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Published on December 18, 2019

7 Powerful Ways to Stop Negative Thinking

7 Powerful Ways to Stop Negative Thinking

Negative thinking is a much more common problem than you may think. Many of us experience them every single day. That’s why it’s important to understand what they are, where they come from, and how you can overcome them.

Negative thoughts are the thoughts we have that essentially cause us to adopt pessimistic points of view. Negative thinking leads us to focus on the worst aspects or possible outcomes of a given situation instead of the positives. This negative thinking can cause us to experience a great deal of stress, worry, and sadness as long as we continue to adopt these thought patterns.

Here are a few examples of some common negative thought patterns:

I won’t attempt to chase my dreams because I know only a few people make it. I’m not going to be one of those people, so why even bother trying.

I would love to take on a new role at work, but will I even be able to handle that? If I try and fail, people may only see me as a failure. This could make my life at work more difficult and less satisfying.

I wish I could give presentations like that person. But I’m just not good at public speaking and it scares me. I guess it just wasn’t written in the stars for me. It’s not one of my skills and I can’t get over my fear.

If you can relate to any of these thoughts, then this article might just be exactly what you’re looking for.

What Causes Negative Thinking?

Negative thinking is mainly a result of fear.

Nobody likes feeling afraid, and very few of us enjoy facing our fears. But fear is the source of our negative thinking. Fear paralyzes us and prevents us from pursuing the things we truly want in life as we attempt to avoid negative outcomes.

For many, a big one is fear of the unknown. When we don’t know, or we can’t predict an outcome of a situation, we choose to play it safe. This often leads us to adopt a pessimistic point of view.

Though this negative thinking may allow us to avoid our fears, such as preventing us from ever having to get up on a stage and give a speech, it will prevent us from reaching our full potential. In the long-term, this often leads to greater dissatisfaction and more regret than adopting a more optimistic point of view and taking a risk pursuing more positive thoughts.

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This is why it’s so important to become aware of what scares us and prevent it from negatively impacting our minds in this manner.

So, are there any common negative thoughts people have? This is a difficult concept because each and every one of us is unique. This means one situation that may cause an individual to engage in negative thinking may actually trigger a different person to adopt a positive thought approach.

For example, consider we have two people. One has spent their entire life training to be an athlete and never studied a day in their life, while the other individual has spent their entire life studying and has never once exercised.

If we were to have these two compete in an athletic event, who do you think would be more likely to adopt a positive pattern of thinking? Likewise, if we were to have these two compete in a trivia event, who might then be more likely to adopt a positive thought pattern?

My point here is that what causes negative thinking in anybody is subjective. It’s going to vary.

That being said, there are some common fears, so here are some of the most common negative thoughts:

I’m not good enough to achieve that goal so I guess there’s no point in even trying. Besides, if I try and fail then people might think I’m a failure.

I couldn’t possibly be as good as him/her at that, they’re so naturally talented. Even if I worked hard I won’t get that good. Unfortunately, I don’t have what it takes.

I wish I was as good looking as those movie stars and models. Then people would like me and I would be super popular.

How to Stop Negative Thinking

Finding ways to challenge negative thinking isn’t easy, nor is it simple. It takes careful planning, patience, and a good amount of effort to truly master your mindset. However, finding ways that enable you to overcome your negative thinking is truly satisfying.

Funnily enough, as we attempt to overcome our negative thought patterns, negative thinking itself can impede our progress. Again, we need to be patient and retain a positive mindset. Life developing any skill, this will take time and practice.

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The first step to overcoming negative thinking is understanding your thoughts, what triggers negative thinking for you — Is it a person, a place, a certain experience? Take note of them. These insights will allow us to recognize negative thought patterns in our lives.

The next step is to begin establishing a plan that will help you to combat your negative thinking in these circumstances. Once you’ve created a plan that you think will work for you, it’s time to try it out.

Then, it’ll just be an ongoing process of tweaking this plan as you move forward to figure out which strategies best help you overcome your negative thinking.

Here’re 7 powerful ways you should start trying:

1. Don’t Try to Stop Your Negative Thoughts Altogether

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that what you focus on becomes your reality. This is the idea behind my next point.

If you spend most of your time thinking about how to stop your negative thoughts all the time, what do you think your focus will be on? Your thoughts will always be on your negative thoughts of course! This will only increase your anxiety and make you feel worse.

The more you focus on your negative thinking, the more likely it is to have an influence on you and your daily functioning. Your goal, thus, shouldn’t be to eliminate your negative thoughts completely, but to be able to recognize them more efficiently so that you can combat them when they do arise!

