Personal Development

9 Ways to Banish the Cycle of Toxic Thinking

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Crafting these habits of positive self-talk will set you on the path to inner peace.

We don't see things as they are, we see them as we are."
~ Anaïs Nin

We've all been there.

"I'll never lose weight."

"I'm stuck in this crappy job."

"My marriage is deteriorating."

"I'm just not any good at _________ or ___________."

"I'm not the kind of person who can ___________________."

Life presents us with constant challenges, and all too often we quickly — and not too quietly — become our own inner cheerleader from hell, giving a voice to fears and beliefs that reside only in our heads.

It's not what you think you are that holds you back, it's what you think you aren't."

So the more "stage time" we give these loathing thoughts, the stronger and more entrenched they become.

It's true that we can see the world only from our own limited experience and perspective, and this has a dramatic impact on how we perceive how things actually are "“ our "reality."

Here's the kicker: At any point (truly) we can transcend our habitual thinking and negative self-talk. To do so, keep in mind this simple truth:

We buy-into our own mental constructs daily, so let's be sure to foster the thoughts and beliefs that serve our ideal and where we are trying to go with our life.

With this in mind, here are 9 ways to positively shift our self-destructive thinking.

1) Precondition Your Thinking Toward What You Want

To illustrate the power of our preconditioned thoughts, consider the following famous psychological experiment.

One group of participants was presented with images of a young woman, while another group observed an older woman. After the initial images were seen, each group was shown an abstract drawing with elements of both an older and younger woman.

Those who had initially seen images of a younger woman saw a young woman in the drawing. Those who had first seen images of an older woman identified an older woman in the picture. Each group felt certain of the image it saw!

People saw what they had just been exposed to "“ what was already in their thoughts.

2) Alter Your Perspective By Seeing New Possibilities

This is precisely what Einstein meant when he observed, "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them."

When we choose what we want to focus upon, psychological reframing is possible.

Here's an example: I once thought completing a marathon was an impossible task. But then I was introduced to Ironman-distance triathlon events (which culminate with a marathon preceded by a 2.4-mile swim and a 112-mile bike ride). Knowing this feat was even possible was my first step toward becoming an Ironman.

Now, to stay motivated while training for an Ironman triathlon (and to keep myself from complaining), I constantly remind myself of Dean Karnazes (, who not too long ago completed 50 marathons in 50 states over the course of 50 days!

This knowledge has radically altered my perception of what the human body can endure! Whenever you're introduced to new possibilities, your frame of reference grows exponentially.

3) Enhance Your Empathy

Your mom probably told you this many times: Many poor souls in this world are way worse off than you.

With this viewpoint and thought pattern, you're immediately reminded of just how fortunate and blessed you really are. This is a perception shift as well as an energy shift that is a requirement to realize any significant mental or physical breakthrough.

The more we can get out of our own head and stop wallowing in our own woes — exposing ourselves to new experiences and others' perspectives "“ we can create a more colorful world of possibilities.

4) Strengthen Your Gratitude!

The mind can concentrate only upon one thought at a time. Why not "tune" your mind toward all the gifts you have "” the thousands of "things" you already take for granted? Are you reading this? Eyes! Are you using a computer? Are you at your job? Are you breathing? Do you have feet and hands and can you hear and speak?

Tuning your mind to "the gratitude channel" keeps you out of negative spaces.

5) Pause "“ Meditate

It's amazing what a little quiet time and reflection can do. Pascal famously commented, "All of humanity's problems stem from man's inability to sit quietly in a room alone." And Jefferson spoke of the walking habit (see below).

6) Go for a Walk Outside

Not only will it immediately change your perspective, but the habit of walking is known to encourage brain health. Thomas Jefferson famously wrote: "Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far."

7) Reading and Humor

An easy way to keep an influx of new ideas flowing is to read "“ check out the news headlines, and not just the bad news. Every day strides are made in science, health, technology and more. Minds are at work out there!

Brilliant comedians are just a click away on YouTube or Facebook. Insightful humor is an amazing way to clear your mind of debris, shift to a positive mood and think about everyday things in a new way.

When your mind is focused on something funny or a new idea, it's not wallowing in the negative.

8) Look Toward Your Ideal Future

Knowing where you are going is far more important than knowing where you are.

Negative people are often hyper-focused on the problems of today "“ and that negativity can snowball. When all we think about is our difficulties, we lose valuable positive energy that can and should be focused upon where we want to be.

What's your one-year plan? Where do you want to be in five years? 10 years? Envisioning an ideal future is a powerful tool to boost optimism and positivity.

Remember: Obstacles are what you see when you take your eye off the ball.

9) Become Your Mind's Gardener

Think of a negative thought as a weed in a beautiful garden. When a weed pops up — and they will — replace it immediately with a positive thought. Weeds have a hard time growing in a healthy (positive) garden. The more you weed, the healthier your garden grows.

And, never forget, it's a process.

A man's mind may be likened to a garden, which may be intelligently cultivated or allowed to run wild"¦" ~James Allen

To make profound and significant changes in our lives, we have to start with the basics. And what is more basic than how we see the world?

Creating the habit of positive thinking may be the most powerful way to shift what we see and, perhaps more importantly, how we see it.

Never forget Helen Keller's classic observation: It's not what you at look at that matters; it's what you see."

We're going to buy into our own mental constructs anyway "“ that's a fact. Why, then, don't we construct something beautiful?

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About the author

Martin Grunburg

Martin Grunburg is the creator of The Habit Factor methodology for goal achievement, which today is utilized by top coaches, trainers, executives, companies and PhD's around the world. The Habit Factor is available as both a mobile app for Android and iOS and a #1 Amazon best-selling book in its category.
His ground-breaking ideas about habit and goal achievement have been featured within dozens of the most popular online publications including; The New York Times, C|Net,,, US News & World Report as well as dozens of other productivity blogs. He's been identified by Success Magazine as one of today's most inspirational, creative and respected thought-leaders in the multibillion-dollar personal-development arena.