Your internal dialogue, what people usually call “thinking”, is nothing more than the conversations you have with yourself. And those ongoing conversations influence the way you deal with the rest of the world around you. Also, they have a powerful impact on how you treat yourself.
It starts with just a thought or a feeling. Or maybe with a sentence spoken by someone else.
We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.
Everyone has negative thoughts from time to time, which is normal. But an excess of negative thinking can cause problems. If allowed to continue, negative thoughts can affect multiple areas of our wellbeing, including physical health.
Most of us spend a lot of time inside our own mind — worrying about the future, replaying events in the past, and generally focusing on the parts of life that leave us dissatisfied. While common, negative or unwanted thoughts can prevent you from enjoying experiences, distract you from focusing on what’s important, and drain your energy. They can also make you feel anxious and depressed.
What Causes Negative Thoughts?
The first thing to do is to find the why — what triggers set off your negative thinking? If you can find the answer as to why you are constantly having so many negative thoughts, then you will be one step closer to better managing the impact that negative thinking is having on your life.
The three leading causes of negative thoughts for most people are:
Fear of the Future
People can fear the unknown, and, as a result, they start thinking that the worst things can happen, such as failure or disaster. The future hasn’t happened, so people who fear it are distracted from living in the present, which is where they have more control over how they live their lives.
Anxiety About the Present
Many of us worry about what others think of us, what the traffic will be like going home, or if we are doing a good job. If we are in a toxic environment or relationship, we are more susceptible to negative thoughts.
Regret About the Past
Everyone does things that they are embarrassed or ashamed of. People who are prone to negative thinking tend to dwell on past mistakes and failures more than others.
No matter what causes your negative thoughts, you can manage them with some strategies. Start dealing with your negative thoughts as soon as you recognize that they are about to become a big problem in your life.
12 Tips To Help You Manage Your Negative.Thoughts
The good news is that with dedicated practice, you can replace negative thinking patterns with thoughts that actually help. This can make a huge difference in your day-to-day happiness and comfort.
Try these 12 ways to manage (and decrease) your negative thoughts:
1. Understand your negative thinking
Even though negative thoughts may be disruptive and cause you to feel inadequate, they are meant to be beneficial. Some psychologists even believe that a dose of pessimism can be healthy because it forces us to be more resourceful and reflect when things are not going well for us.
If you’ve been having negative thoughts, know that you’re not alone. Negative thinking makes up a large portion of our thoughts. Negative thinking might even be inherent in the psychological makeup of human beings. Like our ancestors, we’re constantly taking in our environment and trying to make it better. This process becomes a problem when we start to think that these negative thoughts are true
2. Question it all
Next time something happens and you start jumping to conclusions, pause and ask yourself: Is this really true? Can I know for sure? Could I be reading meaning into the situation which isn’t really there? Could I see things differently?’
Another powerful question to ask yourself when you’re caught in a state of anger or anxiety over a situation is: How long will this last? and Should I take it seriously?
You may suddenly realize that in the scheme of life, what’s making you feel bad right now is something you may hardly remember in five years time, or you may even be able to look back on it and laugh.
Putting things into perspective in this way can immediately shift your thinking towards more hopeful, positive thoughts.
3. Challenge negative thoughts
Whenever you have a distorted thought, stop and evaluate whether it is accurate. Think about how you would respond if a friend spoke about herself that way. You would probably offer a good rebuttal to his or her negative view.
Apply the same logic to your own thoughts. Ask yourself if you are assuming the worst will happen or blaming yourself for something that has not gone the way you wanted. And then think about other possible outcomes or reasons that something turned out differently than you hoped.
4. Avoid complaining
This is the human tendency when something bothers them they start complaining about each and everything (even when it is already fixed).
Since you know the pattern of your negative thoughts and have started to manage your thoughts, you might start now to stop complaining, instead, start working on solutions.
Remember, one step at a time. This way you can easily able to control your mind from dark thoughts.
5. Switch your focus
You can’t really focus on a negative thought and a positive thought or memory at the same time, so switch your focus to something more helpful or uplifting.
Go on a mental rampage of appreciation for all of the goodness in your life, like your loved ones, favorite activities, the beauty of nature, meal times, holidays or whatever it is that instantly makes you feel good.
