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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 January 15, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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