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How to Deal With Negative Thoughts (the Healthy Way)

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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 spent 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 thoughts 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.

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

What Causes Negative Thoughts?

The first thing to do is to find the why — what triggers set off your negative thinking? If you can find the answer as to why you are constantly having so many negative thoughts, then you will be one step closer to better managing the impact that negative thinking is having on your life.

Mental Health Conditions

Negative thoughts have 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 thoughts. If you feel that you may be struggling with a mental illness, contact a mental health professional to get medical advice.

Rumination

Everyone has negative thoughts from time to time; it’s a natural part of life to feel sad or down. The danger for us, however, is when these negative thoughts are replaying over and over in our minds.

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Scientists call this rumination[1]. 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.

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 imminent danger.[2] The problem occurs when we constantly put our bodies and minds in situations of high stress and negative thinking, as this causes cortisol to overload. Our brain starts to develop patterns of negative thinking, and we start to normalize 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. Over time, the body will start to show signs of wear and tear – heart attacks, depression, anxiety, mental illness, etc.

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 on positive psychology and 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 or disaster. The future hasn’t happened, 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.

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Anxiety About the Present

Many of us 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 a toxic environment or relationship, 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 thoughts as soon as you recognize that they are about to become a big problem in your life.

5 Steps to Manage Your Negative Thoughts

It is unrealistic to think that you will be able to eliminate all negative thoughts. A more realistic and sustainable approach is to learn strategies to manage your negative thinking so that you have control over how you want to live your life.

1. Challenge Your Negative Thoughts

This step-by-step strategy takes time and practice; you will not have control of your thoughts overnight. Be prepared and committed to practicing this strategy on a daily basis.

This strategy is all about teaching yourself how to counter your negative thoughts. There are 5 questions you can ask yourself:

  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.

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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.

You can learn more visualization techniques in this article.

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 and throw in the rubbish bin.

I like to write my negative thoughts, fears, and regrets on an inflated balloon, and then release it into the sky. Find the technique that feels best for you.

4.Surround Yourself With Positive People

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.

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5. Reframe Your Thoughts

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. What you are doing is assuming and personalizing your thoughts and reinforcing this with negative thinking.

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

Use positivity to overcome negative thoughts

    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 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

    With dedicated practice and commitment, you can replace negative thought patterns with thoughts that will actually help you achieve happiness and a sense of calm acceptance. There is no doubt that the more positive thoughts you have the more positive results you will achieve in life, so get started today.

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    More Tips on Overcoming Negative Thoughts

    Featured photo credit: Danilo Batista via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] BBC: Rumination: The danger of dwelling
    [2] Healthline: High Cortisol Symptoms: What Do They Mean?

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    Kathryn Sandford

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

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    Last Updated on December 6, 2021

    Feeling Lost? 40 Quotes to Help You Find Meaning in Life

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    Feeling Lost? 40 Quotes to Help You Find Meaning in Life

    Sometimes, we carry with us ancient wisdom that has been whispered through generations where we find strength for what we need. Other times, we sense our happiness and sanity have been swept away, and we float rudderless in our space. We wonder if we’re heading in the right direction and feel doom rather than the transformation. In these moments, we may need some feeling lost quotes to help us find inspiration again.

    During the times when we feel lost, it’s too easy to forget the comfort of good times and wade through the fluff that separates us from the pack.

    I often work in leadership and have to test my limits and inspire those I’m leading. One of the quotes I keep in mind by T.S. Elliot is:

    “Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”

    Knowing how you will perform in a crisis, personally or professionally, can help you get through tough times. The people who tend to work best in a crisis or stay calm in stressful times are those who are honest and forthright.

    We often try to find sense in our lives with logic, reducing perceived risks by increasing control. The problem with control is you can hold on too tight, narrowing your options and missing the big picture.

    Trying to squeeze action out of undefined goals only increases the pressure. Being happy comes from a sense of self and freedom, not a narrow list you’ve locked yourself into.

    Sometimes, we need to observe our life in new ways and examine it with wisdom we doubt we have. Those big successes are done with small incremental actions done every day. Who will you choose to be in times of doubt?

    Whether you bookmark this page for future inspiration or show off powerful, inspiring quotes on your T-shirt, coffee mug, key chain, and screen saver, these 40 feelings lost quotes will help remind you of your true essence.

    We can reconnect with our priorities and take inspiration from both the ancients and modern visionaries with some of my favorite words below that inspire simplicity and truth.

    Feeling Lost Quotes

    1. “If you are working on something you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you” –Steve Jobs

    2. “If you don’t stand for something, you will fall for anything.” –Gordon Eadie

    3. “One of the truest tests of integrity is a blunt refusal to be compromised.” –Chinua Achebe

    4. “The fears we don’t face become our limits.” –Amy Elizabeth

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    5. “Be who you needed when you were younger.” –Anonymous

    6. “We generate fears when we sit. We overcome them by action.” –Dr. Henry Link

    7. “The intangible represents the real power of the universe. It is the seed of the tangible.” –Bruce Lee

    8. “Storms make trees take deeper roots.” –Dolly Parton

    9. “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.” –Henry Ford

    10. “If you hear a voice within you say ‘you cannot paint,’ then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.” –Vincent Van Gogh

    11. “Stop acting so small, you are the universe in ecstatic motion.” –Rumi

    12. “A tree that is unbending is usually broken.” –Loa Tzu

    13. “What we achieve inwardly will change outer reality.” –Plutarch

    14. “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.” –Plato

    15. “Your teacher can open the door, but you must enter by yourself.” –Chinese proverb

    16. “To get lost is to learn the way.” –African Proverb

    17. “Don’t be distracted by criticism. Remember the only taste of success some people have is when they take a bite out of you.” –Zig Ziglar

