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How to deal with negative thoughts (the healthy way)

How to deal with negative thoughts (the healthy way)

Overcoming negative thinking is one of the major struggles you might encounter when working with the Law of Attraction. After all, even as you’re harnessing all these amazing new tools that help you to think positively and look towards a brighter future, you’re still fighting unhelpful limiting beliefs from earlier in life; many of these beliefs can creep in unbidden and start to disrupt your image of a better life.

Thankfully, however, there are many practical things you can do to help yourself stop negative thinking patterns. Here are five of the most effective ways to stop negative thinking.

5 Techniques To Stop Negative Thinking

1. Thought Stopping

How to deal with negative thoughts (the healthy way)

When you notice that negative thoughts or images are starting to enter your mind, try actually say “stop!” to yourself. If you’re alone, you can try saying this out loud, but it can also be very effective when just said in your head.

If you prefer, you can use language that’s stronger than “stop” (such as “Get out of my head!” or even something a bit more colorful). For people who aren’t as moved by words, images can be more powerful. The classic example is a bright red stop sign that you picture in your mind’s eye when intrusive thoughts begin to appear.

There are also some more direct approaches to thought stopping. For example, you can try the old tactic of splashing your face with water or just change the direction of your thinking. Some people like to count backward from 100 to 1.

2. Positive Affirmations

Positive affirmations can be used in a couple of different ways. First, they might be deployed in the same way as thought stopping techniques. In other words, you might say an affirmation as soon as you feel a negative thought coming your way.

For example, if you’re working to find a new partner using the Law of Attraction and catch yourself thinking that you don’t deserve love, you can say “I am a valuable, lovable person and I will find a great relationship.”

Secondly, however, saying affirmations on a daily basis starts to reshape your thinking, making them a powerful tool even when you’re already in a good mood. Design your affirmations carefully, and try making eye contact with yourself in the mirror when you recite them.

3. Enforcing Boundaries

How to deal with negative thoughts (the healthy way)

If you’ve lived with negative thinking for a very long time, you might think it’s unrealistic to just suddenly expect yourself to change your approach. In this situation, even affirmations and thought stopping techniques may seem to merely delay negative thinking for a later date.

If this sounds familiar, you might want to spend a couple of weeks at least enforcing boundaries when it comes to negative thinking. The idea here is that you choose a fixed, limited period for allowing your mind to entertain negative thoughts and that you commit to forcibly stopping or fighting them at every other time of the week.

When you’re reassured that you will have time to consider these thoughts, you may find they seem less powerful and have less potential to dominate your mind. Further, many people find that they can’t even think of anything when they come to their scheduled time to allow contemplation of negative thoughts and that this actually helps them to break their pattern.

4. Writing and Destroying

If your negative thoughts are linked to a specific strong emotion like fear, anger or jealousy, try letting them all out in writing. Use a pen and paper, and really express all of that pent-up negativity. You can then choose a way of destroying this paper, symbolizing your commitment to moving on. For example, you could tear it up, crush it into a ball, burn it, or scribble over it.

Those who aren’t as keen on using words to express themselves, artistic endeavors can have a similar impact. For example, you could sculpt a representation of your negativity, or paint it, and then destroy that (or change its shape).

The point of this technique is just to get some kind of physical representation of your negativity so that you can banish it in some satisfying symbolic way.

How to deal with negative thoughts (the healthy way)

5. “Just Because”

You can also try to reason with yourself when you feel you are starting to spiral into negativity. This technique involves finding a sentence you can recite to yourself in order to acknowledge that you have power over your bodily responses and to increase that power over time.

Practice this approach by taking a deep, cleansing breath and say something like “Just because I’ve had some bad relationships doesn’t mean I have to do this to my body” or “Just because I’ve struggled to find a good job doesn’t mean I will never find one in the future.”

After your chosen sentence, say “Now relax” (letting the word “relax” be your cue to exhale, letting out tension and negativity).

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How to deal with negative thoughts (the healthy way)Negative thoughts can easily overcome our lives, making things feel dark and uncomfortable, even giving us a feeling of hopelessness and leading to depression and anxiety. In many cases, these negative thoughts that, if left alone could make us feel terrible, can be overcome. Although it can be hard to prevent negative thoughts once they start, it is possible, and the best method to do so is to shift our thinking to a more positive mode. Here are some tips on how to do it.

Meditate

Meditation is a wonderful way to stop thinking negative thoughts and to focus on the more positive aspects of our lives. When you meditate, the idea is to clear your mind entirely, which means that you won’t be thinking of the negative anymore. There are many different techniques to meditation, each one right for someone, so it may take a little trial and error to find the method that is right for you, but don’tlet that put you off; once you have found your favorite way to meditate, stick with it and you’ll quickly see the difference.

