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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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The Gentle Art of Saying No

The Gentle Art of Saying No

No!

It’s a simple fact that you can never be productive if you take on too many commitments — you simply spread yourself too thin and will not be able to get anything done, at least not well or on time.

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But requests for your time are coming in all the time — through phone, email, IM or in person. To stay productive, and minimize stress, you have to learn the Gentle Art of Saying No — an art that many people have problems with.

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What’s so hard about saying no? Well, to start with, it can hurt, anger or disappoint the person you’re saying “no” to, and that’s not usually a fun task. Second, if you hope to work with that person in the future, you’ll want to continue to have a good relationship with that person, and saying “no” in the wrong way can jeopardize that.

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But it doesn’t have to be difficult or hard on your relationship. Here are the Top 10 tips for learning the Gentle Art of Saying No:

  1. Value your time. Know your commitments, and how valuable your precious time is. Then, when someone asks you to dedicate some of your time to a new commitment, you’ll know that you simply cannot do it. And tell them that: “I just can’t right now … my plate is overloaded as it is.”
  2. Know your priorities. Even if you do have some extra time (which for many of us is rare), is this new commitment really the way you want to spend that time? For myself, I know that more commitments means less time with my wife and kids, who are more important to me than anything.
  3. Practice saying no. Practice makes perfect. Saying “no” as often as you can is a great way to get better at it and more comfortable with saying the word. And sometimes, repeating the word is the only way to get a message through to extremely persistent people. When they keep insisting, just keep saying no. Eventually, they’ll get the message.
  4. Don’t apologize. A common way to start out is “I’m sorry but …” as people think that it sounds more polite. While politeness is important, apologizing just makes it sound weaker. You need to be firm, and unapologetic about guarding your time.
  5. Stop being nice. Again, it’s important to be polite, but being nice by saying yes all the time only hurts you. When you make it easy for people to grab your time (or money), they will continue to do it. But if you erect a wall, they will look for easier targets. Show them that your time is well guarded by being firm and turning down as many requests (that are not on your top priority list) as possible.
  6. Say no to your boss. Sometimes we feel that we have to say yes to our boss — they’re our boss, right? And if we say “no” then we look like we can’t handle the work — at least, that’s the common reasoning. But in fact, it’s the opposite — explain to your boss that by taking on too many commitments, you are weakening your productivity and jeopardizing your existing commitments. If your boss insists that you take on the project, go over your project or task list and ask him/her to re-prioritize, explaining that there’s only so much you can take on at one time.
  7. Pre-empting. It’s often much easier to pre-empt requests than to say “no” to them after the request has been made. If you know that requests are likely to be made, perhaps in a meeting, just say to everyone as soon as you come into the meeting, “Look guys, just to let you know, my week is booked full with some urgent projects and I won’t be able to take on any new requests.”
  8. Get back to you. Instead of providing an answer then and there, it’s often better to tell the person you’ll give their request some thought and get back to them. This will allow you to give it some consideration, and check your commitments and priorities. Then, if you can’t take on the request, simply tell them: “After giving this some thought, and checking my commitments, I won’t be able to accommodate the request at this time.” At least you gave it some consideration.
  9. Maybe later. If this is an option that you’d like to keep open, instead of just shutting the door on the person, it’s often better to just say, “This sounds like an interesting opportunity, but I just don’t have the time at the moment. Perhaps you could check back with me in [give a time frame].” Next time, when they check back with you, you might have some free time on your hands.
  10. It’s not you, it’s me. This classic dating rejection can work in other situations. Don’t be insincere about it, though. Often the person or project is a good one, but it’s just not right for you, at least not at this time. Simply say so — you can compliment the idea, the project, the person, the organization … but say that it’s not the right fit, or it’s not what you’re looking for at this time. Only say this if it’s true — people can sense insincerity.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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