Negative thoughts can sabotage your personal and professional life. Dwelling too long or too deeply on negative thoughts can even impact mental health. Negative thoughts have been linked to increased stress and bouts of depression. For some people, ‘looking on the bright side’ of a situation is difficult. In fact, some people appear to be naturally cheerful and more resilient to the onslaught of negative self-talk and negative emotions. However, much of what humans do only improves with practice. Even if we believe we are naturally pessimistic, we can achieve a higher degree of positivity in our thinking with conscious effort.
Breaking the Pattern of Negative Thinking
By focusing on positive thoughts, individuals can disrupt the pattern of negative thinking—even if negative thinking is something they’ve been accustomed to doing. First, in order to break the pattern of negative thinking, you must recognize that you’re doing it. After all, our negative thoughts seem compelling; our fears seem entirely plausible. It’s easy to convince ourselves of the need to worry on the negatives. So rather than argue with yourself about whether or not your thoughts are plausible, reflect on whether or not they are negative. If you are experiencing any types of negative thoughts, there is a need to combat them with the other side of the equation, with positive thoughts. By interrupting your stream of negative thinking, you can begin to break its pattern.
Try a Positive Thinking Exercise
Many people believe in their negative thoughts, which makes it difficult to embrace the positive ones. That’s why it’s typically necessary to adopt a methodology, a type of exercise that forces you to recognize alternatives to your negative thoughts. One source uses a list type of method. In this case, list out all of your negative thoughts—your fears, losses, insecurities, and even your irritations. In a column opposite this list, write a positive response to each. For instance, discuss how a failure helped teach you a lesson. Describe a time where you bounced back from a loss. If a colleague irritates you, write down something positive about them. The exercise is in itself a disruption of your perpetually negative thoughts. In other words, it’s a positive step in the right direction.
Find Positive Friends or Mentors
When you find it difficult to think positively, try turning to a friend, family member, or mentor who excels at thinking positively. If you surround yourself with your own negative thoughts and are immersed in negative situations, it can be tough to see the light. You can learn from your positive-thinking peers by discussing how they manage to avoid the pitfalls of negative thinking and what they do to cultivate a positive mindset. They might wake up and force themselves to make a positive affirmation. They might have a knack for finding humor in all situations—even the negative ones. You can learn from your friends, but again, you have to practice their tips in order to get better at thinking positive thoughts yourself.
Feed Your Brain Positives
If you feel like there’s nothing in your mind except for your negative thoughts, you might need to feed it with positivity. What does that mean? For some, reading positive affirmations is a way to inspire themselves to focus on positives. Some people find that performing a service is a way to infuse their mind with positivity. Reading a positive novel or watching a film with a positive focus are also helpful for inspiring positive thoughts. If you find that one type of activity works, repeat it often; use it to help you practice your positive thinking. Feed your mind positive experiences like:
- Eat a healthy meal
- Take the dog for a walk
- Recycle something old
- Find a new hobby
- Go swimming
- De-clutter your home
- Bring a book to the beach
- Go sightseeing
Negative thoughts have a way of isolating us and prevent us from doing and enjoying positive experiences. When you force yourself to engage in a positive experience, you are also encouraging the generation of positive thoughts.
Thinking is almost akin to breathing…it’s just something we do without consciously trying. However, you can consciously try to stop thinking. If you’re lost in a hurricane of negative thinking, do something that normally takes up your concentration like a craft or an activity like running that can help you mentally zone out. Essentially, when you stop thinking even for thirty minutes, you’ve given your mind a rest and you’re allowing it to essentially heal from the battering its been taking from your negative thinking. After this rest, try a positive thinking exercise as your brain may be more susceptible to it at that point.
Here’s a Negative You Have to Keep in Mind
Negative thinking leads to chronic stress and as world-class health centers like Mayo Clinic have reported, chronic stress is linked to a wide array of physical and mental health conditions. In other words, thinking negatively is bad for your health. That’s not something you can ignore. If you have trouble with the activities or ideas mentioned here, you may already be suffering from a condition like anxiety or depression. While positive thinking may help you recover from these conditions, if they have reached a serious level, you may need to discuss your mindset with your healthcare provider. Ultimately, they, too, will encourage you to find new ways to promote positive thinking.
By practicing positive thoughts, you can change your thought pattern and steer your thoughts away from negative imaginings. It isn’t always easy and some people may genuinely find it more difficult than others, but through practice, improvement is entirely possible—and shedding those negative thought patterns is definitely going to benefit your physical and emotional health.