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Last Updated on November 26, 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 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.

    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 April 19, 2021

    11 Positive Thoughts for Your Everyday Motivation

    11 Positive Thoughts for Your Everyday Motivation

    The power of positive thoughts cannot be denied, even though sometimes it can seem a little like a cliché when you hear people talking about it. Well, I’m here to tell you that cliché or not, the mental and physical benefits of thinking positively are a proven way to give you more confidence, improve your self-esteem, give you motivation, and generally put you in a better mood. Thinking of at least one positive thought every day can have significant benefits for you.

    Some scientific studies even suggest that thinking positively can reduce the likelihood of health conditions, like depression, hypertension, and a variety of other stress-related disorders.

    This sounds amazing, but what does it really mean to think positively?

    Positive thinking isn’t about finding your inner smile. Many people rarely have what they would consider joyous inner thoughts but that doesn’t mean they can’t be content with themselves and their life.

    Positive thinking (thinking of positive thoughts every day) is more about finding the positive imagery in your life and viewing things through more optimistic eyes, especially if you’ve got yourself into a rut of seeing things negatively.

    The biggest problem with positive thoughts is that they wear off quickly and things like rejection, negative experiences, setbacks, and heartbreak can soon put you into a downward spiral that gets you back into that negative funk you hate.

    And, let’s be honest, being in a negative funk is a sure-fire way to strip your motivation and leave you unable to perform at the levels you know you can. If you’re looking for an instant way to boost your motivation, join the free Fast-Track Class – Activate Your Motivation. It’s a free intensive session that can help you identify your inner drive and build a sustinable motivation engine. You can sign up for the free session here.

    So, how do you keep yourself positive in a world that seems hell-bent on bringing you down? Well, with the right routine of positive thoughts you can ensure that you wake up every day feeling motivated and looking forward to everything life has to throw at you.

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    Here are some tips so you can start thinking of positive thoughts every day.

    1. Be Thankful You Woke up This Morning

    Not to start on a morbid note, but you woke up this morning. Some people didn’t. Don’t think of it is as a depressing morality tale, just use it to remember that you’ve won the greatest gift life has to offer – you’re alive.

    It’s so easy to dwell on the negative aspects of our lives, but we always seem to miss the most obvious positive thing we have – life itself. Take a deep breath, look outside your window, and marvel at the world around you.

    2. You Don’t Have to Listen to Haters

    There’s no doubt that some people are really mean-spirited individuals who will love to ruin your day. Well, I’m here to tell you they can’t. Not if you don’t let them.

    Ignore the haters. Dismiss their bile for what it is – vicious comments of unfulfilled people. Remind yourself that you are above them and nothing they say will bring you down.

    3. Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

    I know, I know. It’s easy to say, “Don’t compare yourself with anybody else.” But at the end of the day, we all have envious thoughts when we see somebody we perceive to be more successful than we are.

    But think about it, are they really better than you and even if they are, does it even matter? By spending time being jealous you are wasting time on negative thoughts that could be spent pursuing something that makes you happy.

    4. You Must Take a Chance

    It’s easy to shy away from something that is high risk and high reward out of fear of being labeled a loser.

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    Have you ever noticed that doing so actually makes you feel worse than if you’d just taken the risk in the first place? We know that rejection feels bad and failure can weigh heavily, but regret is a far stronger emotion over time.

    Don’t hesitate if you have the chance. Go for it and tell yourself that if you fail, it’s no big deal. At least you tried.

    Perhaps the perfect example of this approach is David Goggins. We all have a lot to learn from the inspirational David Goggins story and his priceless sayings.[1]

    Goggins, considered by many to be ‘the toughest man alive’, is a retired Navy SEAL and the only person ever to complete SEAL training, the U.S. Army Ranger School, and Air Force Tactical Air Controller training. He’s also one of the world’s top endurance athletes and held the Guinness World Record for pull-ups, completing 4,030 in 17 hours.

    He sounds like a ‘naturally gifted badass person’ right? But in his book, he reveals that he was actually ‘The weakest man in the world’, in his own words.

