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Published on March 24, 2020

How to Deal with Negative Thoughts (The Healthy Way)

How to Deal with Negative Thoughts (The Healthy Way)

When I think back to all the unhappy and frustrating times in my life, I realize now that I prolonged these experiences because I spend too much time in my head. I was either worrying about the future or thinking about past mistakes, missed opportunities and all the other events in my life where I felt dissatisfied and frustrated. I didn’t even realize how much impact negative thinking had on my life,

Then one day, I read an article that said that we have between 40,000-80,000 thoughts every day. I realized then that the thousands of negative thoughts I was having on a daily basis were preventing me from not only enjoying life experiences, but draining my energy and distracting me from focusing on what was important in my life. It had to stop and the only person who could do this was me.

In this article, you will understand why you have negative thoughts and how to deal with them.

What Causes Your Negative Thinking?

The first thing I decided to do was to find the why — what triggers set off my negative thinking? If I could find the answer as to why I was constantly having so many negative thoughts, then I would be one step closer to better managing the impact that negative thinking was having on my life.

Mental Health Conditions

Negative thinking has many different causes and these causes can differ for everyone. The most excessive cause of negative thinking can be as a result of mental health conditions such as Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) or Anxiety Disorder (GAD). Depression is also a factor that contributes to negative thinking and at times in my life, I had the symptoms of depression. While negative thinking can be a sign of mental illness, it can also be a regular part of life.

Rumination

Everyone has negative thoughts and that is a normal part of our lives. The danger for us, however, is when we keep having these negative thoughts going over and over in our minds.

Scientists call this “rumination”. A habit of rumination can be dangerous to our mental health, as it can prolong or intensify depression as well as impair our ability to think and process emotions.

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The Cortisol Effect

Cortisol is a hormone, which is mainly released at times of stress and has many important functions in our body. Having the right cortisol balance is essential for human health and you can have problems if your adrenal gland releases too much or too little cortisol.

Our brain loves Cortisol as it is there to warn us about the imminent danger and that can be very helpful.[1] The problem is that when we are constantly putting our bodies and our minds in situations of high stress and negative thinking, the cortisol starts to overload. Our brain starts to develop patterns of negative thinking and we start to normalise our thought patterns.

We train our brains to think we are no longer in imminent danger – this is our new normal but our cortisol levels become dangerously high. The body over time will start to show signs of wear and tear – heart attacks, depression, anxiety, mental illness and the list goes on.

If you don’t keep your negative thinking under control, you will eventually have to deal with serious health issues.

Holding on to Fears and Regrets

Martin Seligman an American psychologist, educator, and author of self-help books is a strong promoter within the scientific community of his theories of positive psychology and of well-being. He says that the three leading causes of negative thoughts for most people are:

  • Fear of the Future – people can fear the unknown and as a result, they start thinking that the worst things can happen – such as failure and disaster. The future hasn’t happened and so people who fear it are distracted from living in the present, which is where they have more control over how they live their lives.
  • Anxiety about the Present – many of us, however, do worry about what others think of us, what the traffic will be like going home or if we are doing a good job. If we are in an environment or in a relationship that is toxic we are more susceptible to negative thoughts.
  • Regret about the Past – everyone does things that they are embarrassed or ashamed of. People who are prone to negative thinking tend to dwell on past mistakes and failures more than others.

No matter what causes your negative thoughts, you can manage them with some strategies. Start dealing with your negative thinking as soon as you recognize that negative thinking is about to become a big problem in your life.

5 Steps To Manage Your Negative Thinking

I don’t believe you can stop your negative thinking once and for all. That is an impossible task to achieve.

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A more realistic and achievable approach and one more sustainable is to learn strategies on how to manage your negative thinking so that you have control over how you want to live your life – not handing control over to your negative thoughts.

1. Challenge Your Negative Thoughts

This strategy to apply takes time and practice – you will not have control of your thoughts overnight. So be prepared and committed to practising this strategy on a daily basis.

