“We can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Albert Einstein
This is one of my favorite quotes. I not only use it with my psychotherapy clients, but I remind myself of this wisdom in my personal life as well. I don’t always know how to change my thinking, but I do know that continuing in the direction of my negative thoughts about a problem, will not get me anywhere — except even more stuck.
One trick I use to changing my thinking is to refocus on my successes. Often out of this positive thinking, I discover another way to look at my problem and solutions appear.
Read on to discover more ways to rewire your brain in order to change your thoughts into solutions and happiness.
As some of you may know our thoughts are very powerful. Many contemporary authors (psychologists, theologians, and self help leaders) write that our thoughts are responsible for our happiness, and our negativity, and many emotions in between. For example if you are always having negative thoughts, you are more likely to be unhappy and experience depressive moods. Although it may be difficult, you can work on your thoughts and rewire your brain for happiness.
Many of you living with an adult on the Autism Spectrum know how hard it is to stay positive. Our ASD loved ones tell us frequently all of the “reasons” why something we said or did is wrong. It’s not just tiring; it’s depressing, especially when it happens daily. Being ignored and feeling lonely doesn’t help either. This type of interaction breeds negativity in you, even when you know better. It may not be your ASD partner’s intention to surround you with negativity, but when you are faced daily with these unresolved problems, stress builds and can turn into depression or even physical illness.
Your brain is naturally sensitive around negativity and signals your body to protect yourself. However, your amygdala (an important part of the emotional brain) doesn’t distinguish between a real threat and your fears (that someone had an accident rather than just being late). Your brain turns an inordinate amount of attention to that negative source – and your happy mood is gone.
Before diving into how we can work on rewiring your thoughts to make a fair assessment of events, I believe it will be good to analyze your thoughts and realize how many of them are coming from your own internal issues. What are your triggers – things, actions, words that make you instantly upset? Why are you defensive about them? Knowing what these triggers are and why they are so important to you is a first step to acknowledge the problem and fix it.
I’ve written a blog post about Letting Go to Achieve Greater Happiness and Health a few years ago, that I think you might find useful today. Please don’t confuse letting it go with giving up. It’s about acceptance of where you are and moving on, instead of staying stuck.
I am challenging you to work on your automatic thoughts. Automatic thoughts are those negative thoughts that jump in to sabotage us. It hardly matters where those automatic thoughts came from, but they need to be changed. For example, perhaps you can never accept a compliment because you were taught to do so was pretentious. Or perhaps you feel compelled to help others when they ask, even though you don’t have time to help; then you get resentful. Breaking this bad habit of negative thoughts and depressing self reflection is not impossible or expensive, but it takes work.
For example, I have been terribly hard on myself for many years because I kept telling myself, “You should have been a better mother. If you were a better mother your children wouldn’t have suffered from such a dysfunctional family.” This is a very harsh judgement but I was able to break it by retraining myself in a new thought, along with lots of loving support from therapists and friends.
My new thought? “In a loving Universe, where all things are possible, I forgive myself my mistakes and acknowledge all of my amazing mothering. Proof is how many young people call me ‘Mom.’”
It will take time, but if you practice replacing your negative thoughts with positive thoughts, in a year, your mind will be in a better space than it is today. Every time you catch yourself thinking something negative, especially about yourself, stop for a minute, take a step back and analyze your thought. You will notice that often the main problem might be the fact that you are generalizing everything (“Everything/everyone/all is bad”) or you are projecting your mind-reading abilities (“He didn’t smile this morning, so I probably upset him yesterday”). I’m encouraging you to correct yourself whenever you notice a negative thought. Even when you are faced with the most devastating circumstances, always be there for yourself. Speaking positively about yourself, points you in the direction of a solution — and ultimately happiness.
Replacing automatic negative thoughts with positive, self affirming thoughts is a type of Cognitive Therapy. One approach I particularly like that helps move your thoughts quickly to solutions is Neuro-Emotional Technique (NET). If you need help, a therapist can help put you on the right path . I encourage you to find professional help if you are struggling. You don’t have to go through this process alone. If you’d like to reach me, I offer Video Therapy or Video Education Appointments to help you get your life back. Check my Contact page for more details.
Alternatively, if your partner is on the Spectrum and you’d like to join a community with people who share your life struggles, please check our “ASPERGER SYNDROME & RELATIONSHIPS: Life with an Adult on the Autism Spectrum” community. I also offer video conferences and teleconferences every week to discuss and make a plan on how to improve and move on with your life.