Overcoming Toxic “Should Have” and “Could Have” Thoughts

In this podcast (episode #332) and blog, I talk about those thoughts that tend to steal our peace and affect our mental health, such as “would have”, “should have” and “if only”. 

Like a spider spins a web, we can “spin” webs around the thoughts we build, which form our mindsets. A mindset is a perspective, or how we view the issues we face.

These mindsets form specific thoughts patterns, which are built by our mind in response to our experiences. They can be healthy or toxic, and can impact our mental and physical wellbeing because of the mind-brain-body connection. 

If we are constantly trapped in a web of “if only/I can’t/could have/would have/should have”, this can become a toxic mindset. Remember, whatever we think about the most grows, and impacts our ability to think and our health.

Fortunately, these mindsets can be changed through the process of reconceptualization. This includes gaining knowledge that can help us turn a negative experience into a memory that allows us to grow as a person.

In the case of “if only/could have…” thoughts, when we reconceptualize the narrative we can move forward instead of getting “stuck” in a toxic, ruminative cycle. We can look for the knowledge we have gained, proactively using this experience to help us manage similar situations in the future. When we do this, we increase our mental resilience—it is essentially a mental “insurance policy”! 

Of course, we all battle with intrusive thoughts. Some people battle more than others, and some days are worse than other days. This is totally okay! 

We all need to remember that there is always a “because of…” behind our inner critic. It is important to identify this, and reconceptualize it—this makes our mental narrative work for us and not against us. 

One great way to do this is using the Neurocycle, which I discuss in detail in my latest book, Cleaning Up Your Mental Mess and app Neurocycle. The Neurocycle is a way to harness your thinking power through mind-management that I have developed and researched over the past three decades; any task that requires thinking can use it, which means everything can, because you’re always thinking! This de-stressing, self-regulation 5-step technique can really work with any issue, and can be done anywhere, any place and at any time—all you need is you! 

Remember, you will not solve everything in one day of Neurocycling. You will need to do this daily for at least 63 days—below is just a sampling of how to go about this, which should take you under an hour.

First, gather awareness of how you feel mentally and physically when you catch yourself saying something like “if only” or “should have”. Gather awareness of the specific statements you say, such as “What is wrong with me?” or “I am a failure!”. 

Next, reflect on how you feel. Why do you think you feel this way? How is your self-talk harmful?

Then, write down your reflections to help organize your thinking.

Next, reflect: think about what your inner critic is trying to tell you. What is it signaling to in your life? Is it trying to show you where the source is? Look for clues in your writing, then start to reconceptualize the critical voice. For example, change “I am not good enough” into “I am actually pretty amazing! I am embracing my mess to repair and grow”, or change “I’m stupid” into “I am smart—look at my achievements so far!”.

Lastly, do your active reach. This is a thought or action you need to practice to help you reconceptualize what you thought about in the previous step. For example, you can be thankful that your mind, brain and body are letting you know that how you have been speaking to yourself has a “because of…”…there is something there you need to look at and change by practicing seeing yourself or talking to yourself in a different way. Remember to practice this reconceptualized statement or action as much as possible to solidify the new thinking habit!

For more on managing toxic mindsets and Neurocycling, listen to my podcast (episode #332). If you enjoy listening to my podcast, please consider leaving a 5-star review and subscribing. And keep sharing episodes with friends and family and on social media. (Don’t forget to tag me so I can see your posts!).      

To learn more about how to manage your mental health and help others, join me at our 7th Annual Mental Health Solutions Retreat, December 2-4, 2021! The core focus of this conference is to give you simple, practical, applicable, scalable, and scientific solutions to help you take back control of your mental health, help others, and make impactful changes in your community. You will also learn how to manage the day-to-day stressors of life as well as those acute stressors that blindside us. Our goal is to address your most pressing mental health concerns, help you find answers, and equip you with the knowledge and resources you need to make the change from a life of barely surviving to one where you are thriving. Register today at drleafconference.com!     

This podcast is sponsored by:

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Podcast Highlights

3:00 Thoughts that can steal our peace

3:20 How thoughts can become toxic mindsets 

4:30 What it means to be “triggered”

6:40 How our experiences become memories 

8:30 The difference between thoughts & mindsets 

12:20 Making our thoughts work for us & not against us 

15:50 How to use self-regulation to manage toxic thoughts 

20:00 What is a probability mindset & why is it important? 

This podcast and blog is for educational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. We always encourage each person to make the decision that seems best for their situation with the guidance of a medical professional.

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