Most meditation starts with sitting comfortably and completely still and focusing solely on your breathing. It can completely relax both body and mind, and when you have finished, you will be in a much calmer, much more positive place.

If you prefer to do something more active, then yoga might work well for you. This ancient practice is similar to meditation in that it relaxes you completely, but it is also an exercise method, involving moving and stretching, so it can work well for your fitness levels too.

For A Guide On The Different Breathing Techniques And Their Benefits, you can visit:

Smile

There are many reasons why someone might feelbad and be thinking negative thoughts. It could be due to emotional trauma, about which you can read more here. It might be because they are grieving, or because they are feeling overwhelmed, or any number of other things. Sometimes it will be necessary to visit a medicalprofessional such as a doctor or psychologist for help, but other times help is possible in the form of positive thoughts pushing out the negative ones.

Smiling is a way to do this. Even if the last thing you feel like doing is smiling, smile anyway. This fake smile can actually trick your mind into thinking more positive thoughts, and eventually, with enough time and practice, that fake smile can become a real one, and those positive thoughts can become a lot more easy to find. The brainis a wonderful tool when we use it correctly, and this is one of the ways it can be done. Smiling changes the moodrelievesstressand relaxes the face because it takes fewer muscles to smile than it does to frown. All of this will make you feel much better.

Be Around Positive People

You might just want to be by yourself when you’re feeling negative and low, but that could be a bad idea; with no one to talk to and bounce ideas off, your negative thoughts can linger. Surrounding yourself with positive people will help you immensely. Just being around them can help to lift your mood, and talking to them can help your thoughts switch from negative to positive. These people will help to put things into perspective for you, and your negative thoughts won’t have any space to grow. You might even be able to come up with a plan for your future by discussing the options open to you, and that will make you feel more positive too; it is always good to have something to look forward to in life.

Change Perspective

When something happens to you, how do you frame your thoughts about it? It could be that they are framed in a negative way, focusing on the bad things that could happen in this new situation, rather than the good. It will be a challenge to change, but it is important to try if you want to have more positive thoughts than negative ones.There will always be challenges in life, so looking at them with a positive slant – looking for the ‘silver lining’ in every situation – will help you get through them, and might even mean that you are more successful than you otherwise would have been. Working with a life coach can help to change your perspective.

Take Responsibility

Some people always assume that whatever supposedly negative things are happening to them it must be someone else’s fault. That is not a good way to live your life, as you will never take responsibility for anything that happens to you, and it is the ability to take responsibility that is so important when it comes to having positive thoughts. Mistakes happen, problems arise, and life is not as smooth sailing as we might like, but that is all part of what makes it interesting.

When these issues happen, taking responsibility for them means you are better equipped to change things around – if you blame someone else and wait for them to fix things, you might be feeling negative for a long while. Doing it yourself, taking charge and being in control, means positive feelings can come to you much more quickly.

Help Someone Else

There is always going to be someone around you who needs help, so look out for them. If you are feeling negative, helping someone elsewill also help you, and ensure that your thoughts turn from your own problems to thinking of ways to make someone else’s life better. In the process, you will be automatically thinking more positively, and enabling those positive thoughts to take root in your mind. Through helping someone else, you can find ways to change the negative situations in your own life too.

There Is No Such Thing As Perfection

Negative thoughts can come so very easily through trying to reach perfection, which is why it is important to realize that there is no such thing as perfection, even if it looks as though there is. Striving for the impossible is sure to give you negative thoughts because you will feel as though you keep missing. Instead of this, strive to be the best you can be – you may not be perfect, but neither is anyone else.

How to deal with negative thoughts (the healthy way)

How to deal with negative thoughts (the healthy way)

As a software engineer at a major tech company in Silicon Valley, Amanda has a high-pressure, high-status job.

From the outside, she looks organized and methodical in the way she approaches her work, but on the inside, negative thoughts dominated her mind. She felt as if she was barely keeping it together.

“I’ll sit down to code,” she told me, “And when I get to a difficult part, I totally freeze up. My hands will be paralyzed above the keyboard. But my mind is going wild. I’ll replay meetings in head, recalling how another engineer critiqued my work, or beating myself up for saying something dumb.”

Once Amanda fell down that spiral in her mind, she couldn’t stop it. In an attempt to feel better, she’d try to go on social media or start answering email. Before before she knew it, the day was shot and she got zero work done. She would tell herself she’d do better tomorrow. But tomorrow was exactly the same.