This strategy is all about teaching yourself how to counter negate your negative thoughts. There are 5 questions you can ask yourself either in your head or as I prefer writing my answers down in my journal:

  1. Is this thought true? Is there a basis for this negative belief?
  2. Is this thought giving your power or is it taking away your power
  3. Can you put a positive spin on this thought or learn from it?
  4. What would it be like if you didn’t have these negative thoughts?
  5. Is this negative thought hiding you from issues you need to address?

2. Distract Your Negative Thoughts By Focusing on Something Else

Visualization is a useful strategy to help you distract yourself from your negative thoughts. Try to picture yourself doing an activity that you love to do – for example shopping, reading books, listening to music etc. The key is to train your brain to think about something completely different for at least 30 seconds.

Be disciplined in trying this technique. Over time, you will have trained your brain to go in a different direction every time your negative thoughts come up.

3. The Balloon Exercise – Throw Away Your Negative Thoughts

I love this strategy the most. Essentially, what you are doing here is throwing your negative thoughts away.

Clearing your head of negative thoughts by writing them down and letting them go in a physical way releases you from a lot of negative energy. Some people write down their negative thoughts on a piece of paper, screw the paper up and throw in the rubbish bin.

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I like to write my negative thoughts fears and regrets on an inflated balloon and then release them into the sky. At the same time, you are saying (yelling out loud) goodbye to your fears, regrets and negative thoughts!

4.Surround Yourself With Positive People

“Surround yourself with really good people. I think that’s an important thing. Because the people you surround yourself are a reflection of you.” — Aaron Rodgers

This quote from Aaron Rodgers illustrates why it is important to have great people in your life. The people that you spend your time with have a huge influence on how you live your life.

If you want to better manage your negative thoughts, then spend time with a friend who has positive energy, a positive outlook on life and is willing to listen to you share your thoughts and feelings – though they won’t let you get away with dwelling on the negative for too long!

5. The Power of Positive Thinking – Reframe Your Thoughts

“Positive thinking evokes, more Energy, more Initiative and more Happiness” – Unknown

Our mind has this amazing ability to convince us of something that isn’t really true. These untrue and inaccurate thoughts reinforce our negative thinking.

The next time you are thinking that you are to blame for everything that is going wrong – stop it. What you are doing is assuming and personalizing your thoughts and reinforcing this with negative thinking.

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Take a few minutes out to acknowledge the great things you do, write these down and say these wonderful things out loud to you. Another strategy you could do is to challenge these thoughts with the questions outlined in Step 1.

You can also take a look at these tips on How to Practice Positive Thinking And Change Your Life.

Final Thoughts

“The key to happiness – or that even more desired thing, calmness – lies not in always thinking happy thoughts. No. That is impossible. No mind on earth with any kind of intelligence could spend a lifetime enjoying only happy thoughts. The key is in accepting your thoughts, all of them, even the bad ones. Accept thoughts, but don’t become them.” — Matt Haig, Reasons to Stay Alive

Negative thinking does not lead you to live a happy and successful life. With dedicated practice and commitment, you can replace negative thinking patterns with thoughts that actually help. This can make a huge difference in your day-to-day happiness. There is no doubt that the more positive thoughts you have the more positive results you will achieve in life.

More Tips About Positive Thinking

Featured photo credit: Danilo Batista via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Kathryn Sandford

Career Resilience Coach passionate about supporting others to grow and thrive in a complex world.

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Last Updated on August 7, 2020

40 Acts of Kindness to Make the World a Better Place

40 Acts of Kindness to Make the World a Better Place

“What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.” — Jane Goodall

So, you want to change the world? Who says you can’t?

You’ve had the power this whole time. You just have to tap into it and embrace the ways you make changes.

You can start small or go big. The important thing is that you try. Even in little ways, we can change the world. It’s up to you to show up and make that difference.

Here are 40 acts of kindness to make the world a better place.

1. Give a Compliment

Tell someone that you care about them by complimenting them. It can be a big compliment or a small one. The point is that you share what good you see in them. That will help them develop confidence and a stronger sense of self.

