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How To Stop Negative Thinking: 6 Ways To Fine-Tune Your Mind

How To Stop Negative Thinking: 6 Ways To Fine-Tune Your Mind

If you are prone to negative thinking, you may feel as though this is an innate quality which will impact on you throughout your life. It is this misconception that drags many people down in their lives, as they allow negative thoughts to consume them and overwhelm their mind-set.

In fact, negative thinking is a habit that can be challenged and changed through knowledge, strategy and behaviour. As we understand the cause of our negativity and change the way in which we perceive situations, we can develop a more positive outlook that delivers huge rewards in our personal and professional lives!

6 ways in which you can stop negative thinking

So, here are six simple and actionable ways in which you can stop negative thinking and develop more positive behavioural habits:

1. Develop a consistent sleeping cycle

Negative thinking is a symptom of depression, and as such it is often exacerbated by a lack of sleep or an irregular sleeping cycle. The link between negativity, depression and sleep deprivation has been explored at length during numerous scientific studies, including the 2005 Sleep in America pools which discovered that subjects diagnosed with depression or anxiety were more likely to sleep less than six hours each night.

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To negate this and ensure that you are well-rested, you should commit to developing a healthy and sustainable sleep cycle over a prolonged period of time. This must enable you to achieve a full eight-hour sleep every evening, so create a routine based on the time that you need to rise for work in the morning.

2. Write down your Negative Thoughts in a Journal

The issue with negative thoughts is that they are usually formless and ambiguous in our minds, making them hard to quantify or resolve through verbal reasoning. They can also hide the real source of our angst, so it is important that we are able to process these thoughts and understand their various triggers.

The best way to achieve this is to write down your negative thoughts in a journal, translating them into words and affording them actual meanings. Start by recording your thoughts quickly and directly, as you focus on expressing yourself rather than attempting to phrase your thoughts logically. Once they have been committed to paper, you can then begin to review them and identify specific triggers or common themes.

This process also helps you to develop the habit of expressing your thoughts in an open manner, making it easier to manage relationships and resolve inter-personal issues.

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3. Stop thinking in extremes

Life is far from black and white, and those of a rational mind-set are able to factor this into their everyday thought processes. The same cannot be said for those who are prone to negative thinking, however, as these individuals tend to think in extremes and imagine the worst case scenarios when they are faced with a problem.

Unfortunately, this prevents you from embracing the subtle nuances of life and considering the positives that can be drawn from any situation.

In this respect, the key to challenging a negative mind-set does not lie in contriving a forced and completely positive mind-set. Instead, you should consider the various positive and negative possibilities that exist within any given scenario, committing these to paper and creating a list that can guide your thought processes. This will instantly afford your brain viable alternatives to the extreme negative, without forcing you to suddenly alter your mind-set in a moment.

4. Deal with facts and stop mind-reading

On a similar note, negative thinking also makes you incapable of dealing with any kinds of uncertainty. So when you are placed in a stressful or unfamiliar situation that has a potentially negative outcome, you have a tendency to pre-empt certain events and apply meanings to them without any significant facts. This can be described as mind-reading, and it is only likely to foster further negativity.

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This can be easily resolved with a change in behaviour, as you look to gather facts and details relating to the situation and use these to make an informed judgement. The key is to start with a scenario and state all of the logical explanations in order of their relevance, using either a pen and paper or verbal reasoning. If a friend has not replied to a text immediately, for example, this could be due to a number of reasons such as their battery dying, their presence in a meeting at work or the fact that their handset is on silent and the message has not been read.

By listing these realistic explanations, you can avoid the temptation to pre-empt negative outcomes and react impulsively. Over time, experience will also teach you that logical and reasonable explanations are usually more likely than the worst-case scenarios which play on your mind.

5. Accentuate the positive and embrace it when it does happen

One of the main issues with negative thinking is that it clouds your judgement at all times, even when a scenario ends with a positive outcome. This can either cause you to minimise the positive outcome and the impact that it has in your mind or prevent you from seeing any positivity at all.

Let’s say that you are afforded a pay-rise at work, for example, but one that is lower than some of your colleagues. Instead of focusing solely on this single negative element, it is far better to celebrate the offer of a pay-rise in the first instance and recognise the fact that there are others who have received less. This introduces perspective to any situation and provides definitive facts to contrast your negative thoughts.

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Perception is the key here, as you look to view negative occurrences as temporary and specific rather than permanent and pervasive. Instantly look to balance a negative thought or observation with a contrasting positive, as this will enable you to get into the habit of developing a far greater sense of perspective.

6. Re-frame your circumstances and actively seek out positives

While there are scenarios that clearly deliver both positive and negative effects, there are others that may be instantly perceived as being wholly negative. This is the worst nightmare for anyone who is prone to negative thinking, as they are presented with a situation which feeds their pessimistic mind-set and offers no immediate hope of resolution.

You may be at an airport when your flight is delayed, for example, which is a negative scenario that forces you to panic and consider a number of opportunities that you may be missing out on.

The way to resolve this is to actively seek out positives, initially by re-framing the circumstances and reconsidering a perceived problem as a potential opportunity. So rather then focusing on what you may be missing out on, why not list the other things that you can achieve while waiting for your flight? Whether you complete work tasks or enjoy some relaxed retail therapy, the key is to distract yourself from negative thoughts by searching for positive resolutions and optimising your time.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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