Thursday, February 3, 2011

Think About What You Think

This morning, one of my sweet little third grade students, upon hearing me say, "No biggie!" when she got glue on my table, said, "Ms. Ragan, you always say no biggie!"  And then she laughed, got a tissue, made a silly face, and said, "No biggie!" as she wiped off the glue.  

The funny thing was, that even though I was obviously being made fun of by a third grader, it touched my heart that she noticed a little mantra I use regularly.  "No biggie," is a phrase I use whenever something goes wrong, to keep from stressing out.  I think it's a very useful phrase for kids who are experiencing anxiety or dealing with low self-esteem.  I also like the phrase, "Accidents happen."  Happiness guru Gretchen Rubin calls these little phrases "mantras" or "catch-phrases," and my happiness commandments are examples of ones I like to tell myself regularly.  

Researchers point out that positive thinking using positive self-talk like these little catch-phrases can be beneficial for health by staving off stress.  Staff from the Mayo Clinic write that we need to catch the negative thoughts we're thinking and replace them with positive thoughts.  We can do this by looking out for negative self-talk like 
filtering (only noticing bad stuff, filtering out the good stuff), 
personalizing (attributing bad things that happen to ourselves rather than circumstances), 
catastrophizing (blowing things out of proportion in your mind), and 
polarizing (thinking things are either good or bad, letting the perfect be the enemy of the good).  

I recently read about a trick to help yourself be more mindful of your thoughts:  use doorways as visual reminders to think about what you're thinking.  So, every time you walk through a doorway, check in with your own thoughts and see whether they're positive or not.  I think I might try this for a week or two.   

Anyway, once we recognize the negative thoughts we're having, we can work on replacing them with positive mantras, catch phrases, or happiness commandments.  Here are a few of mine (and by the way, they seem so cheesy when I write them down!!)

No biggie.
Accidents happen.  
You did your best, and that's all you can do.
It is what it is.
Try, try again. 
You will succeed in everything.  (I got this in a fortune cookie once.  It really helps.)
Baby steps.  
Do your best and be done with it.
Consider the saints. 
You can do it.  (This one is said with some strange accent and cracks me up when I think it.)
Be light.    (from the quote, "It's easy to be heavy, hard to be light" by GK Chesterton, which I first read in the Happiness Project.)

What are your catch-phrases?  What little phrases do you tell yourself when things go wrong, or just as motivation on a regular day?  Or am I the only crazy person who thinks these phrases make a difference?  

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