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Published on March 5, 2021

How To Stop the Negative Thoughts From Spiraling In Your Mind

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How To Stop the Negative Thoughts From Spiraling In Your Mind

You started your day well but suddenly, something unexpected or untoward happens, and you are entirely out of your funk. One bad thought leads to another like a domino effect, and before you know it, you feel terrible and have no idea why you think or feel the way you do. You have no clue how to stop the negative thoughts that echo in your mind.

The Negative Thought Spiral

Negative thoughts could stem from something as trivial as looking at something or someone on social media to a showdown between you and your manager on Teams, and these thoughts can start to spiral.

“I am not good enough.” “What was I thinking?” “Why didn’t I say no to the engagement right at the start?” “I am so stupid to trust him again.” “I don’t deserve happiness.”

Despite your best intentions to figure out how to stop the negative thoughts, you realize the loop is endless. Besides the time you spend ruminating on these thoughts, the real danger, though, is when you start believing them to be true.

Are Thoughts Accurate?

One negative thought does not do us much harm. However, these thoughts may begin to affect us when we start dwelling on them, create negative thinking patterns, and get trapped in those patterns.

Often, when we are in such a spiral, our fear kicks in, and we start hypothesizing worst-case scenarios. We generalize everything to its extremes and start believing every exaggeration in our minds.

Negative thoughts are not really isolated. Our brains make it a mission to remind us of all relevant and linked negative thoughts and before you know it, you are spiraling down the drain until you start to question the very basis of your existence.

But thoughts aren’t always facts. They are not always accurate and cannot all be taken at face value. Thoughts can be distorted and manipulated by our past experiences, conditioning, and deepest fears. The more we indulge in these negative thought patterns, the more they become reinforced and alter our beliefs.

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It’s not all psychological though, as some part of this negative thought spiral is chemical, too.

Our Intrinsic Negative Bias

Our brains are primitively primed to ensure one thing above all else—our survival. We are constantly scanning our environments, looking out for threats that could harm us. The brain keeps an eye out and is always ready for a fight. So, when a negative thought comes in, your brain thinks it’s helping you by reminding you of all the associated memories with that negative thought.

A boss yells at a colleague, saying she’s stupid not to have planned for this scenario. The colleague starts to hyperventilate, and the chemical secretions in the brain alert it to prepare for war. It starts to bring up all the references it has marked for stupid in the past and reminds her of every instance from the kindergarten teacher who used the same word. It is a reaction that happens on autopilot.

Several neuroscientific and psychology studies have proven that negative stimuli trigger more activity in the brain.[1] This bias is attributed to evolution. Brains had to continually monitor environmental threats to ensure survival.

Like how Rick Hanson wrote in his book, Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love, and Wisdom,

“your brain is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.”

This negative bias is what makes us ignore five compliments but focus on that one criticism we hear from others. It makes us overlook the good and only obsess on the things that are not working for us.

The bias is ingrained and wired to ensure the survival of the physical body at all costs. So, no matter how much we try, negative thoughts will have the power to completely hijack our minds. While we cannot change our proclivity towards all things negative overnight, we can ensure that we dwell less on it, even when they happen.

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How to Stop the Negative Thoughts?

Here are some things that you can do to stop the negative thoughts and prevent them from spiraling in your mind.

1. Pull the Handbrake

When you catch yourself going down a negative thinking spiral, manually intervene and pull that handbrake to get to a screeching halt. You’ll have to forcibly pause your brain from going down that spiral the first few times because otherwise, the autopilot tendency towards negativity kicks in.

The next time you feel negative thoughts are taking over the reins, visualize that handbrake or a stop sign and hit pause to all the racing thoughts. Step back, take a couple of deep breaths, and re-evaluate the situation from a place of calmness rather than agitation and anxiety.

2. Redirect Your Attention

Once you pause the string of negative thoughts coming in, redirect your attention to something else. Consciously distract yourself from your current chain of thoughts and try to immerse yourself in something different. Maybe go for a run, listen to music, call up your best friend, or cook your favorite meal. It can be anything that can take your attention away from the thought or incident that triggered the spiral in the first place.

The more attention your distraction consumes, the faster you’ll gain control of your spiraling thoughts.

3. Observe Without Judgment

When we start going down the spiral of negative thoughts, we are often our harshest critics. “How dumb was I not to see this coming?” “How could I even think this was possible?” “What is wrong with me?” “I keep making the same mistakes.” “Won’t I ever learn my lesson?”

So on, go the thoughts. We judge, and we judge ourselves harshly.

The next time you find yourself swimming in the deep end with such negative thoughts, try and transition to the seat of the observer. See if you can rise above the thoughts and observe from a distance. Often, when we are too close to the situation, we fail to see how our thoughts are nonsensical or ridiculous.

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Becoming an observer is like holding up the mirror to reflect our own thought process. This honest and non-judgmental reflection helps us see the fallacies in our thought processes. We start seeing and perceiving the things we were blinded to when we were in the thick of things, and it helps us move forward.

4. Identify the Triggers

As you start to observe your thoughts without judgment, begin to look for patterns in these spirals from a distance. Is there a common trigger point that kickstarts this spiral? And once you identify that, don’t stop there.

Dig deeper to identify the triggers and the underlying emotions behind them. What about the trigger is actually affecting you so much? Are there unresolved issues lurking beneath there? Instead of solving the symptoms, see if you can address the root cause.

If it is too emotionally heavy, talk to a therapist to work them out together. Healing those open wounds or bruised scars underneath might help resolve these spirals in the long run.

5. Validate Before Accepting

We’ve already seen that thoughts can be deceiving. The next time you catch yourself going down the loop, pause to validate the thought before you accept them as facts.

Ask yourself, is this true always? Have there been instances when I’ve experienced the opposite of this thought? Is there a limiting belief underlying this thought? What are the resources or strengths that I can use to counter this limiting belief?

Make sure to work through these questions and validate the thoughts before you accept them as accurate.

6. Actively Reframe

The more you catch yourself going down these negative spirals, you’ll start to see reinforced negative thought patterns that pull you down. Identify these negative thoughts and actively reframe them to be more positive and empowering.

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Remember, the neurons you fire together wire together. Instead of firing the neural networks that disempower you and make you feel less confident, actively choose to create new neural pathways that encourage you to be more resourceful to keep going towards your goals.

7. Act, Don’t Ruminate

The secret of getting ahead is getting started—instead of repeatedly ruminating on what happened or what should have happened, or what will happen, start taking action.

Action dissipates misplaced thoughts and beliefs for two reasons. One, when you are acting, you have lesser time to think, evaluate, or judge. Two, when you act in alignment with what you’d want to be, your actions act as evidence and invalidate distorted negative thoughts. That is more powerful evidence than any other affirmation.

Final Thoughts

The tips shared above should have answered the ringing question of how to stop negative thoughts. Remember, the mind is an important and sacred place. Keep it clean and clear.

Whenever you catch yourself going down this rabbit hole of negative thoughts, anchor yourself consciously to the present moment. Bring your awareness to your present reality and observe the thoughts from a distance. Remind yourself that you are much more than your thoughts and feelings.

More Tips on Managing Your Negative Thoughts

Featured photo credit: arash payam via unsplash.com

Reference

More by this author

Shwetha Sivaraman

Entrepreneur, Self-Awareness Coach, and a Podcaster at Being Meraklis

4 Most Critical Motivation Theories to Boost Your Productivity How To Better Prepare Yourself Mentally For the Life After COVID-19 How To Brainstorm Ideas More Creatively And Effectively How To Stop the Negative Thoughts From Spiraling In Your Mind

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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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