Change Your Story - Change Your Life

by Carol Ebert Carol Ebert, MSN, RN

Specializes in Wellness and Coaching for Women in their Third Act. Has 55 years experience.

You are probably aware that there’s an epidemic of negative storytelling going on in our culture right now. And how does that spill over into the personal story you are telling yourself daily? That you are overwhelmed? That you are so stressed out you can’t manage? That you are scared we are all going to die?  That you know just what would get us out of this mess but those in power aren’t doing it?  These are stories that could be rolling around in your head but how is that helping you manage your day-to-day life?

Do you have too many negative stories in your head?

Change Your Story - Change Your Life

Here’s what we know about the negative stories in our heads. It’s estimated that approximately 94% of the time, what we worry about doesn’t happen. Also, negative attitudes and feelings of helplessness and hopelessness can create chronic stress, which upsets the body's hormone balance, depletes the brain chemicals required for happiness, and damages the immune system. Chronic stress can actually decrease our lifespan. (Science has now identified that stress shortens our telomeres, the “end caps” of our DNA strands, which causes us to age more quickly.)

So do we continue to wallow in all the negative stories in our head, which by the way, just reinforces itself and continues to strengthen brain pathways that carry that story? Or do we pull the plug knowing that not only our attitude and our relationships are at risk but so is our health?

Shutting Down the Negative Stories

The good news is that we have the ability to fix that. And the best news is that it’s not as hard as you might believe. As Stanford University psychology professor and best selling author Dr. Carol Dweck wrote, “Small shifts in mindset can trigger a cascade of changes so profound that they test the limits of what seems possible.” So if this is true, we can shift into a more positive state of mind by taking some action steps.

Here are some ways you can shut down negative stories and rebuild positivity assets.

1. Examine your habits

Is there a habit of yours that becomes a trigger that sets off a negative thought? One of my habits is facebook. I have to be very careful when I scroll thru facebook that I don’t get fixated on something that I am not really sure is factual. If I do get hooked (and they will hook you in) I have to challenge that thinking and either accept it because I know the facts, or let it go because I’m not convinced. And if I can’t seem to let go of facebook scrolling, then at least I can limit the amount of time I spend on it.

What is one trigger that propels you into negativity and how can you reduce its power over you?

2. Become aware of the language you use

To break this negative pattern, reframe the words you use, whether they are internal or out loud. For instance, instead of saying that this deadly virus “happened to us” we can start saying that it “happened FOR us”. This is an empowering way of viewing this experience as a gift. It can actually help you shift your thinking into a story of gratitude, or even how we might be able to use the experience to help others. Once again, a very small step by changing just one word, but very powerful.

What is one negative statement rolling around in your head that you can reframe as a positive statement?

What is a positive statement you can say about your present situation?

3. Use the Law of Attraction

If you focus on what’s been keeping you feeling low, that is what you will attract more of. The sooner you can begin to focus on creating a positive direction, your energy begins to shift and you can begin to see things differently. When you focus on things that make you feel good like taking action on solving an issue rather than ruminating on what you can’t change, it begins to dissipate those feelings and emotions and a new more positive story begins to emerge.

What “feel-good” statement can you say to yourself that focuses on a positive solution?

4. Stop consuming junk stories

How aware are you of junk stories that you are continually exposed to? Junk stories are any kind of story that’s designed primarily to rile up your emotions. It’s the equivalent of eating tons of junk food with no healthy nutrients to balance it out. Cable news, Twitter, facebook, lots of clicks that take you to places you don’t want to go. It’s designed to trigger an emotional response, but just like a huge ice cream sundae, there’s no nutrition in it, and the sugar rush is addictive, destructive and dangerous. Junk stories tend to create junk thinking, and it’s literally bad for our brains.

How many hours are you exposed to negative news and what is one small step you can take to reduce that?

6. See the river, not the rocks

I love this example from an experience I read about. “When I was first learning to kayak, I kept banging my boat into rocks. I said to my husband in frustration, “I am hitting every rock on this river!” He said, “Well then, stop looking at them!” Because that’s exactly what I was doing: going down the river, staring straight at the things I was most afraid of, and therefore, heading right for them. “ Message received. Focus on what’s right and not what is wrong and you will feel better, more positive, and more hopeful.

What daily practice can you implement that keeps your focus on what is good and not on what is bad?

7. Write a new story

This starts by literally writing out how you’d like your days to look from start to finish. What you’re doing and creating, who you’re doing it with, and the types of things you’re doing for fun. Writing out a new story creates momentum around how you want to live your life and puts you in a position of personal power and positivity. And there is no room for those negative thoughts to enter. You are too busy feeling good which is a great place to be. And the added bonus is - People who had a positive view of life live an average of 7.6 years longer than those who had a negative view.

When will you start writing your new story and how will you keep it in view daily as a reminder?

8. Surround yourself with good people

When you spend quality time with good people who love you, you develop a natural support system for your new habits and you are able to rewrite your story in a nurturing environment. And when you are with people you trust they can often guide you out of a negative thinking pattern because they care.

Who are the good people in your life you can trust with your desire to start creating a more positive story for yourself?

9. Practice every day

Once you know what you need to change, (like limit my time on facebook or take a break from it for a while) practice this every single day – no matter what. You need to break the “addictive thinking pattern” and it is an addiction for sure.

How will you schedule time every day to practice time-out from negative triggers?

10. Get support

Changing our old patterns of thinking that no longer serve us is no easy task because most of us have been conditioned with them since being young. One of my “not so favorite” ones from childhood on is “I’m not good enough or smart enough for that”. Even tho I am cognitively aware that is not true, it still sneaks in and I can obsess over that thought for days. So it’s important for me to not only challenge that thinking but also to seek out the right support and encouragement from others who can challenge me when I can’t do it for myself. And it may be getting professional support as well.

How will you know if you need to pursue professional support to break the cycle of “stinking thinking”?

Hope this gives you some useful ideas. Remember, even if you only can manage one small step from this list, there is still great power in making small shifts. Please share what is working for you.


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1 Comment(s)

2BS Nurse, BSN

Has 9 years experience. 669 Posts

I love this and it was just what I needed today. Thank you!!