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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

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Kathryn Sandford

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

10 Things You Can Do Now to Change Your Life Forever Don’t Know What to Do with Your Life? 5 Steps to Get Unstuck How to Release Anger Without Hurting Others How to Persevere (And Get Ahead!) When the Going Gets Tough What Is the Purpose of Life and What Should You Live For?

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Last Updated on May 22, 2020

Think Positive Mantras Help a Lot? Try Value Affirmation Instead

Think Positive Mantras Help a Lot? Try Value Affirmation Instead

Positive thinking is one of the most touted philosophies in the world. The advantages of positive mantras have been presented by authors and motivational speakers around the world. However, value affirmation may be more effective.

Do these techniques really work? Why would repeating a simple, positive phrase change the way you think and feel? Those are the questions we’re going to dive in to.

Decoding Positive Thinking

Positive thinking[1] is about developing our mindset in such a way that we expect good and favorable outcomes from events in our life. In other words, it’s the process of transferring our energy into reality by thinking optimistic thoughts.

This doesn’t mean we are unrealistic about the possibilities. Positive thinking is about recognizing all of the possible outcomes but choosing to focus on those that are positive and offer improvements to our lives.

Does Positive Thinking Work?

While many people believe that positive thinking leads you to the path of happiness, there are others who think otherwise. Both sides have put forward many compelling reasons supporting their views. While the argument may never end, the detractors have many reasons to believe that positive thinking, in isolation, doesn’t do much for our mental health. Here are some ways positive mantras can backfire.

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How Positive Mantras Can Do Harm

While positive mantras can be a good addition to a routine when understood, there are some downsides that you should be aware of.

1. Suppression of Negative Emotions

If we use positive mantras [2] too frequently, it might work for a shorter period, but in the long run, it may cause adverse consequences. Why?

When we use a positive mantra, it tends to suppress our negative emotions. If it continues for an extended time and becomes a habit, then we might be overwhelmed by even more negative feelings at times when the results are not as expected, as there should be a balance between positive emotions and negative emotions in life. The balance of positive and negative feelings in life is what helps us to accept challenges and overcome them.

2. Actions Speak Louder Than Mantras

Additionally, uttering positive mantras in our life might work sometimes, and also, to channel the energy into reality, utter faith and absolute belief are required. However, the mantras most definitely prove themselves useless if we just keep chanting positive mantras but fail to put into action the message that the mantra is supposed to convey.

As a consequence, we might be caught off guard by negative vibes and feel highly frustrated because our mind will immediately conjure up many negative thoughts.

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For instance, if you believe that a perfect body is the one with well-toned abs and biceps, and you keep on insisting that you have a perfect body, then your mind will start searching for the so-called negatives in your body. You will be insecure about the little bit of belly protruding out, your waistline, and even your arms. This will make you more insecure about your body and will depress you even more.

3. Production of Delusional Thinking

A fact is a fact; it won’t change irrespective of the situations and time and won’t change even when you utter positive mantras your whole life. For example, if you are a little short on money, you aren’t going to miraculously solve your financial problems just because you utter positive mantras a million times. It will be much better if you accept the reality and work towards dealing with it.

For example, if you have loan problems, you should work on personal budgeting instead of living with a false sense of security. This will make you happier in the long run.

Let’s take another scenario as an example. You have an exam tomorrow, and you are not prepared well. You’re time would be better spent studying the information you’re lacking rather than repeating a positive mantra to convince yourself that you will be fine. Ultimately, the positive thinking will help you feel more confident on the answers you already know, but it won’t conjure up information you didn’t study for. Conjuring fantasies to wrap up reality is no way to answer any question in the real world.

Hard work is key to success in our life. If you have worked hard, then despite all the negative thoughts that might surround your head instinctively, you are going to perform better. However, if you haven’t put in enough work, then no matter how many times you say that you are going to be successful, it won’t be enough.

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4. Increase Low Self-Esteem

A study has also shown that positive thinking works well if you have very high self-esteem. However, if you have low self-esteem and utter positive mantras, it will only strengthen your negative mindset when there are met by set-backs[3]. This will result in many negative feelings.

For example, if a good football player believes that he is going to be the best, then it will act as a buffer to help him perform to his potential. However, if a player with low self-esteem thinks that he is going to be the best player in the world, he will get discouraged when he realizes he isn’t doing as well as he hoped.

Alternative to Positive Mantras

If you are a believer in positive mantras, and you are beginning to doubt its functionality, what will you do? Don’t fret, because there is another theory called value affirmation that might help you.

What is Value Affirmation?

First of all, values are the beliefs which we think are desirable and ideal. Our values are dynamic as they are changing and reshaping as we experience new things in our life. Therefore, it is necessary that we update our values constantly so our objective in life resembles the values we believe in.

If we are aware of our values, it will help to maintain balance in our life. If there is an imbalance between our value and aim, it will undermine our motivation to do things. Hence, value affirmation is recognizing and defining the values we believe in rather than repeatedly saying positive sentences that may or may not hold significance for us.

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Do Value Affirmations Work?

In a recent survey[4], students in one of the universities were chosen randomly to write about their values. Those students who were selected performed very nicely in their college years in comparison to those students who had not taken part. This was repeated again with the same success in the Hispanic community and African-American community.

Therefore, the next time you find yourself chanting mantras to assure you that everything is going to be fine, stop. Instead, try to recognize your deeply rooted values and check whether your values are in balance with your actions and goals.

The Bottom Line

Positive mantras can be a great addition to a regular meditation practice or a good technique to use if you are secure in your self confidence and direction in life. However, if you’re feeling lost or having trouble tracking down your motivation, value affirmations may do more to help you as they’ll force you to take a good look at what really matters in your life.

More Tips on Values

Featured photo credit: Kazi Mizan via unsplash.com

Reference

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