Falling prey to negative thinking can be the difference between coping with a difficult situation and letting matters get worse. When bad things happen to good people, it is our tendency to try to determine that reason and often, what we find is that our internal dialogue begins to blame ourselves. Negative thoughts can play out like a rerun in your mind, internalizing the belief that you are responsible for a bad situation and this will undermine your confidence in turning the situation around. It’s almost impossible to rise above negativity once you’ve allowed yourself to fall into a pattern of “beating yourself up” mentally and berating yourself for potential mistakes you may have made in any given situation. Slowly, and without consciously doing so, your thoughts become toxic and begin to impact your behaviour. One can become mistrustfully and closed off to potential solutions, opportunities or needed help from your network of support.
There are a number of ways that we can catch ourselves in a negative thought cycle and by simply realizing what we are doing, stop the situation before it snowballs beyond our control.
There are typical types of negative thinking that fool us into believing that we are simply being proactive in correcting a challenge in our path. One small thing can occur and that can lead us into a train of thought that takes us way into the future and creates in our mind a scenario of what might happen in 10 years. Perhaps you are coping with a relationship issue and in your mind, you have imaginary conversations about what the other individual is thinking about you as if you are a mind reader when, in fact, an actual conversation would clear up any misconceptions. You may also compare your life to others, parade a liturgy of “what if” scenarios through your mind or go over past decisions and inflict ideas of what you should have done. None of these habits will resolve the challenge in front of you and instead, will only make you feel disheartened and stall you from taking positive action.
Rather than invest the energy into a cycle of debilitating thoughts, try to employ tactics that move you into a positive frame of mind and enable you to invest your energy into taking tangible steps to improve the challenging condition with which you are confronted. Clear your mind and spend your time calming yourself, clearing up mental clutter and creating wins for yourself through some of the following practices.
First, simply smile. Your body will feel this deliberate action and will respond accordingly. Look at yourself in the mirror and flash your pearly whites and say something positive. Next find a practice that shuts down the mental noise and allows you to take a quick break from thoughts of panic or anxiety. Meditate, do a mindful exercise such as yoga or put on some headphones and sing along to your favourite song. Once you feel more peaceful, call up your favourite friend, dig up your sense of humour and talk out the situation with levity, laughing at it along the way. This is invaluable in taking everything a bit less seriously and finding a way to minimize a problem to a point in which it appears much more manageable.
When you are on your own and you must manage your thoughts, be grateful. Take a good look at the reality of your circumstances and find every detail that does exists that is good and for which you are thankful. Your health, the sunshine, the people that support you, the taste of your coffee…every tiny detail that makes you happy, spend a moment focusing on it. You’ll be surprised how quickly you can move your mind into a healthier, more productive place through this technique.
Most importantly, never give up hope. Understand that change is a constant and that everything shifts, never lasting forever. Regardless of what you are facing, it will pass and you must simply remain positive throughout and keep moving forward.