Negative thinking can contribute to serious health-related problems such as social anxiety, depression, stress, and low self-esteem. The key to changing your negative thinking and thoughts is to understand how you think right at this moment, then use mindfulness and meditation strategies to change these native thinking and thought patterns or to make them have less of an effect.
“Our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors are all linked, so, as result, our thinking and thoughts impact how we feel, act, and behave. So, although we all have some very unhelpful thoughts and we often indulge in negative thinking from time to time, it’s important to know what to do when they start to pour and appear so we don’t let them change the course of our day,” explains Rachel Goldman, Ph.D., a psychologist, and clinical assistant professor.
Therapy and mindfulness practices are known to be very effective and can often help change negative thinking patterns, but you can also learn how to change your thought patterns with the help of mindful habits. This article discusses some of the steps you can take to change your negative thinking.
I. Automatic Negative Thoughts:
It could be that as a result of past experiences you tend towards negative thinking; you’ve learned to be helpless, hopeless, and resigned. You believe that you have no control over current and future situations and circumstances. You’ve told yourself there’s no way out of problems and difficulties; there’s nothing you can do to change things. You’re unwilling to try.
Positive thinkers, on the other hand, see difficulties as not being permanent; they’re temporary setbacks. This tendency to put the most favorable construction upon actions and events, or to anticipate the best possible outcome is, of course, optimism.
Optimism allows you to feel in control of your life and believe there is something you can do to manage events. Optimism encourages you to look on the more positive side of events or conditions and to expect the most favorable outcome.
II. How to Stop Thinking About Something?
Think Positive! Get into the habit of positive thinking. For anyone thing you’d like to stop doing, to let go of, write down what you have to gain; how you would benefit. What would letting go then give you the time, freedom, space, or money to do?
If you find it difficult to admit that you made a mistake, realize that at the time, you made the right choice. So yes, at the time it seemed like a good idea to, for example, enroll in the course, but now you realize it’s not working out for you. Your feelings have changed.
III. What is Negativity?
Negativity is often defined as a tendency to be downbeat, disagreeable, and skeptical. It’s a pessimistic attitude and outlook that always expects the worst.
Negative thinking refers to a pattern of thinking negatively about yourself and your surroundings. Whilst everyone experiences negative thoughts now and again, negative thinking that seriously affects the way you think about yourself and the world and even interferes with work/study and everyday functioning could be a symptom of a mental illness, such as depression, anxiety disorders, personality disorders, and schizophrenia.
IV. How to Stop Negative Thoughts Anxiety?
Whatever it is you need to do first; whatever it is you need to change, to stop doing, or to let go of, that’s the first step towards your goal. It’s the first step towards what you want to be doing. The process involved dropping a commitment, letting go, or walking away from an unhappy situation.
How to Avoid Negative Thinking:
1. Identify the goal.
What, exactly, is it that you want to stop or drop?
2. Identify the benefits.
What will you gain by letting go? How will you feel – relieved? Pleased? Overjoyed? What will letting go than free you up to do?
3. Think through your options.
How might you pull out? What information, advice, and support might you need? Think about who else could help; talk to others who have faced the same challenges; listen to how they coped.
Also, think about how flexible you’re prepared to be; whatever it is you want to stop doing, is your decision final? Or might you be prepared to negotiate and compromise? So if, for example, you need to tell someone you can’t run the charity, cause, or campaign anymore, are you going to pull out at the end of next month, or might you be prepared to stay until they’ve found someone to replace you?
4. Identify the steps you’ll take.
Whatever it is that you need to do, breaking it down into smaller, more doable steps can help make it far less daunting. It’s probably not going to be easy, but once you’ve taken the first step you’ll have got things started, and you can deal with it from there.
So, whether you need to ditch the job, leave the course, or let go of the friendship, take that first step. Write that letter. Send the email. Fill in the form. Make the appointment. Make that first phone call. Talk to the other person. Tell your friends and family. Get legal advice. Whatever it is that you need to do, take that first step and set the ball rolling!
V. Negative Thought and Negative Thinking Examples:
Overcoming Negative Thinking Example #1:
A couple of years ago Dev got a place at university to study digital film production. But at the end of the first term, he realized that it wasn’t right for him. He realized that in three years, not only would he have a large debt, but even though he’d have a degree, he’d still have to start at the bottom of the film industry, as a runner.