2. Volunteer

There’re many reasons why doing voluntary work is good for you. Find a good cause you care about and give your time to it. Serve in some way. Volunteering transforms your hard work into other people’s happiness. This is one of the most common acts of kindness that you can do.

3. Contribute to a Charity

Similarly, charities also contribute to other people’s happiness even with minimal effort from you. If you can’t serve a charity or nonprofit, you can give financially or even raise money with a fundraiser. Volunteering and contributing to charity are acts of kindness that require sacrifice but are definitely worth it.

4. Visit Someone

People may know you care but are you present with them? It’s best to give your time to those you care about and show them that they matter to you. Go and visit them while you can. This simple act of kindness can go a long way.

5. Listen

When someone talks, are you really listening? A person will feel like you are listening if you actively respond and can repeat back what they’ve said, asking questions to further probe their problems. Regardless if you’re actively or passively listening, listening has positive effects on others, which is a step towards making the world a better place.

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6. Show Empathy

Show empathy – feel what someone else is feeling. Put yourself in their place. They may need that, and this shows that you understand what they are going through, which can help make them feel better. Showing empathy is one of the simplest yet best ways acts of kindness can manifest.

7. Point out the Positive for Someone

Not everyone can see the positive side of things, especially if they are going through very rough times. It may make their day though if you show it to them. Then, they can enjoy it, too.

8. Help Someone With Something

Do you have some skills to offer? Do you have the ability to help out? It doesn’t matter how you can help, just find some way to be of use to someone. You never know how doing so might find its way back to you. Ask how you may be of help, and it just might make someone’s day a lot better.

9. Give Input or Advice

Someone may benefit from what you know. You may have the experience that they don’t have. When you give input about something using your expertise (whether a little or a lot), you are more appreciated for doing so. Valid criticisms and feedback are always welcome, and they may even help others improve their situation.

10. Lead Others

You may now know it, but people may be looking to you as an example of what to do. You can lead them from point A to point B, maybe because you’ve gotten there yourself or because they trust you. Regardless, leading others is one of the best acts of kindness that you can do for others.

11. Promote Someone

Show off someone’s skills and their value. This will make them feel good enough as well as touched by this act of kindness. Promoting someone not only benefits them economically or financially, but it also helps them mentally and emotionally, knowing that you believe in them.

12. Solve a Problem for Someone

You don’t have to have all the answers. But if you have solved a problem for someone, they will look at you as if you do. That’s rewarding in and of itself.

13. Tell Someone That They Matter

People don’t always know their worth. Some people don’t recognize that they and what they do matter to others. If you tell them that they are worthwhile, they will feel better and be able to do better. They will look to you for strength at first, then to themselves.

14. Teach Someone a New Skill

You don’t have to be a teacher to share your knowledge. If you teach someone a new skill, they will spread the knowledge and your influence may extend to more people. This is a simple yet effective act of kindness that can help improve the world.

15. Plant a Tree, Clean up Trash, Recycle, Get Educated

Even in simple ways, taking care of the environment is important in making the world a better place. You must care about nature and its value. We are connected to nature, and nature is a big part of our world.

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16. Start a New Initiative Toward Social Good

You may not be the only one interested in an idea, but you may be the first to act on it. Lead others towards this initiative and see the goodness spread. Any initiative that benefits society will benefit the whole world.

17. Analyze if Products Are Ethical

In the current consumer culture, we often want instant gratification. But that’s not always safe or effective. We must look into the ethical practices behind the products we consume. Our consumption should be consistent with what we stand for, and we should spread the message to gain greater awareness of the right kind of products.

18. Ask Questions

This is called being considerate. When you ask someone a question, you are showing interest in and building their confidence to talk about themselves.

19. Make a New Friend

We can’t have a list of acts of kindness without including this one. Everyone needs friends. We must hold onto each other not hurt each other. Having friends means we’re no longer alone. You can share more and do more when you have a friend.

20. Positive Reinforcement

Rather than just criticizing someone for what they did wrong, praise and reward good behavior, too. This is especially useful when dealing with kids or in the workplace. Learn the benefits of positive reinforcement: Positive and Negative Reinforcement: Which Is More Effective?