Simply saying you won’t ever have a negative thought won’t help you overcome your negative thinking. It can only ever serve you as a short-term strategy. This is because regardless of how hard you try, you are at some point going to have negative thoughts. And if you haven’t taken the time to develop your systems for overcoming that negative thinking, then it will begin to take over you.

2. Understand Your Thinking Styles

If you can understand your thoughts, it’s possible to begin controlling the outcomes that they are having on you.

So take a moment to assess how you think right now. Do you tend to be optimistic or do you tend to adopt a more negative point of view? Do you approach situations positively or negatively? These are the types of questions you can ask yourself to help shine some light on your thinking styles.

If you’ve determined that you’ve got a negative approach to your thinking style, think about why that might be. Do you tend to adopt negative thoughts in certain situations over others? Is there a particular event, situation, person, or place that triggers negative thinking for you consistently?

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Once you’ve identified the source of your negative thinking, the next step is to begin putting a plan in place to tackle the issue!

3. Challenge Your Negative Thoughts

After you’ve identified your common negative thoughts, try to find ways that you can begin to challenge them.

Ask yourself whether the thoughts you’re having are realistic. Are they true depictions of the situation? Or, are your fears and negative approaches causing your negative thoughts to be exaggerated?

Would you support the thought if someone else had it? For example, if your closest friend said that they would never be good enough to get that next promotion, would you support that thinking? Or, would you step in and remind them how great they are?

Start using these strategies for your own thinking as well. Don’t give your negative thoughts a free-pass.

4. Release Your Judgment

It’s just the reality of being a human that we all make assumptions, have biases, and make judgments of others based on our experiences. It’s one of the foundations for phenomena like stereotyping and discrimination. But this comparing of ourselves to others can also serve as a method through which we put ourselves down.

When we set goals for ourselves, we tend to look at people who have already accomplished those goals. We look and think about how much better they are than us. Why they were able to achieve that goal and why we never will be able to. These negative thoughts rush in and drag us down.

So try to let go of these types of judgments where you compare yourself to others. You’ll feel free when you finally achieve this.

The best way I’ve found to do this is to begin reflecting more consciously on your thinking. Recognize where this negative thinking stems from within you, what stereotypes, assumptions, and biases you are allowing to generate these negative thoughts in your life. Then find ways to alter this line of thinking.

5. Learn How to Cope with Criticism

Though there is absolutely nothing wrong with standing up and defending yourself in certain situations, we can all work on being better receivers of criticisms, especially when these are serving constructive purposes.

Lots of negative thinking can occur when someone criticises us. We begin to focus only on the negative things they said. We make up reasons as to why we aren’t good enough. This is something that can easily be avoided by learning how to cope with criticism.

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One of the ways that I have been able to do this is by looking at criticisms as opportunities rather than shortcomings. If someone says my writing lacks emotion, that doesn’t mean I’m a bad writer, it simply means I need to focus on this aspect of my writing to further develop it. This criticism has provided me with the opportunity to become a better writer.

If you want some tips on how to do this, check out this article: Why a Criticism Is Better Than a Compliment

6. Focus on Your Strengths

I’m sure if you reflect for a moment on the comments you remember people making about you, the majority are negative. This is because as humans, we tend to focus on the negatives and overlook the positives in our life. We dwell on our mistakes and shortcomings while brushing aside our successes and positive traits.

So try to shift your focus. This can go a long way to helping you overcome your negative thinking. The more you shift the focus of your mentality to positive things in your life, the easier it is going to be for you to think and act positively![1]

Try writing out a few positive things about yourself right now as an exercise. Then next time when you find yourself thinking negatively about yourself, either pull these positive statements out or write out a few new ones!

If you think that you might need some help with that, take a look at this article: How to Become Successful 10 Times Easier: Don’t Focus on Improving Your Faults

7. Seek Professional Support When Needed

The final thing I will mention about negative thinking is that you should never, at any point, feel the need to take it on all by yourself.

If your negative thinking at any point becomes overwhelming or begins to interfere with your daily activities, recognize that you may need help to conquer it. Don’t hesitate to reach out for support if you ever feel you need it. There are tons of people who are willing and eager to help you.

These supports change lives. So if you feel that you might benefit from them, make sure you take advantage of them!

Final Thoughts

Negative thinking is nothing that anyone should be continually subjected to. You deserve to be happy.

Understanding the root of negative thinking is the first step to overcoming it. So make use of the strategies mentioned above and stop letting these thoughts hold you back from moving forward!