Dev knew he certainly didn’t need a degree to be a runner. Rather than wait three years and have a £30 000 debt, Dev wanted to start as a runner now. However, not only would he have to tell his parents and ask if he could move back home, but he’d also already incurred that term’s student loan, his parents had paid for that term’s student accommodation, and he’d have to negotiate a way out of the student accommodation contract that committed him to be there until the end of the first year.
He also knew that he’d have to push to get work as a runner in the film business. None of this was going to be easy. That was a year ago. Dev dealt with all the difficulties involved in leaving his university course. He’s taken every running job that’s come up; he works long hours – 14-hour days are not unusual.
He’s progressed from working as a runner and has recently had two jobs as a trainee cameraman. He’s happy.
Overcoming Negative Thinking Example #2:
Here’s another example of someone realizing that what they thought they wanted wasn’t, after all, right for them; it wasn’t making them happy. At the same time, as she received an inheritance sum from her mum, Lou was made redundant. She decided to leave her busy life, her grown-up sons, and many friends in London, and move to a rural area in another part of the country.
Rather than look for a job, Lou decided that she’d invest her inheritance and redundancy money in property – a couple of holiday cottages – and get an income from renting out the cottages. She enrolled in a property investment course.
After a year, Lou realized she’d made a mistake; she realized that property development and the holiday lettings business wasn’t for her. And, although she now had a dog and she loved going out for long walks in the country with him, she was isolated, lonely, and bored. Lou reappraised her values and her priorities.
She realized just how important her friends, family, and social life were to her. Lou also recognized that having colleagues and the structure and security of a regular job were important to her too. Rather than thinking of herself as having made a mistake and failed, Lou saw herself as having an idea, pursuing it, and realizing, quite simply, it wasn’t making her happy.
Yes, she would have lost some money, and she was apprehensive about telling her family and friends that she’d made a mistake. But rather than dwell on what she’d done ‘wrong’, Lou decided to call it a day. It took a lot of sorting out, but Lou did sort it out.
She struggled to find somewhere affordable to live back in the south, and it took a while to get a job she has two part-time jobs – but she’s a lot happier.
VI. Turning a Negative into a Positive:
Once you start doing something, it’s easier to continue doing it. Take action, and things will flow from there. That’s why it helps to have a plan for the steps you need to take: it’s easier if you know what you’re doing first and what step comes next.
Keep your mind focused on one step at a time. Tell yourself ‘this is what I’m going to do next, and then just focus on that one step you’re taking. Then take the next step, and you’ll see yourself coping and moving forward.
You don’t have to wait to feel confident and fearless before you get going. Get going, and you’ll just be getting on with it.
Happy people aren’t fearless, they’re courageous and they avoid negative thinking. You can be the same; you can draw on your courage to take that first step and to manage the difficulties of letting go of a situation or relationship that’s making you unhappy.
Having courage doesn’t mean not being afraid. Courage means doing something even though you are afraid, and you know there are going to be difficulties and problems extricating yourself from a situation.
Whether it’s standing up for yourself or someone else, making a decision that others won’t like, leaving your job, course, or a relationship, or moving home, courage is what makes you brave and helps you move forward despite your fears and concerns.
Courage can also help you do what you want to do despite other people’s fears or concerns, their objections or disapproval. At the end of the day, all you need is some courage to stop and avoid negative thinking. It’s not an easy thing to do and practice, but it’s worth it!
Look for opportunities to step outside your comfort zone and to avoid negative thinking:
- Practice making positive changes; see that doing things differently is not impossible.
- Think positive! And avoid negative thinking: For any one thing, you’d like to stop doing, to let go of, write down what you have to gain; how you would benefit.
- Be courageous. Acknowledge then push past feelings of fear and doubt and tell yourself ‘but I can do this. Focus on the first step. Don’t overthink it. Feel the fear. And then do it.
- Be inspired. Think of past situations when you felt afraid, yet faced your fear and took action. Ask other people if, when they wanted to let go of something, they were anxious or scared and how did they deal with it?
- Get things into perspective. Days and weeks or months and years from now, it will be just something you had to deal with before you could change course and be free to do what makes you happy.
- Focus on the benefits of letting go of something that’s not making you happy. Think about being free to work towards and achieve what you’d rather be doing.
