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Last Updated on November 27, 2020

How to Break Free From Negative Thinking for Good

How to Break Free From Negative Thinking for Good

Negative thinking can make us feel as though we are never truly good enough to change our lives. Whether we believe that we are not good looking enough, not smart enough, not funny enough, or something in between, we are always right.

We often tell ourselves the following:

“I’m not good enough to accomplish this.”

“They won’t like me. I’m too ugly to be around them.”

“I won’t ever be able to get out of this situation.”

How we see ourselves dictates how we lead our lives. This simple truth, while it is currently impacting your reality in a negative way, is actually good news. Why?

You can change your thinking, and when you can change your thoughts, you can change your reality.

Put simply, if you start to believe and feel like you are good-looking, intelligent, wealthy, or other things, you begin to see yourself in that light. If you tell yourself that you are capable of achieving greatness, you will eventually get there!

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That said, many find themselves wondering what to do when they get stuck in negative thinking. Are you tired of letting negative thinking run your life? Do you want to take control of how you feel and put yourself out there?

If you want to start writing your own narrative, let’s learn more about negative thought cycles and how you can change your own internal voice.

Where Do Negative Thoughts Come From?

You aren’t going to wake up one day and find that you are suffering from random negative thoughts. Negative thoughts are often a mix of ideas that we develop on our own, as well as ideas that we may have gotten from others.

For example, if you are constantly watching media where individuals are depicted as having thin bodies and perfect skin (and you do not have the same characteristics as those who are traditionally considered to be beautiful), you may come to the conclusion that you are not beautiful or deserving of love.

This is far from the truth, but your own take on how the world works can play into how you feel about yourself.

Equally harmful, the opinions of others can start to affect our self-perception. If several people tell you something negative about yourself, you may begin to take these opinions to heart, telling yourself the same things over time. This self-belief then becomes the model for how you live.

More often than not, the reality is that individuals who lack confidence and self-esteem are going to develop negative thought patterns.

This does not mean that confident people do not face internal crises of their own. After all, everyone is prone to experiencing a negative thought here and there. However, those who are self-aware and confident are able to bounce back from these thoughts and return to their truth.

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Those who do not think highly of themselves, on the other hand, are going to keep believing the negative thoughts that come into their mind. The issue? These negative thoughts turn into a repetitive cycle that becomes harder to break over time.

When you tell yourself something for months or years at a time, it can be difficult to transform that internal dialogue into something more positive and realistic. But is it possible? Absolutely!

The Importance of Quitting Negative Thinking

Beyond low-self esteem, there may be mental health-related causes behind your negative thought patterns, like depression. One of the major symptoms of depression is, you guessed it, negative thoughts. Depression can make us feel unworthy of love and life, even if we have everything we could wish for[1].

You may be struggling with anxiety disorders instead, which can paint uncertain visions of the future and leave you anticipating the worst long before the moment has arrived. Some people have anxiety about the present or will return to past moments where they felt as though they failed, which affects their feelings about who they are or who they will be[2].

Having mental health issues can make your situation more complex, but it is important to know that these types of health issues are highly treatable, especially with the assistance of a mental health professional. You are deserving of self-love, and getting help is the first, most important step of your journey!

How to Break the Cycle of Negative Thinking

In order to overcome your negative thought process, you are going to need two things: self-awareness and a willingness to love yourself. Once you are armed with these two tools, take a look below to learn more about how you can break free of the cycle of negative thinking.

1. Become Aware of the Thoughts That Are Affecting You

Negative thoughts are hard to catch because they have a tendency to become a part of who we are. These thoughts build our belief system and go unchallenged, even when they pop up daily.

All change begins with awareness. Whatever it is that you believe about yourself, take the time to pay attention to your own dialogue.

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What are you saying to yourself on a regular basis? How does it make you feel? Is any of it true?

 

When these thoughts are brought to your attention, you begin to notice just how often you are saying these things to yourself. Once you’ve cultivated awareness around these thoughts, you can begin to develop the change that you want.

2. Learn to Accept Them as They Come (and Move on)

A lot of people believe that you have to completely remove negative thinking patterns from your life in order to be happy. Not only is this not possible, but it’s also not true. You are going to experience negative thoughts regardless. It’s what you decide to do with these thoughts that matters.

Next time a negative thought comes into your mind, treat it like a passing car. Acknowledge it and let it pass you by. Don’t try to wave the driver over to you or continue thinking about once it has passed. Just let it go.

Giving power to your thoughts allows them to have control over you. You can’t stop a negative thought from entering your mind, but you always have the power to let it go!

3. Challenge Your Negative Thoughts

Our own beliefs play on a loop, telling us certain things over and over again. While it’s important to let go, it is also important to get to the root of these issues and figure out where they are coming from.

