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Published on March 5, 2021

How To Stop the Negative Thoughts From Spiraling In Your Mind

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

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 4 Most Critical Motivation Theories to Boost Your Productivity

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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

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Reference

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

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