6. Surround yourself with positive people
The people that you spend your time with have a huge influence on how you live your life.
If you want to better manage your negative thoughts, then spend time with a friend who has positive energy, a positive outlook on life, and is willing to listen to you share your thoughts and feelings.
7. Don’t let the fears drag you down
One common mistake people make when it comes to fears – is to become scared and run away from them instead of taking a closer look.
It’s of course natural to feel that impulse and to want to avoid it but when fears are vague they can become so much scarier than they need too.
So what can you do? Just question yourself, what’s the worst that could happen in this situation?
When you start to ground a fear like that and begin to look at it with your feet firmly planted on the ground then you most often realize that the worst that could happen isn’t really that bad. It’s often something you can make a plan to come back from it were to happen.
By doing this you gain clarity about the situation and what you can do about it and so the fear does tend to become quite a bit smaller.
8. The Balloon Exercise – throw away your negative thoughts
This strategy the most unusual. Essentially, what you are doing here is throwing your negative thoughts away.
Clearing your head of negative thoughts by writing them down and letting them go in a physical way releases you from a lot of negative energy. Some people write down their negative thoughts on a piece of paper and throw in the rubbish bin.
You may also write your negative thoughts, fears, and regrets on an inflated balloon, and then release it into the sky. Find the technique that feels best for you.
9. Release judgment
We all judge ourselves and others, usually unconsciously. Constantly comparing ourselves to other people or comparing our lives to some ideal breeds dissatisfaction. When you are able to let go of judgment (not easy, but possible), you will likely feel more at ease.
Some ways to take a break from judgmental thoughts include recognizing your own reaction, observing it, and then letting it go. Another helpful technique is to “positive judge.” When you notice you are negatively judging a person, yourself, or a situation, look for a positive quality, too.
10. Practice self-compassion
Self-compassion is the art of treating yourself with gentleness, kindness and understanding – the same way you would treat a close friend or loved one.
When you’re caught up in negative thinking, particularly about yourself, take a step back and realize that although you may not be perfect and life doesn’t always go to plan, you are still worthy of love and acceptance and everything will work out in the end.
Nothing you ever did or that was done to you could ever touch even in the slightest the radiant essence of who you are.
11. Bring positivity into someone else’s life
If you get stuck in negative thoughts or victim thinking then one of the simplest ways to get out of your own head and the thoughts bouncing around in there is to focus outwards and on someone else.
By adding positivity to his or her life in some way you too can start to feel better and more optimistic again.
A few ways to add positivity to someone’s life is to:
- Be kind. Give him a genuine compliment, hold up the door or let him into your lane while driving your car.
- Help out. Give her some good advice that have helped you or help out with moving houses or planning and preparing for the party next weekend.
- Just be there. Listen for a few minutes in a focused way as he vents. Or talk his difficult situation over to help him to start finding his way out of it.
12. Start tomorrow in a way that sets a positive tone for your day
How you start your day often sets the tone for it. A pessimistic or negative start makes it hard to turn things around. But a positive start makes it a lot easier to just keep going with that emotion and the optimistic way of thinking until it is bedtime again.
A couple of simple ways to get your day off to a positive start is:
+ A simple reminder that you see right after you wake up
It could be one or a couple of quotes that inspire you. Or maybe the goal or dream that you’re most passionate about right now. Write it down on a piece of paper and place it on your bedside table or on the fridge. Or type it in as a part of the lock screen on your smart phone.
+ Get some positive information or conversation flowing into your mind
Listen to a podcast, read a new blog post or a chapter in a book that motivates you or makes you laugh. Or have a fun or uplifting conversation with your partner, kids or a co-worker.
The key to happiness – or that even more desired thing, calmness – lies not in always thinking happy thoughts…No mind on earth with any kind of intelligence could spend a lifetime enjoying only happy thoughts. The key is in accepting your thoughts, all of them, even the bad ones. Accept thoughts, but don’t become them.
Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive
With dedicated practice and commitment, you can replace negative thought patterns with thoughts that will actually help you achieve happiness and a sense of calm acceptance. There is no doubt that the more positive thoughts you have the more positive results you will achieve in life, so get started today.