VII. Why Negative Thoughts Come in Mind?
Being happy – living according to your values, having goals, doing what is important to you and has meaning for you – involves making an effort, persevering, taking some risks, and making sacrifices. It means stepping out of your comfort zone. But each time you extend your comfort zone you extend your happiness.
You can’t change situations you don’t take responsibility for. There will always be challenges and difficulties involved in pursuing happiness, but if you don’t push yourself, nothing will change and you won’t be happier.
Maybe, though, there’s something you need to stop doing; something you need to let go of before you can commit and pursue what you’d like to do.
Maybe you’re thinking about all the time, effort, love, or money you’ve already put into something. Maybe you’ve had particular routines and commitments for months or years. It’s what you know, so you might as well carry on.
Perhaps you’re worried about letting people down if you pull out of a commitment, even though it’s making you unhappy. Perhaps you don’t want to admit that you made the wrong decision in the first place. Or you don’t want to admit that you’ve continued with something that’s been making you unhappy for so long.
Even though you’re depressed and resentful, stressed, or anxious, you push on, either believing there’s nothing you can do to change things or just hoping that things might somehow get better.
Instead of thinking that you ‘ought’ to stay or you ‘might as well stick with something, think about what you’d rather do. What’s now more important to you, more in line with your values and priorities? What’s more likely to make you happy? Be honest with yourself.
Free yourself from commitments and situations that are making you unhappy.
If you find it difficult to admit that you made a mistake, realize that, at the time, you made the right choice, but now you realize it’s not working out for you. Your feelings have changed.
Explaining your change of mind to friends, family, or colleagues is a small price to pay for what’s right for you from now on. The other people will adjust; people can and will sort it out. But if you stay in that situation you’ll feel trapped and unhappy; stuck in a situation you don’t like and unable to get on with what you now want to do.
Let go of relationships that are draining you. And if another person is making you seriously unhappy, you must do something about it.
For any situation that’s making you unhappy and preventing you from getting on with your life, acknowledge what you have to lose by letting go but focus on what you have to gain. Then take the first step.
The process involved in dropping a commitment, letting go, or walking away from an unhappy situation is the same process involved in creating meaning and purpose in your life: identify your goal, identify the benefits – what will you gain by letting go? Think through your options: how might you pull out? What information, advice, and support might you need? Identify the steps you’ll take; whatever it is that you need to do, breaking it down into smaller, more doable steps can help make it far less daunting.
Draw on your courage to take that first step and to manage the difficulties of letting go of a situation or relationship that’s making you unhappy. Having courage doesn’t mean not being afraid. Courage means doing something even though you’re afraid and you know there are going to be difficulties and problems extricating yourself.
VIII. Adapt Positive Thinking:
Get into the habit of positive thinking and being courageous. Here’s how.
1. Focus on the positive.
Remind yourself why you want to do something; what you stand to gain. This can give you the motivation and courage you need to take the necessary first step. Focusing on why you’re doing something and what you want to achieve – keeping that in your mind – can help stop feelings of doubt, uncertainty, and fear from taking over.
So, focus on the benefits of letting go of something that’s not making you happy. Think about being free to work towards, and achieving, what you’d rather be doing.
2. Rather than fight feelings of fear and doubt, acknowledge and accept them.
Tell yourself ‘I’m feeling scared. I’m not sure about this. Then push past those thoughts and feelings and tell yourself ‘But I can do this. Feel the fear. And then do it.
3. Don’t overthink it.
The more you think about whether you should or shouldn’t do something, the longer you have to come up with excuses, and the less likely you are to take that first courageous step. Courage can be prone to leaking, so the longer you wait, the less of it you’ll have. Once you’ve decided to do something, don’t wait – do it!
4. Focus on the first step.
Having thought through the steps, now just focus on that first step; on saying, for example, ‘I have something to tell you. So often, taking the first step is half the battle, so pushing yourself over the threshold will create the momentum that will move things forward. And by then you’ll just be dealing with it.
5. Get things in perspective.
Understand that whatever it is you have to let go of and walk away from, as difficult to manage as it is, days and weeks or months and years from now it will be just something you had to deal with before you could change course and be free to do what makes you happy.
Getting things into perspective helps you to recognize that whether you take action or not, life will continue. So, you might as well screw up your courage, take action, and make things work out so that as life continues, it does so in the ways you want it to.
Also Read: Negative Thinking: How to Stop it?