More on Positive Thinking

Featured photo credit: Bonnie Kittle via unsplash.com

Reference

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Mark Lynch

Featured Life-Balance, & Personal Development Author

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Last Updated on November 6, 2020

Feeling Defeated in Life? 9 Ways to Take Back Your Power

Feeling Defeated in Life? 9 Ways to Take Back Your Power

The human feeling of wanting to achieve more is a shared one and, consequently, so does the sense of feeling defeated. Things don’t always work out as planned, and we then feel beat down and sometimes downright downtrodden.

This feeling is something that every achiever human-being feels once in a while. The good news is that there are proven science-based ways to help take back the power. It’s not possible to continually win without experiencing a loss, and the way we react to failure is what defines us.

There are (sadly) many practical examples—from battling a bad habit (did anyone say Netflix binge on a Tuesday night?) or even an addiction to dealing with a boss you don’t like who makes every day seem like it will never end. It might be other issues that make you feel like Sisyphus, the Greek god who was forced to push a massive rock up a hill for eternity as a punishment, doing the hard work and not being rewarded for it.

You Are Not Alone

You are not alone; Churchill and Lincoln were also defeated.

Fortunately, we’ve found some fantastic examples of ‘defeated’ people who made a remarkable comeback—showing that character is at least as important as talent. One of those people is none other than Winston Churchill. Most of us know that he saved his country and potentially the rest of the world during World War II, but we tend to forget that he famously stated, “I am finished” almost 20 years before that—when he was 40.

He had lost the Gallipoli battle, and everything seemed to indicate that he would go down in history like the rest of us: unknown. However, his plan to come back to the forefront of politics succeeded (only to lose the election after the war, and then win again). He was feeling defeated but he managed to bounce back.

There are other examples of leaders who experienced loss and then made a remarkable comeback. Abraham Lincoln is known as a former US president, but no one remembers that he was defeated in elections for the U.S. House of Representatives just a few years before that. Napoleon Bonaparte was the emperor of Europe, only to be exiled (and then come back and then go into exile again).

Most of us are not ruling Europe or the US, but you get the point—you win some, you lose some—and you should never give up on your goals and dreams. This isn’t relevant only to famous historical characters. The human spirit is measured when it’s at its weakest and in need of finding strength.

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Personally speaking, I experienced a tragedy, having to watch my father die in front of me when I was 25. Less than an hour later, as I was in the hospital, I told myself that nothing would break me, and I embarked on a journey to save other people’s lives with Safe Lane, a non-profit I started to prevent car accidents. It is what we do that defines us, and not what happens to us. It’s how we deal with feeling defeated that defines who we are.

Feeling Defeated Is Not Your Fault

Research shows that feeling defeated is not your fault. The deep-rooted feeling of defeat is validated in research. For example, studies of animal species with dominance hierarchies showed that after losing in non-lethal fighting, the animals that lost showed signs of depression.[1] Other studies suggest that defeat and feelings of entrapment are associated with depression and anxiety. Sadly, it happens to humans as well.

Research also suggests that it hurts the poor more than others. In a study conducted in economically deprived areas in England, over half of the people felt defeated. They experienced feelings of entrapment.[2]

The research also proved a connection to anxiety and depression, showing that this feeling impairs the mental health of those living in more impoverished areas. The clear connection between where you live and how you feel is disheartening, as it makes clear that some populations are inherently more prone to suffering than others.

9 Ways to Take Back Your Power

The good news is that there are pretty good solutions one can use to fight this horrible feeling. Some of them can provide immediate improvement, while others help within a matter of weeks.

Here are 9 ways to take back your power when you’re feeling defeated in life.

1. Write a Gratitude Journal

Once a day, take three minutes to write down two things you’re grateful for. It might seem like a childish thing to do, but investing time in a gratitude journal has been scientifically proven to be helpful. Taking a note for yourself of the good things in your life makes you appreciate them more, and this kind of positive thinking also helps your brain change patterns.

According to a study conducted in Berkeley, students who wrote a gratitude letter to their peers had “significantly better mental health 4 weeks and 12 weeks after their writing exercise ended. This suggests that gratitude writing can be beneficial not just for healthy, well-adjusted individuals, but also for those who struggle with mental health concerns.”[3]

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Martin Seligman, a psychologist at the University of Pennsylvania, proved that participants who took the time to write about the good things in their lives had a huge increase in happiness scores.

2. Take Regular Breaks

When you’re working too hard, it can sometimes feel good because you’re pushing your limits. Nonetheless, you can’t work without taking breaks. Your energy is limited, and there have been a few studies proving this.