Let’s imagine that you are telling yourself you are stupid throughout the day. If you notice this pattern, ask yourself: Does this have any basis in reality? Am I really stupid or am I telling myself this unnecessarily? Is there any evidence to support this[3]?

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Challenge negative thinking by asking questions.

    Challenging your negative thoughts will help you realize that they are highly-exaggerated and untrue. This gives you the opportunity to transform these negative thoughts into positive ones that resonate with you.

    4. Replace These Thoughts with Kinder, More Realistic Alternatives

    Anything that is broken must be replaced. The broken record playing on a loop within you can easily be changed to a tune that you can actually sing to.

    Whenever a negative thought comes up, take the time to stop yourself and think of something positive to put in its place. If you find yourself saying, “I can’t do this,” try telling yourself that you are more than capable instead.

    Keep in mind, however, that you need to tell yourself things that you truly believe. If you start telling yourself things that don’t resonate with you and encounter a situation that proves your belief wrong, you may do more harm than good!

    Bottom Line

    Changing the way you think is a rigorous but rewarding process that will change your outlook on life. If you find yourself struggling with negative thinking, learn more about where they come from and how you can stop them for good with the guide above!

    More on How to Stop Negative Thinking

    Featured photo credit: Max Ilienerwise via unsplash.com

    Reference

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    Dylan Buckley

    Dylan is Lifehack's Motivation Expert specializing in self-development, with extensive experience working for life coaches and startups.

    9 Types of Motivation That Make It Possible to Reach Your Dreams 10 Reasons Why You’re Demotivated and How to Overcome It 25 Hard Work Motivational Quotes to Help You Achieve More How to Help a Friend With Depression Learn to Love Life Again Mastering The Art of Happiness (9 Tips to Get Started)

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    Published on April 15, 2021

    How To Be an Optimistic Person When the Odds Are Against You

    How To Be an Optimistic Person When the Odds Are Against You

    When life gets tough and you are facing big obstacles, it is so hard to be an optimistic person. As we try to deal with these challenges, our feelings tend to be consumed by fear, frustration, and disillusionment. Inertia and indecisiveness overwhelm us, and being optimistic is the last thing we feel like being.

    “I think I am going to have to supercharge my optimism to arm myself for the battle ahead.”—Rebecca Bloom

    Why Is It Important to Be an Optimist?

    Being optimistic is one of the best ways in which you can deal with the hard knocks in life. Having an optimistic outlook on life also has amazing health benefits as well.

    Scientific research shows us that staying in a place where we feel fearful and disillusioned—where we have no energy and no hope—is not good for our overall wellbeing.

    “Optimism helps people cope with disease[s] and recover from surgery. Even more impressive is the impact of a positive outlook on overall health and longevity. Research tells us that an optimistic outlook early in life can predict better health and a lower rate of death during follow-up periods of 15 to 40 years.”[1]

    Your Power of Choice Is Key to Living an Optimistic Life

    Although you may not be born a natural optimist, using your power of choice wisely can help you develop an optimistic attitude that will enable you to defy any odds that are against you. You are the only person who has control over whether you want to be optimistic or not! As the Dalai Lama has said, “choose to be optimistic it feels better!”

    I love this quote from Neale Donald Walsch as he explains very clearly how the power of choice can be used by you to get the results you want:

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    “Therefore, be honest with yourself as to why you are choosing to do a particular thing. Then, do it gladly, knowing that you are always getting to do what you want. The statement “I have no choice” is a lie. You can choose. You simply do not prefer the alternatives available to you, for whatever reason. So you select the outcome that you most prefer.”—Neale Donald Walsch

    Being an optimist opens you up to exploring new ideas, new experiences, and new possibilities. It frees you up to consider new options for how you can live your life for the better. It helps you look to the future with hope and positivity.

    What Is Optimism?

    The definition of optimism, according to Elizabeth Scott MS, is that it is “a mental attitude characterized by hope and confidence in success and a positive future. Optimists are those who expect good things to happen, where pessimists instead predict unfavorable outcomes.”[2]

    However, being an optimist does not necessarily mean that you will be able to successfully deal with the challenges of life. Having a positive mindset along with an optimistic outlook enhances your chances to defy the odds and challenges you face in life.

    What Is Positive Mindset?

    The Oxford dictionary definition of optimism is “hopefulness and confidence about the future or the success of something” while positivity is defined as “the practice of being, or tendency to be positive or optimistic in attitude.”

    Positive thinking looks for solutions, whereas negative thinking dwells on the problems and obstacles. Positive thinking is an emotional and mental attitude that focuses on the good and expects results that will benefit you. It’s about anticipating happiness, health, and success—essentially, training yourself to adopt an abundance mindset and cultivate gratitude for your own successes and those of others

    Optimism and positive thinking go hand in hand. You can’t be an optimist and not have a positive mindset.

