It can be quite easy to get sucked into patterns of negative thinking.
And, while we all know that negative thinking leads us down the wrong road, sometimes it is not so easy to stop it.
This article will give you 10 quick and simple ways to start this important shift away from the negative and toward the positive (or at the very least, away from the negative!)
The first step is identifying our negative thinking. This includes negative thoughts about your negative thoughts (AKA beating yourself up with thoughts like “why can’t I just make these stop!?” “Uch, I’m not getting anywhere with this. I should just give up.” “I’m sure none of my friends are this crazy”.) These thoughts only compound the problem and make you feel even more hopeless and down.
The key is taking the time to be aware of your thoughts. Once you realize you’re going down a negative pattern of thought, it is actually possible to turn it around in – sometimes in an instant.
Oftentimes this takes practice, but other times it just takes trying a number of different things to see what works for you, in particular.
Here are 10 ways to stop negative thinking in it’s tracks.
1. Move! Dancing often makes people feel great! Dance in your undies at home, or in a formal class, or with friends.
2. Use your senses. This can also be considered in the “move” category, but with a specific focus on your senses. So, if the thoughts in your mind are distracting and negative — use your senses to change your thoughts. For example, go for a walk and focus on your sensory perception of that nature around you. What do you hear? what do you see? Smell?
3. Think of a happy memory. It can be helpful to have some happy memories jotted down, so you can easily reference them when you feel down.
4. Try the “half” smile. It has been clinically proven that smiling actually causes us to feel better. While people often smile when they are happy, did you know that simply smiling, even when you’re feeling down, can make you feel happier as well?
5. Phone a friend! This one may not win you a million dollars … but it may help you get your mind off of your thoughts. Perhaps your friend needs help with something, and you might be astounded at how much shifting the focus onto someone else & being helpful makes yourself feel good!
6. Listen to music – Listening to music that you love and lifts you up can really help too. It’s smart to have a few “good mood” playlists ready to go, but in a pinch, with YouTube and other services, you don’t need one! Download someone else’s upbeat playlist. Pump up the volume and sing along if you like. Pretend you’re in the band! Or…just enjoy.7. Focus on what you are most grateful for. So, this gratitude thing is really catching on! I find some people get it, and others just don’t. In part, i think it’s because the term comes up a lot (gratitude) but otherwise, the exercise isn’t described more clearly. Or, when feeling down, people tend to have a harder time naming anything they feel “grateful” for.
As an alternative, if you’re the type of person who believes that luck plays a role in life, can you identify any time you were lucky (or at least not unlucky?) This could be something like, “I’m so grateful to have a healthy child” or “I’m so grateful I got an A on that exam that I totally didn’t study for, but I don’t have to worry about it anymore, and it won’t bring my grades down after all” or “Even though I find them annoying sometimes (a lot), I’m lucky I have parents that love me” or “I’m lucky a piano or an anvil didn’t fall on my head today”
8. Mindfulness: Notice the negative thinking, but DON’T judge the negative thoughts. Don’t beat yourself up. Simply allow the thoughts to come into your mind and drift back out like clouds in the sky. Don’t interact with them. Just allow them to pass in their own time.
If you would like some guidance with the concept of mindfulness, “Headspace” is a great meditation app that you can take anywhere and use anytime you have 10-15 minutes available. Plus, the narrator is British and his voice is very soothing. (I do not work for, own, profit from, or know the owners of headspace).
9. Breathing exercises. Again, consult Andi on Headspace or enter belly breathing in a youtube video search for some quick coaching.
10. Exercise! One more time for moving! Some studies show that only 7 minutes of exercise can boost your mood! Who doesn’t have 7 minutes?
There are many many more ways you can stop negative thinking, but the key point is that you literally CAN stop it in an instant if you really want to. The key is to understand that it’s happening and then change your state of mind.
These tips will likely take practice, but boy is it worth it!
Additionally, seeking the help of a profession to help you with these (and similar) tips is wise. Plus, a professional can also help you learn to most effectively question, analyze, and change any negative thoughts patterns you might have.
Dr. Amanda Itzkoff