
It keeps us from looking at our part in the problem.
17. To get help in dealing with our "emotional ghosts", or toxic statements we grew up with, the author recommended reading two of his many books: "Making Peace with Your Past" and "Healing Grace for Broken Relationships."
18. After eight years of marriage, Jim saw Janice as "controlling, critical, and overbearing," and Janice saw Jim as "lazy, irresponsible, and passive." The author says the reason why their marriage declined is because they each adopted and maintained negative self-talk about the other.
19. Many of our thoughts come from our negative assumptions.
"Personalizing" is thinking that all situations revolve around you. "I looked out of place at the party -- they were all her friends!"
"Magnifying" is blowing negative events out of proportion. "This is the worst thing that could have happened to me!"
"Minimizing" a glossing over positive factors. "Sure, everything went well with the dinner party. But I still have to wonder if everyone really had a good time."
"Either/or thinking" goes to extremes, leaving no room for realistic options. "Either I'm a successful spouse or a total failure."
"Taking events out of context" focuses on negatives, despite the presence of positives. "That comment he made at lunch ruined the whole day."
"Jumping to conclusions" runs ahead of rational thinking. "My spouse isn't paying me much attention. Her love for me is fading."
"Overgeneralizing" uses thinking based on "always" or "never." "My husband will never change."
"Self-blame" condemns the total person, rather than specific behaviors that can be changed. "I'm no good as a parent."
"Mind-reading" assumes you know someone else's thoughts. "I know my wife doesn't respect me. She thinks I'm a loser."
"Comparing" creates an unfair assessment that often ignores basic differences. "He's much smarter than I am."
20. The three main underlying causes of anger are fear, hurt, and frustration. The following help to reduce one's anger...Preventative self-talk such as, "No matter what my spouse says, I will remain calm and not lose control. God will give me grace."...Debriefing yourself, such as saying, "I'm going to remember, 'Good sense makes a man restrain his anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.'" (Proverbs 19:11)...Forgive the person who has wronged you.
21. A practical way to stop a habit of worry...Turn your worry into an action plan. For example, when you develop an unexplained pain in your lower back, make an opportunity to see your doctor...Tell yourself to relax.
22. Part of the reason why the prophet Jeremiah was depressed was because his thoughts were depressing: He believed God had caused his despondency, he didn't see any hope, and he saw everyone as out to do him harm. But sometimes he would remember the Lord's compassion and faithfulness...Negative thinking can lead a person into depression. We are more vulnerable to depression when we ruminate. We should not spend too much time thinking about something...When you are depressed, you have a chemical imbalance in your brain. Thoughts trigger emotions, which dump an overload of stress chemicals into the brain. There is a chemical consequence in the brain for every thought we think...You can make a thought dominant by saying it over and over again. We can choose thoughts that will bring us out of depression.