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    To defy the odds and sustain an optimistic and positive outlook Gabriele Oettingen, a motivation researcher at New York University and author of Rethinking Positive Thinking: Inside the New Science of Motivation, believes that it is not just about having happy thoughts—but it is actually planning for and anticipating those positive outcomes that get us results.

    She describes optimism as having positive expectations about the future based on past experiences and positive thinking as wishful dreaming, which is not a bad thing if applied correctly!

    She believes that if we apply optimism (which is a personality trait), we inherit with positive thinking (which is a choice we make) what Oettingen calls “mental contrasting,” which is important for motivation and setting in motion unconscious cognitive processes that are important in goal attainment.[3]

    3 Strategies on How to Be an Optimistic Person

    Applying these 3 strategies will help you to defy the odds you face in life while still being an optimistic person with a positive mindset.

    1. Use the WOOP Model

    Gabriele Oettingen combined her ideas with those of fellow researcher Peter Gollwitzer, and they came up with a motivation exercise called WOOP.

    Using the WOOP Model, you work on goal attainment by applying these 4 steps:[4]

    1. Wishing for something you’d like to achieve.
    2. Imagining a good outcome.
    3. Examining the obstacles that might get in your way.
    4. Coming up with a plan for overcoming those obstacles.

    Research results conducted by Gabriele Oettingen have shown that employing WOOP is more successful than positive thinking alone in helping people to fulfill their desired goals.[5]

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    Knowing how to activate your positive and optimistic outlook on life to get the results you want is key to you building your resilience to manage the hard knocks and challenges that life throws at you. Having a positive outlook on life takes work and the WOOP model is a framework that you can use to put your goals into action so that you can start to feel good about achieving the goals you set in life.

    2. Cultivate a Positive and Optimistic Mindset

    Adopting a positive mindset can help us get through difficult times. However, if we are not careful, we can tend to focus on thinking positive thoughts and banishing all negative ones. This can be exhausting and not a realistic way to deal with life’s challenges

    I believe that the combination of a positive mindset and an optimistic view of life that is realistic is the secret weapon to successfully dealing with the obstacles and pitfalls we face in life.

    Here are 4 things that you could do now that would enable you to grow and sustain a positive and optimistic mindset:

    1. Once a day, share positive feedback with a minimum of three people—work colleague, partner, children, friend, or anyone that you meet on the day. Making other people feel positive has lasting effects on your own life.
    2. Every morning when you wake up and at night just before you go to bed, praise yourself and reflect on all the positive things that happened to you during the day. Keep a journal and note down at least three positive things that you did today or are grateful for.
    3. Imagine a positive future for you – get a journal, and for seven days, write down all the great things you want to happen—tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year! This is the first step to dreaming big with an optimistic outlook on life!
    4. Consider a serious challenge or obstacle you are facing in your life right now and write down at least five possible positive outcomes. This exercise allows you to look at your challenges with an optimistic and positive mindset.

    3. Recognize Negative Thinking

    When you are dealing with challenging times and it feels like the odds are against you, it is hard to maintain an optimistic outlook on your life. You can’t push away or bury your negative feelings—what you resist will persist.

    The best way to be optimistic despite the challenges you are facing is to acknowledge that bad things happen. Ignoring your reality isn’t helpful. Being realistic about your situation is important to you working out how to best work with the difficult situation you are facing. A healthy and realistic outlook of your life is a great way to accept that all you can do is your best and that you will be okay, regardless of the outcome.

    When you are thinking negatively, take a moment to assess how realistic your thoughts are. Reframe your negative thoughts into more realistic statements that can help you maintain an optimistic view of the future and potential solutions.

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    Final Thoughts

    As an optimist, you believe in hope, opportunities, and a brighter future. Choosing to be an optimist is a choice that comes with surprising benefits. Scientific research has shown that an optimistic and positive view of life allows you to live a healthier and happy life, despite the odds that are against you![6] When you are trying to be optimistic, especially when the odds are against you, having a positive thinking mindset is a secret ingredient to you successfully riding that rollercoaster of life!

    Optimism and positive thinking go hand in hand. Positive thinking looks for solutions, whereas negative thinking dwells on the problems and obstacles. There is no doubt that the more optimistic you are about life the happier you will be.

    Applying the three strategies above will help you to remain an optimist while successfully navigating your way through the challenges and tough times in your life.

    “True hopefulness and optimism are what leads one to dare. It is also what lifts one back up to dare again after a failed attempt.”—Bibi Bourelly

    More Tips on Being More Positive

    Featured photo credit: Hudson Hintze via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Harvard Health Publishing: Optimism and your health
    [2] VeryWellMind: What Is Optimism?
    [3] Positive Psychology: What Is Mental Contrasting and How to Benefit From It?
    [4] WOOP: What is WOOP?
    [5] Greater Good Magazine: Can Positive Thinking Really Make Dreams Come True?
    [6] Harvard Health Publishing: Optimism and your health

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