Flip Your Script

How I reset my negative loop to wake up feeling more hopeful these days.

How would your friends and family describe you? Are you more ambitious and type-A with lots of structure, high hopes, and a well-tuned schedule? Or are you a bit more relaxed, less intense and ambitious – a more go-with-the-flow sort of outlook?

For most of my life I’ve been more optimist than pessimist. More glass is half-full than half-empty. My friends have said I’m high energy, outgoing, Type-A. An optimist. But that was all pre-2019. Before struggling in my relationship. Before I got hired into – and quickly quit – a very negative, toxic workplace. Before our sweet dog Bernie was hit by a car. And then just when the sun began to peak from beneath the dark clouds, along came Covid.

This is what life does. Ready or not, it just keeps happening. I realize by and large that my setbacks are not unique. Painful yes, but all a part of being human. We’ve all known joy. We’ve all known sadness. We take the good with the bad. 

But how to break free from these negative loops when they occur? How to get ourselves back on track when these setbacks knock us down?

Groundhog’s Day

Among my favorite movies of all time is Groundhog’s Day, the tale of cynical TV weatherman Phil Connors, played by Bill Murray, who becomes trapped in a time loop that forces him to endlessly repeat the same day. It is a metaphor for so many times in our own lives. And I always feel more hopeful at the happy ending, when – spoiler alert! – Phil breaks free from the loop.

About a week into our Covid-sheltering, I felt just like Phil Connors. Except for me each morning began with the same dreadful pit in my gut that said, “Yuck! I do not want to do this!” Think the frowny emoji with the stuck-out red tongue. ?

Day after day, merely opening my eyes seemed to trigger a repeated loop of angst, emotions of dread. Hard as I tried, my poor brain could translate none of it. “What to do with these feelings?” I felt helpless.

This scene replayed every morning until I dragged myself from bed feeling the weight of a 50-pound sandbag dragging on my soul. That sandbag followed me into the kitchen, to my office, and stuck with me through most of each day.

One tiny new habit

Roughly three weeks into Covid, as I woke once again with the “yucks,” these seven words inexplicably entered my head and as I sat up in bed: “Today is going to be a GREAT DAY!” I remember I said them again in my head, and then I realized where I’d heard it before. It was the self-affirmation from a very corny sales training video I had seen years before. Self-affirmations are a classic tool for sales people. Meditators call them mantras. As I sat up in bed, I said the phrase a 3rd time out loud and with sarcastic gusto: “Today is going to be a GREAT DAY!” Facing the mirror in my bedroom, determined expression on my sleepy face, I was an actor rehearsing her big line. And I’ll be damned if I wasn’t feeling good.

Mock that corny motivational video I thought, but I had drunk my own Kool-Aid! Call me foolish – I felt foolish! – but the shift in my gut was real. The yuck was out – replaced with a sense of relief, a feeling of calm. A hint of some hope.

What’s your mantra?

Self-affirmation. Positive self-talk. A mantra. Whatever you call it, this simplest daily habit – if you really try it – will flip your script, shift your gut, switch your “yuck” to “yes!” Sound totally corny? Well if it flips me to hopeful, I’m in.

Plain and simple you are flipping your script. You’re declaring to yourself, out loud and with awkward enthusiasm, a new and possible truth. And if you will simply try this tiny new habit, it has been proven to help scores of humans just like us turn the page on insecurities and self-doubt, and want to take one more step, believe they can make it through another day. Or at the very least believe that getting out of bed could be worth it today.

Get set to reset!

Now it’s your turn. Are you ready to meet that negative “gut yuck” and flip your script of uncertainty, fear and self-doubt that would dare to derail your day? Ready to reset your brain with a more positive, empowering awareness? Follow these three simple steps:

Step 1: Choose a few short, encouraging mantras and try saying them out loud, with as much emphasis and enthusiasm as you can bear – remember they need to feel fun!

Step 2: Write down the mantras and put them near your bed. 

Step 3: As soon as you wake up and before you get out of bed, choose one mantra and say it 3-4 times out loud and with greater mock enthusiasm each new time. Here are three more mantras I’ve used:

I feel strong and calm and CONFIDENT today!

Today is a new day and I plan to enjoy EVERY MINUTE!

Whatever today may bring, I will handle it with GUSTO!

The key is not to think when you wake up, but simply open your eyes, sit up in bed and put your focus on that mantra first thing. Through this basic repetition you are resetting your brain to a new and more positive channel. A more powerful loop.

To think that Bill Murray had to overhaul his entire personality and win true love to escape his endless repetitive loop. All you have to do is say a few goofy lines out loud – but with gusto!

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