According to numerous researches, “taking a break can be very beneficial for you and your work. Micro-breaks, lunchtime breaks, and longer breaks have all been shown to affect well-being and productivity positively. By taking regular breaks, you can boost your performance.”[4]

3. Find Yourself a Mentor

I’ve personally found this to be very helpful. Every issue that you’re going through has been experienced by someone before you, so learn from that. Having a mentor reduces stress and helps you both practically understand how to handle the situation and emotionally put things in perspective. It also helps remind you that you’re not alone.

According to UNL, “mentoring provides professional socialization and personal support to facilitate graduate school success and beyond. Quality mentoring greatly enhances students’ chances for success. Research shows that students who experience good mentoring also have a greater chance of securing academic tenure-track positions or greater career advancement potential in administration or sectors outside the university.”[5]

4. Meditation and Mindfulness

Meditation and mindfulness are powerful tools that are widely available today through the use of apps such as Calm and Headspace. There have also been countless books written about them. One of them is “Wherever You Go, There You Are:  Mindfulness Meditation in Everyday Life” by Jon Kabat-Zinn’s. By being present, you can control where your energy goes.

I used to be a skeptic, but I have learned that it’s helpful to meditate when you need a moment. Countless studies have proven that breathing helps build resilience. Just by breathing slowly and deeply, our body knows when to enter into a relaxation mode.

We’re living at a time that makes us feel overwhelmed. We have too much on our plate and sometimes, we’re in a position that doesn’t immediately allow us to solve the problem at hand.

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Don’t worry—by meditating, breathing, or just trying to relax, you can understand what to do by letting your mind some time to think and improve. Otherwise, you wouldn’t be here reading this article!

5. Your Self-Talk Is More Crucial Than Ever

Our thoughts and beliefs can sometimes be discouraging. Many people tend towards a negativity bias, which means that we’re prone to notice negative thoughts and emotions more than positive and neutral ones. This is where self-talk comes in.

Using self-talk to analyze whether your perceptions are helping you or not and whether they’re an accurate representation of reality can help you understand that things may not be as bad as you think. Research shows that this is, in fact, often the case.

It’s a good habit to also remember to be kind to yourself. Some of us sometimes forget the crucial ingredient of self-compassion. It also might be a good idea to motivate yourself by watching others—Youtube might be a good place for that.

Here’s an excellent example:

6. Educate Yourself

For whatever of life’s hurdles you’re currently facing, there’s an answer that someone else has already thought of. Google Scholar or even just plain old Google can help you find proven methods to deal with what’s bothering you. Educate yourself about your situation and learn what can and cannot work for you. Knowledge is power, indeed.

7. Don’t Obsess About What Happened

One of the proven ways to help sports teams stay on track is not overthinking the future and not getting stuck in the past. It’s useless to obsess about what already happened, and at worst, it can only harm your mental and emotional well-being.

One psychological way to think about that is the radical acceptance approach, which is pretty self-explanatory. It means that you should accept what happened and instead, think about what you should do moving forward.

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According to the NYU School of Medicine, “past experiences shape what we see more than what we are looking at now.”[6] So, it’s not easy to fight that. But it is also possible to change it by radical acceptance and growth mindset methods.

8. Create a Vision for Your Life

Another method for dealing with daily hardships is to think like an organization and create your life vision. When you understand your goals and purpose, it’s easier to not sweat as much as some of the difficulties on the way.

According to “Entrepreneurship Theory and Practice” by Francis J. Greene,

“Effective strategic management begins with the organization clearly articulating its vision for the future. The organization’s vision refers to the broad category of long-term intentions that the organization wishes to pursue. It is broad, all-inclusive, and futuristic (Ireland et al., 2009)”.

It is imperative to understand your vision and implement it in your daily life to keep your balance.

9. Stay Healthy: Exercise and Eat Well

You don’t have to run a marathon. Simply walking or doing any other type of physical activity you enjoy can help pump things up and make you feel better physically and emotionally. Exercise can help you overcome depression and improve your mental health. It also enables you to feel in control in some cases, and that’s a powerful tool for someone who’s feeling defeated.

Healthy eating and keeping yourself hydrated goes a long way. Sleeping more than 7 hours each night is also super helpful for improving your physical and mental well-being.

Final Thoughts

It’s normal to feel defeated in life sometimes. After all, we all have our unique struggles and challenges along our journey in life. The important thing is that you learn how to face these roadblocks in your life. Whenever you’re feeling defeated in life, you can start with these 9 ways to gain back power and control in your life.

More Tips When You’re Feeling Defeated in Life

Featured photo credit: Anthony Tran via unsplash.com

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