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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

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Mark Lynch

Featured Life-Balance, & Personal Development Author

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Published on April 1, 2020

Why an Attitude of Gratitude Is Essential (And How to Develop It)

Why an Attitude of Gratitude Is Essential (And How to Develop It)

There is one way to make sure that you wake up every single day feeling calm, joyful and blissed-out, and that is to adopt an attitude of gratitude.

When you make it a conscious habit to express appreciation for your life, the Universe listens and responds with more love. Let me be clear… this doesn’t mean that you’re a bad person if you aren’t able to see the good on a bad day.

Life is far from perfect. Sometimes things happen that cause us to react negatively. Having a pity party is okay now and then. However, it does nothing good for your mental and emotional well-being.

An attitude of gratitude forces you to get outside of your problems and look at the bigger picture. In turn, you are better able to bounce forward when challenges occur in life.

What Is an Attitude of Gratitude?

An attitude of gratitude means that you operate from a place of abundance instead of a place of scarcity and fear. Each of us always has a choice of what we will focus on.

Grateful people give thanks for everything in their life, even on the days when it feels like nothing is going right.

To turn an attitude of gratitude into a sustainable habit, your foundation for feelings of gratitude must be independent of your circumstances.[1]

Hence, even on the days when it feels like nothing is going right, you have to find the silver lining and give thanks for what is working.

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As Melody Beattie says,

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, and confusion to clarity.”

Why Is Gratitude Important?

We all know how important it is to have a positive attitude. We’re taught to look at the world as a half-full glass, rather than a half-empty one. There’s good reason to adopt this mindset.

Studies show that if you express gratitude, it raises your happiness by 25%.[2] When you take a moment to give thanks for what you have, instead of ruminating on what you don’t have, it fills you up.

If gratitude is so good for your mental and emotional health, then why do so many people struggle to practice it? As humans, we are hardwired to dwell or fixate on the bad.

Psychologists have found that negative events have a greater impact on our brains than positive ones, referred to as the negative bias.[3]

As a result, a lot of people tend to move farther away from gratitude, which is an essential precursor to happiness. As Lewis Howes says,

“If you concentrate on what you have, you’ll always have more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you’ll never have enough.”

4 Simple Ways to Develop an Attitude of Gratitude

Let’s look at 4 simple ways that you can develop an attitude of gratitude.

1. Keep a Gratitude Journal

If someone were to ask you right now what you’re grateful for, would you be able to answer, without overthinking?

We often experience things that we should be grateful for, only to forget about them the next day. This is why writing down what you are grateful for is a good idea. By doing so you are rewriting your brain to focus on the good.

Gratitude journaling is the habit of recording and reflecting on things (typically three) that you are grateful for regularly.[4]

When it comes to practicing gratitude, consistency is key. Get into a routine of writing in your journal daily, preferably in the morning. This is a great way to start your day with a grateful heart.

Here’s How a Gratitude Journal Can Drastically Change Your Life

2. Express Your Gratitude

Once you have developed an attitude of gratitude, you are free to share that love with others. How often do you take the time to tell people in your life how much they mean to you?

Research shows that on the days that individuals strive to express their gratitude, they experience more positive emotions and are more likely to report helping someone and to feel connected with others.[5]

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Think about the people in your life who have made a positive impact on you. Reach out and tell them how much you appreciate them. There are plenty of ways to express your gratitude.

Start writing thank-you notes to anyone who has helped you along your journey, give out meaningful compliments, and celebrate the joys of others as if they are yours, too. Now, more than ever before, we need to uplift and inspire one another.

3. Celebrate the Small Things

We are conditioned to focus on and celebrate our big achievements, instead of our small wins. However, if you fail to ignore the small things and keep rushing from one thing to the next, you will quickly become demotivated.

Who you become isn’t determined by the end goal. Rather, it’s determined by the person who you become along your journey to success.

When you celebrate the small things, what you’re doing is celebrating your habits.[6]

Take time to pause, slow down and savor the small things. Instead of obsessing about the future or dwelling on the past, be more aware of the present moment. It’s all you’ve got. Relish in it.

4. Meditate on Gratitude

Meditation is a powerful practice in self-awareness. The goal isn’t to silence your thoughts. Rather, it’s to become an active observer of them. The process of meditation is all about allowing the mind to do its thing and accept it as it is.

I’ve always struggled with meditation. Sitting in silence for long periods of time isn’t my cup of tea. However, once I started combining meditation with gratitude, the game changed.

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I began the process of transforming my inner and outer world. Today, meditation has now become a non-negotiable ritual in my life.

Through meditation, we can build up areas of our brain and rewire it to enhance positive traits like focus and decision making and diminish the less positive ones like fear and stress.[7]

When you master the mind, you master your emotions. All of a sudden, everything in your life flows with more ease. You become less reactive and are better able to handle life’s challenges with grace.

The beauty of a gratitude meditation is that you can practice it anywhere. Take a few minutes out of your busy schedule each day to reflect upon the things and people whom you are grateful for.

If you’ve never tried meditation before, this guide is for you: How Do You Meditate? 8 Meditation Techniques for Complete Beginners

Watch your mood change instantly. It’s powerful.

Final Thoughts

It’s never too late to start cultivating an attitude of gratitude.

What are you grateful for? Give thanks for whatever that is every single day. Life is beautiful. Take the time to stop and appreciate it. Gratitude has the power to transform your entire life.

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More Ways to Practice Gratitude

Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com

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