Introverts are thinkers. We like to replay the past, mull it over, and ask, Why? We’re built for introspection.
And while a careful analysis of any event can be productive, it can also be counterproductive. Allow me to illustrate with a story.
Earlier this week, I said I was going to get to work early. I told a coworker I’d be there to help with parking for a special event. But I showed up late.
Then, before school started (I’m a teacher), I got more bad news. I’d forgotten to create some assignments I told a colleague I’d make. So he did the work himself.
While he didn’t make a big deal about it, I still felt awful.
I started replaying the morning’s events in my head, over and over, beating myself up.
Needless to say, getting my thoughts back on track was a struggle. I spent a good hour trying to shift into a more productive state of mind. And even when I did start thinking positively, it took the rest of the day to actually come around.
Does this sort of thing ever happen to you?
If you ever have a hard time shaking a funk, check out these six suggestions.
1. Journal the lessons.
One of the best things I’ve learned to do when my introspection turns negative is to look for lessons.
When I blow it, I need to make amends. But beyond that, dwelling on my failings doesn’t do me or anyone else any good.
Learning from my mistakes, however, is highly profitable. It enables me to make better decisions in the future.
Regular journaling is one way I process lessons. At the end of each day, I write down one thing that I would change. Usually, it’s something like “go to bed earlier” or “turn off the music so I can focus and be more productive”. Occasionally, the lesson is more meaningful.
What’s important is that I have a routine. Journaling every night builds reflection into my day. It gives me a chance to process major lessons when they show up.
Doing it at night allows me to process before I go to bed so that I can sleep soundly. And when I start the next day, the lesson’s still fresh in my mind.
Journaling takes only five minutes. And the benefits far outweigh the costs.
2. Focus on gratitude.
My wife taught me to play the Thankfulness Game. It sounds a little hokie, but hang with me here.
When your thoughts get down in the dumps, try counting your blessings. Turn your attention from what you don’t have to what you do. List…
- Physical provisions
- Anything else
It’s almost impossible to think negative thoughts and be thankful at the same time. You’ve got to choose one or the other.
You might also want to have a friend play this you. It’s more fun with others, and your pal will benefit too.
3. Get a second opinion.
I tend to skew the facts. While I’m good at seeing other people’s points of view, I don’t see straight when I’m discouraged. That’s why I need to hear from other people.
I need to hear from one or two other people that I trust. Most of the time it’s my wife. And sometimes it’s a friend or family member.
I especially like hearing from rational thinkers. When I’m mired in emotion, I need objective feedback. The facts ground me and rescue me from emotional rollercoasters.
Who’s your confidant? You only need one or two.
4. Feed your mind.
I love listening to or reading something encouraging or inspiring. It helps me think about the good stuff and saves me from counterproductive introspection.
Zig Ziglar observed the following:
People who consume positive material each day recover from discouragement in no time. But those who fill their minds with negative content have a hard time bouncing back.
How do you use your drive time? Do you listen to talk radio? Or are you listening to an inspiring book or positive music?
Do you watch a bunch of TV at night? Or are you taking 15 to 30 minutes to read something that’ll help you grow?
The Bible is one of the best things you can feed your mind if you’re a Christian. It cleanses your thoughts and refocuses you on what matters.
What do you need to read or listen to?
5. Help someone.
I’m selfish. I spend a lot of time thinking about me. And that’s not a good thing. When I start to get stuck on myself, it’s a sign I need to spend more time thinking about others.
My mentor taught me that I can shift my thinking from self to others through serving. And there’s always someone I can help.
When you focus on helping other people…
1. You remember that everything is NOT about you.
2. You let go of negative thoughts.
3. And you have fun helping someone else.
Now, that’s a win-win!
It doesn’t have to take a lot of time either. What’s something small that you can do for someone else? Who can you serve?