For most who have realized that their thought patterns are working against them, learning how to change negative thinking can change your life. Life is not simple and, unfortunately, negative thoughts pop up and negative events happen. Negative thoughts may occur for a variety of reasons, including stress, depression, anxiety, etc. Some of these negative thoughts may be due to minor events, like not being invited to a friend’s wedding, or they may be more serious, like not being selected for advancement in the workplace despite being qualified and experienced. For some, it is easier to simply forget these negative thoughts, but a significant number of us continue to relive these events with recurrent negative thoughts, which often lead to stress, lack of sleep, mental fatigue, animosity, bitterness, and a poor quality of life. More distressing is that persistent negative thinking can lead to dysfunction in personal and professional relationships.
METHODS AND TECHNIQUES
Fortunately, in most cases, one can use techniques or methods to reduce or erase negative thoughts. So, if you are wondering how to stop negative thinking, keep reading. Here are a few ways you can try to disrupt those persistent negative thoughts.
- Keep a journal. The first step in how to change negative thinking is to keep a journal. Write down the negative thoughts, the corresponding distortion, and how you feel. The key to managing negative thoughts is self-assessment. Challenge your own negative distortions by asking if there are negative and positive outcomes and which ones you have decided to keep. Ask yourself why you are developing the negative thoughts and how it is affecting you.
- Review negative thoughts. After you have made a note of the thoughts, spend 5-10 minutes reviewing them daily. After a time, you will slowly start to have control over the negative thoughts, and realize that most of the bad things you were executing to come, actually never came.
- Do not get into the blame game. When you have negative thoughts, do not blame yourself or others. In most cases, you will feel that you have no control over the negative thoughts so it might feel natural to blame them on yourself or someone else. When you write down a negative thought, when reviewing it later, ask yourself if you really believe it is true. Take a step back and challenge the thought by asking what if the negative thought is not true.
- How would you manage a friend? For each negative thought, consider what compassionate advice you would give to a friend. Use the same compassionate self-talk to manage your negative thoughts. It’s hard to take our own advice, but try giving yourself advice you might give to a friend if they told you that they were experiencing the things you are.
- Seek support. Sometimes the negative thoughts can be overwhelming and affect your lifestyle. In such cases, seek support from friends, family, or a professional to help you challenge the negative distortions about yourself.
- Be flexible. When countering negative thoughts, you ought to relax, be stress-free, and be flexible in your thinking. By managing stress and fear, you can make a positive change in your mood.
- Focus on the present. For example, if you feel sad because of a negative thought, accept the sadness, but, at the same time, say to yourself that this is only a transient phase. Take a step back in your mind and try to look at the situation from afar, and ask yourself if what you’re worrying about will likely be something you will still be worrying about in a week, month or year.
- Take a break. If you have been having negative thoughts for a long time, take some time out and do something for yourself. Go to the park, exercise, treat yourself to a nice dinner, watch a movie, or invite some friends over. This kind of interlude can rejuvenate your mind and ease the stress. It is easier to spiral when you are alone and in your head.
- Be thankful. A gratitude journal has been researched and proven in some cases to greatly ease stress and boost happiness. By deliberately focussing on the positive, you can crowd out the negative. Be grateful for what you have and remember the negative thoughts are only temporary.
- Change your lifestyle. To prevent the negative thoughts from affecting you physically and emotionally, change your lifestyle. Eat healthily, exercise regularly, don’t smoke, and get adequate sleep. This advice is a cliche for a reason. If you make even marginal improvements in all of these categories, you are very likely to see more than a marginal improvement in your mood and thought patterns.
- Stay social. Another way to counter negative thoughts is to make social connections. Join a support group, enjoy time with friends and family, take up a new hobby, or join a gym or a club.
- Try a new activity. Try different activities, like yoga, meditation, tai chi, and deep breathing exercises to calm your body and mind.
Most people, at one point or another, have wondered how to change negative thinking. These tips are worthless without action. It may seem easy to discard these as unhelpful without ever trying them. But, like most things in life, success comes with belief and action.
If you have tried everything to get rid of the negative thoughts but they still persist, it is highly recommended that you see a mental health care provider. Sometimes the cause may be depression or anxiety, which can be treated. These professionals want to help you find a way to stop negative thinking.
While mild negative thoughts may be managed at home, chronic cases can really benefit from formal treatment, like cognitive behavior therapy. This treatment helps you restructure your thoughts by first identifying the negative thoughts and adapting more positive responses. Once you know how CBT works, you can do the therapy at home, but, initially, you may have to work with a psychologist to get a grasp of the technique.
HOW DOES COGNITIVE RESTRUCTURING HELP?
Cognitive restructuring follows chronological steps and includes the following:
- You first ask yourself if the thought is real.
- When this thought happened in the past, what course of action did you take, and did that help?
- What was the cause of the negative thought?
- If you continue to believe the negative thought, what do you gain or lose?
- Are you aware that your negative thought is due to cognitive distortion?
- What would you tell a friend if he or she had the same negative thought?
- Will there be any good that can come out of this negative thought?
- To combat the negative thought patterns, focus on the positive.
- Whatever positive thoughts you select to replace the negative thoughts have to be realistic and practical.
The treatment of negative thoughts is not simple, and it can take a long time to erase them. While there are some home remedies you can use, in most cases, if the negative thoughts are chronic, you will need to seek professional mental help. The earlier you seek help, the better the outcome. While it may be difficult to share your private thoughts with another person, it is important to seek care, as these therapists can help create a healthy way to deal with thoughts.
The professionals at Cano Health are here to help. We put together a wellness program that encourages our patients to be proactive in their care. Contact us today if you are interested in working toward a better future for yourself.