    Overcoming obesity, poverty, racism, learning disabilities, abusive violent father, he came through the other side, inspiring people to embrace suffering and struggle, to find their greatness and inner peace. He took the slim chances he had and changed his life completely.

    5. Accept That Things End

    Even the best things in life end eventually, so don’t worry about them. Don’t fret about how the good times are about to stop, just enjoy them while they last. And when they do finally end, be happy in the knowledge that something else just as good will come along.

    6. Don’t Judge Others

    This ties in with point number 2 above – you won’t like it if others judge you so don’t judge them. We know it can be difficult to refrain from labeling other people, but doing so is a sure-fire way to start descending into a negative thought spiral.

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    We all live in a world where passing judgment is tolerated, but not only is accepting people a great way to make others feel better, it’s also a fantastic way to foster positive thoughts within ourselves.

    7. Don’t do Things for Others That Make You Unhappy

    We all want to make other people happy, right? But what if the things that other people want us to do makes us unhappy?

    If you’re doing something just for the satisfaction of others, don’t. Stop it right now. Your happiness and your time should never be sacrificed for the satisfaction of someone else. You won’t be able to think of positive thoughts every day if you are unhappy in the first place.

    8. Don’t Like Your Job? Then Quit.

    Okay, that’s a little dramatic, but nothing is more certain to drain your happiness levels quicker than a job that you hate. If you spend your evenings and days off dreading returning to the office, then start to do something about it.

    We’re not talking about jeopardizing your livelihood by quitting (although the dramatic heading for this point certainly suggests so). What we mean is start to make plans and formulize an exit strategy. Nothing promotes positive thoughts more than a plan that removes something negative from your life.

    Start simple by saving up funds to make the change and circulating your CV. The first step may seem difficult, but the sense of relief it gives will improve your thought patterns immeasurably.

    It might be scary to start over at someplace new and going through a screening process that might be tedious, but once you understand that selling yourself can be easier than you think, you are halfway through.[2]

    9. Take Control of Your Mornings

    How you begin the day will set the tone for how the rest of it will go. Getting up in a panicked state is a very efficient way to kick start a negative emotional spiral. Get up bright and early, and give yourself time to prepare for the day.

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    Though some of the mind-boggling thoughts you are having when waking up can be positive for you and even mean more than you imagine, it’s better to set up a fixed positive mental routine.

    Think about the positive aspects of your life and tell yourself things like, “Today is going to be a good day” or “I’ll be amazing today.” Yeah, I know this sounds cheesy, but positive words instill positive thoughts.

    10. Focus on the Good Things in Your Life No Matter How Small

    You’re going to hit obstacles during the day. Things don’t generally run perfectly all the time. The trick is that when you encounter a challenge, don’t dwell on it and choose to focus on the positives you can find no matter how small they may seem.

    If you get stuck in a traffic jam, don’t fret about how it is slowing you down. Take positivity in the fact that you have extra time to listen to the radio station you have been enjoying. If you head to your local store and it’s out of the ingredients you need for your dinner party, buy something else and create a different food masterpiece.

    Focussing on good things is a great way to gain positive momentum in your life. The huge power of momentum is that even a series of very small things can accumulate to massive results – with the aid of momentum.

    11. Look at the Funny Side

    Even dark situations can have a humorous side if you look at them the right way. When in a dark or trying situation, remind yourself that what is happening to you will probably make a great story in the future and may even be passed on as a joke. Look for the funny side and laugh.

    Final Thoughts

    We all know that positive thoughts can be incredibly motivational but in modern life, it can be difficult to stay uplifted when the world around you seems determined to bring you down. By following some of the tips in our guide above, you could harness the power of positive thinking and find yourself starting every day motivated. So, start thinking of positive thoughts every day!

    More Tips to Start Thinking of Positive Thoughts Every Day

    Featured photo credit: Jacob Townsend via unsplash.com

    Reference

    [1] Vision, Belief, Change: Best David Goggins Quotes
    [2] Vision, Belief, Change: Is Selling Yourself Easier Than You Thought?

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