How Negative Thoughts Come To Mind

Amanda is dealing with what psychologists call Automatic Negative Thoughts or ANTs.

As therapist Dr. Russ Harris explains in the book, The Happiness Trap, the brain is predisposed to focus on the negative in order to solve problems and avoid things that might hurt us.

This negativity bias can influence how we see the people and world around us, as well as affect our ability to pay attention, learn, remember, make decisions and evaluate risk.

From a neurological perspective, the brain releases chemicals when we have thoughts—positive or negative—and more importantly looks for evidence to support what we’re thinking, whether or not our thoughts are healthy or accurate.

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Over time, that can change the chemistry in our body and the patterns in our brain. In other words, every time Amanda thinks, “I must be stupid because I’m getting stuck,” her body released stress hormones. Her brain would look for confirming evidence—in meetings, in past interactions—of her being “stupid.”

The types of thoughts that make up ANTs are called cognitive distortions. These unhelpful thoughts may have served us in the past, but are no longer productive.

Maybe at one point in our lives, thinking this way helped motivate us to get gold stars, earned us approval from others, or helped us feel safe in the face of fear.

But today, these feelings are what make us spiral out of control, feel bad about ourselves, or cause us to get stuck—just like Amanda.

There are lots of ways that cognitive distortions convince us of things that aren’t really true.

For example, have you ever thought the following?

  • “I always fail when I try something new”
  • “I am never comfortable with a bunch of people”
  • “I got lucky this time”
  • “I know my boss will critique my work, so I might as well not try”
  • “I should be doing something better with my time”
  • “I’m stressed, so I must be a pain to hang out with”

All of these are common cognitive distortions that happen to everyone—literally, everyone. Cognitive distortions are universal. But the good news is that these patterns can be changed.

How to Stop Negative Thoughts

There’s a four-step process to change unhelpful thinking patterns.

By paying more attention to how we talk to ourselves, becoming aware of distorted thoughts, and acting more compassionately way towards ourselves, we can move to a place where we stop the brain from reinforcing negativity.

This process rewires our brains to look for evidence that refutes negative thought patterns, and replace them with more realistic, balance thinking that helps you move towards your goals.

Step 1: For the next few days, record examples of negative self-talk or troublesome thoughts that come up. In the first column of a new spreadsheet, write down the specific phrases that occupy your inner monologue.

Step 2: Label each negative thought with the type of cognitive distortion it maps to in the second column.

Step 3: Refute the distortion by generating 1 to 3 examples of situations or experiences that prove this distortion is incorrect. Write down any facts or truths that logically demonstrate why the thought is a myth. Identify external factors that may have contributed to the situation, including other people.

Step 4: Act like a “Wiser You” by pretending to be a close friend is in the exact same situation. What advice would you give? What would you say to encourage or comfort your friend?

For example, if Amanda was doing this exercise, her columns might look like:

1: I must be stupid because I’m always getting stuck on coding projects

2: Emotional Reasoning

3: I am not stupid because I’m the only engineer on the team who can code in JavaScript and Ruby. I have figured out workarounds for a bunch of projects, including the one I’m working on now, that my coworkers couldn’t.

4. I think you should take a quick break. Go for a walk, get a cup of coffee, and come back to work in 15 minutes. If you’re still stuck, go talk to Jeff. He’s the most seasoned engineer on the team and may have experienced a solution that you don’t know about yet. We’ve all hit a wall with coding—so don’t beat yourself up about it. If he’s not around, post in the codes Slack group to get other ideas.

You Can Stop Negative Thoughts – With Practice

In Amanda’s case, we used the exercise above for about two weeks until she started to internalize the process.

When Amanda learned how to catch and respond to her negative thoughts in the moment, she was able to look at the problem she was facing objectively and get creative about finding solutions rather than internalizing her failures and getting stuck in negative emotions.

In the end, feeling out of control is the result of letting your brain run in a groove that’s unhelpful and unproductive.

If you imagine a bowling alley, this groove is like the gutter on each side of a lane. By becoming aware of the thoughts that cause your bowling ball to spin into the gutter, what the stories or the thoughts that come up over and over again (your “greatest hits” as I call them), you can start to play differently.

You can learn how to twist your wrist to get the ball to roll straight toward the pins. You can depersonalize what you’re thinking and see it more objectively. You’re not a terrible bowler, destined to always score the lowest in any given game. You just need to undo bad habits, learn new skills, and work on how you throw the ball. And with practice, your ball will roll straight and true.