21. Be Honest

This may just be a simple act of kindness, but people will feel respected if you are honest with them. It may not solve everything, but it helps them know you are trustworthy and that you care about them.

22. Give Your Time

Giving your time to help others shows them that you will be there for them no matter what. Your time is the most valuable thing that you can give, and this can encourage them to give their time to others as well.

23. Be Accountable

If you make a mistake, that’s okay. No one is perfect; everyone makes mistakes. But be accountable and try to make things better. This will let others know that they can rely on you.

24. Learn

Learn from someone. Listen to someone’s story, learn how someone does something, and be teachable. We can’t learn everything, so there will always be something new for us to learn.

25. Love

Love makes the world go round. Love is the ultimate manifestation of kindness. And when you love someone, let them know it. Let them feel that you are in their life for the right reasons and that you want to be there for them.

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26. Stand for Something

Society has many problems, and there are many causes to choose from. Find something you are passionate about such as a social justice issue, environment, animals, etc. The list goes on. What’s important is that you show conviction toward a good cause.

27. Write a Note of Encouragement

A nice note can turn someone’s day around. As long as what you wrote is from the heart, the recipient will feel that it is and will feel better than before.

28. Say “Thank you”

Saying “thank you” is often taken for granted. Such an act of kindness is often overlooked, but it’s still as important as before. Saying “thank you” is how you can make some feel appreciated and supported.

Here’re 60 Things To Be Thankful For In Life.

29. Heal Someone

If you can heal someone, you can make the world a better place. You can heal them emotionally, physically, or spiritually and if you heal them, they will never forget it. You will feel healed in your heart, too.

30. Be an Advocate

Stand up for someone or something. Sometimes, it’s not easy to do the right thing, but if you want to show that you care, you have to put a stop to any form of injustice. You may be the only one to take that stand. Know that it matters.

31. Raise Someone

Raising a human being is just one contribution that you can make in the world. This may be more complicated than the other acts of kindness, but it’s just as impactful. You can leave a legacy on the person who grows up under your care.

32. Embrace Community

“No man is an island.” It’s a common saying but it speaks the truth. We are meant to be social beings in need of each other. That is why we have communities. You can help a community flourish through what you bring to the table.

33. Hold Space for Someone

This means having no judgment. It is unconditional care and support without trying to solve someone else’s problems. It may be kinder than talking over them or taking over. Let them be, and let them know you’re there.

34. Forgive

Grudges hold us back. Second chances give us more life. It’s not just for them, it’s for us. When the situation is appropriate, be the bigger person and you will have a better life. Forgiveness may not come easy, but you’ll find that it transforms everything it touches.

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Learn How to Forgive and Live a Happy Life Again (A Step-By-Step Guide).

35. Give a Gift

If you give a gift, someone will have something that makes them think of you. They also learn that they are deserving of kindness, and they may feel good about themselves.

36. Keep Your Promises

People look to you for consistency. They want to know that they can count on you. Show them they can by keeping your promises.

37. Just Be Nice

Other acts of kindness require more effort, but you can just be nice and this will contribute to having a better world. The important thing is to always be aware of your words and actions.

38. Make Others a Priority

When was the last time you checked in with someone else and their wellbeing? How high up the list do you put them? Make them a priority and show them that they are being heard.

39. Meet Someone Where They’re at

You may not understand someone’s point of view or see a lack of experience compared to your own. But you can still meet them where they are and how they are still important to you. Find ways to use this to teach them how to be better. Find grace, patience, and understanding.

40. Save a Life

If someone’s in need and you answer the call, that simple act can change everything. Sometimes, the little things we do can already save or change the lives of others. Make the world a better place by saving those within it. This is the greatest thing you can do with all your talents, money, and time.

Final Thoughts

Can you think of more ways to make the world a better place? Then do it. Invite others to do it with you, too. This will change the world, but it will also change you. You will become happier and healthier to have done so.

Use this list anytime you need a good idea or a simple reminder of what you can do. No matter what you do, you are a hero. How you live is your legacy.

Featured photo credit: Andrea Tummons via unsplash.com

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