    18. “Do you know who you are? Don’t ask. Act. Action will delineate and define you.” –Thomas Jefferson

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    19. “Give thanks for what you are today and go on fighting for what part of you will be gone tomorrow.” –William Shakespeare

    20. “Sorrow looks back. Worry looks around. Faith looks up.” –Ralph Waldo Emerson

    21. “One day you will ask me which is more important, my life or yours? I will say mine and you will walk away not knowing that you are my life.” –Kahlil Gibran

    22. “You were born to be real, not to be perfect.” –Anonymous

    23. “After climbing a great hill, one only finds there are many more hills to climb.” –Nelson Mandela

    24. “We may encounter many defeats, but we must not be defeated.” –Maya Angelou

    25. “I wash my hands of those who imagine chattering to be knowledge, silence to be ignorance and affection to be art.” –Kahlil Gibran

    26. “Fear is only as deep as the mind allows.” –Japenese Proverb

    27. “We must be willing to let go of the life we have planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us.” — Joseph Campbell

    28. “Go within every day and find the inner strength so that the world will not blow your candle out.” — Katherine Dunham

    29. “One swallow does not make a summer, neither does one fine day. Similarly, one day or brief time of happiness does not make a person entirely happy.” — Aristotle

    30. “There are two ways to live your life. One is as if nothing is a miracle. The other is as if everything is a miracle.” — Albert Einstein

    31. “You got to go down a lot of wrong roads to find the right one.” — Bob Parson

    32. “Anger, resentment, and jealousy doesn’t change the heart of others. It only changes yours.” — Shannon L. Alder

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    33. “To be lost is as legitimate a part of your process as being found.” — Alex Ebert

    34. “Scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue. Realize the strength, move on.” — Henry Rollins

    35. “The greatest mistake you can make in life is to continually be afraid you will make one.” — Elbert Hubbard

    36. “Life is not about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning how to dance in the rain.” — Vivian Greene

    37. “Nothing is more beautiful than the smile that has struggled through the tears.” — Demi Lovato

    38. “Leave your front door and your back door open. Allow your thoughts to come and go. Just don’t serve them tea.” — Shunryu Suzuki

    39. “Tough times never last, but tough people do.” — Robert H. Schuller

    40. “You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” — C.S. Lewis

    Sometimes It’s Ok to Feel Lost

    After looking at these feeling lost quotes, it is easy for someone to be confused. But these inspirational quotes will guide you to hear a voice every time when the risk is high, and you have nowhere to run. It is always easy to choose the shortcut and ignore the voice of the subconscious to do the right thing!

    No matter how dire the circumstances might be, you need to make efforts and find ways to uplift your morale. Not making an effort is more painful than the risk of immersing your thoughts in negativity.

    When you are feeling lost, it is natural to be confused about the next step. However, you have to determine when the risk of staying in a sad state for a longer period is causing more harm than good.

    And don’t you worry, it’s okay sometimes to feel lost and not know where you are heading in your life. We go through various phases in life, and none of them stay permanent. Remember that “Life is a work-in-progress” and this too shall pass. Keeping hope is very important if you want to sail through the tides of life.

    Don’t Be too Hard on Yourself

    Everyone is fighting their fight in their ways, but none can say – “I know it all.” Life is a constant struggle, and everyone has to push through personally to overcome obstacles.

    Whether it is your professional life that’s making you feel lost or your personal life brought about this state of mind, remember that you alone can find the solution. Happiness is a state of mind, and you alone can control the emotions that can bring a change in your attitude when you are feeling lost.

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    No one can tell you what your purpose is in the world, and only you have to decide that on your own. The universe has given us life and one that teaches us various things through unique experiences. Some might be good, and some might be bad.

    So, don’t beat yourself up or be hard on yourself even if you have not yet figured it out. It’s okay! You don’t owe anyone an explanation about why it is taking so long or why haven’t you been able to figure it out yet. Go at your own pace, and you shall reach where you intend to. Nothing is permanent, and you will find your way out. It’s just a matter of time.

    Rather than complaining and belittling yourself, you can try brainstorming ideas to help you move on. Procrastinating and beating yourself up will only drown the motivation and bring nothing of value but just self-pity.

    Don’t forget if you set your heart to something, you can achieve it. Feeling lost is not a permanent state, and to uplift your emotions, you need to have faith.

    Final Thoughts

    Many of these feeling lost quotes have a common core. That is, to take a step back and view yourself in a new way.

    Take action and make inspiration a routine. To act creates learning, and that builds confidence, provides direction, and eliminates doubt.

    Imagine what you want it to be so that your vibration matches your desire. We can’t snap our fingers to instantly change feeling lost, but we can increase our situational awareness with our emotions and places where our lives have or may take an abrupt turn.

    We take inspiration from our daily lives in as many individually unique forms as we are different. Inspiration can strike instantly and sporadically or feel like a trickle that slowly grows into a majestic waterfall crashing through with creative energy. That trickle is what will keep you going in dark times.

    When you’re in a place where you feel lost and don’t recognize yourself, allow some inner compassion for the person you are right in that moment[1].

    You have the power to create your world, one step at a time, and these feeling lost quotes can help. You choose how you think. Tune in to how you feel and why.

    Remember you have the power to be, have, and do anything you desire. Tough times never last, but tough people do.

    See what I did there? Another quote to inspire original thought as it applies to you. It’s been said that if you want to test a man’s character, give him power and you will see his true colors. So keep your inspiration on tap for when you need a reminder of your purpose.

    More to Inspire You When You’re Feeling Lost

    Featured photo credit: Daniel Jensen via unsplash.com

    Reference

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