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How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions

How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions

People have a distorted view of the world when they are in a negative state of mind. It becomes a cycle where negative thoughts reinforce negative emotions, which in turn produces negative actions.If the cycle is not broken, and left to run uninterrupted, it inevitably has a detrimental physical and mental effect on the person experiencing the spin. In addition, if these cycles spin often enough, they can lead to clinical depression and anxiety.

The key to avoiding this negative distortion and stopping the mental spin is to understand what initiates the cycle. Once mindful of the triggers, people can train themselves to avoid it, or stop it before it does any harm.

Triggers

Thoughts, actions, feelings and sometimes even physical reactions can be triggers. On its own, a single trigger has little impact on your view of the world or emotional state. You can easily dismiss a feeling of frustration after dropping a dish on the floor, because there are no further triggers to escalate a cycle, it is an isolated incident.

However, if someone says, “I cannot believe you broke my dish!” then frustration can turn into anger and the cycle begins.

A Negative Thought as a Flame

Visualize a negative thought as a flame. A flame burning in an empty concrete parking lot cannot do much damage. These fires are left to burn out on its own or easily extinguished.

Put that flame in a closed room filled with combustible material and you have a potential disaster on your hands.

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Unless quickly extinguished, the fire will use every piece of flammable material in that room to burn hotter, longer and faster. Left uninterrupted, that single flame will become an inextinguishable inferno that will burn until it has nothing left to fuel its flames.

People experience a similar situation when they are a host for so much negativity. By the time, it finally runs its course, all the anger, frustration, and blame has destroyed a person from mental, physical and spiritual exhaustion.

Example of a negative emotional cycle

A person is driving towards a business meeting when they take a wrong turn, which causes them to be 20 minutes late for a meeting.

This minor event has happened to everyone. Yet, in this case, the person experiences a wave of nausea and stomach tightening from stress.

The physical reaction triggers a negative thought. “I’m always late; I screw up like this all the time, and I’m going to lose my job.”

Without taking a moment to decide if these thoughts are rational, the cycle gains speed and initiates negative actions. Believing that the people in front of him are stopping him from making up lost time, our person begins a tirade of profanities and rude hand gestures at innocent motorists.

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This entire scenario can be resolved with a simple and rational thought like, “Well I am usually early for these events, and everyone makes mistakes. I’m sure my associates will understand.”

Recognizing the triggers

In order to avoid a negative spin you need to recognize the triggers that set off the cycle and the environments that make you more susceptible to these triggers.

As well, being in a positive state of mind or in a secure and nurturing environment allows for a measure of protection from a negative cycle.

Also, add another layer of defence by being mindful of your work environment, the type of career you choose and the interactions you have with people.

Weakening Triggers

Create an inventory of positive truths about yourself and your life. It takes a little bit of effort to remember the positive aspects of your life, but it is well worth the work.

Disarming triggers requires that you counter any negative thought with a relevant and equally powerful positive truth.

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For example, if you think “Everyone hates me, I’m unlovable”, you can counteract this thought by thinking, “My wife and children love me and they are always happy to see me when I come home.”  Extinguish the negative thought as quickly as it arises.

Be truthful and celebrate the good in your life. Take five minutes every night to write down all your successes, positive qualities and the things that make you happy. This creates a natural defence against negativity.

Disrupting the cycle by disrupting the pattern

There are going to be times when you are unable to recognize a trigger because you are in a weak mental state.

For example, you go to sleep in a positive state of mind and then unexpectedly wake up angry and grumpy. In these scenarios, breaking a negative cycle with positive thoughts is hard if not impossible to do.

In cases like this, starve yourself of any additional negative energy that might strengthen your state of mind. This requires you to break any established patterns.

If the usual routine includes having a coffee and reading a newspaper, then you have to catch your mind off guard and go straight to the shower.

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The bathroom is a place of solitude and allows you to avoid any irritating interactions. Moreover, the shower gives you a moment to pause and reflect on your mood.

Avoid any negative local, world or economic news that might further irritate your mood.

The earlier you get out of the house the better. Allow yourself ample time to treat yourself to a coffee, breakfast and a leisurely drive to work.

Conclusion

A negative state of mind not caused by a single emotion; it is the build-up of triggers that distort reality. Create an honest outlook of your life, by being mindful of your environment, and rejoice in all that is positive in your life.

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Last Updated on December 30, 2018

How to Become an Early Riser and Stay Energetic Throughout the Day

How to Become an Early Riser and Stay Energetic Throughout the Day

This article is the 2nd in the 6-part series, Lifehack Challenge: Become An Early Riser In 5 Days.

If you’d like to become an early riser, there are some things you should know before you run off to set your oft-ignored alarm clock.

So how to become an early riser?

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Here are five tips I’ve discovered to be most helpful in making the transition from erratic sleeper to early morning wizard:

1. Choose to get up before you go to sleep

You’re not very good at making decisions when you’ve just woken up. You were in the middle of a dream in which [insert celebrity crush of choice here] is serving you breakfast in bed only to be rudely awakened by the harsh tones of your alarm clock. You’re frustrated, angry, confused, and surprised. This is not the time to be making decisions about whether or not you should stay in bed! And yet, most of us leave the first decision of our day to be made in a blur of partial wakefulness.

No more! If you want to be a consistently early riser, try making your decision to rise at a specific time before you go to sleep the night before. This frees you from making the decision in the morning when you’ve just woken up. Instead of making a decision, you have only to follow through on your decision from the night before. Easier said than done? Of course. But only for the first few times. Eventually your need for raw willpower to get out of bed will diminish and you’ll be the proud parent of a new habit!

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Steve Pavlina suggests you practice getting out of bed during the day[1] to get a few of the “practice sessions” out of the way without the early morning fog in your head.

2. Have a plan for your extra time

Let’s say you’ve actually made it out of bed 2 hours before you normally would. Now what? What are you going to do with all this time you’ve discovered in your day? If you don’t have something planned to do with your extra time, you risk falling for the temptation of a “morning nap” that wipes out all the work you put into getting up.

What to do? Before you go to bed, make a quick note of what you’d like to get done during your extra hours the following day. Do you have a book to write, paper to read, or garage to clean? Make a plan for your early hours and you’ll do more than protect yourself from backsliding into bed. You’ll get things done and those results will fuel your desire to build rising early into a habit!

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3. Make rising early a social activity

While there’s obvious value in joining a Lifehack Challenge in order to get you started as an early riser, your internet buddies just don’t have enough pull to make your new habit stick in the long term. The same cannot be said for the people you spend time with as part of your early morning routine.

Sure, you could choose to read blogs for two hours every morning. But wouldn’t it be great to join an early breakfast club, running group, or play chess in the park at 5am? The more people you get involved in making your new habit a daily part of your life, the easier it’ll be to succeed.

4. Don’t use an alarm that makes you angry

If we’re all wired differently, why do we all insist on torturing ourselves with the same sort of alarm each morning? I spent years trying to wake up before my alarm went off so I wouldn’t have to hear it. I got pretty good, too. Then I started using a cellphone as my alarm clock and quickly realized that different ring tones irritated me less but worked just as well to wake me up. I now use the ring tone alarm as a back up for my bedside lamp plugged in to a timer.

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When the bright light doesn’t work, the cellphone picks up the slack and I wake up on time. The lesson learned? Experiment a bit and see what works best for you. Light, sound, smells, temperature, or even some contraption that dumps water on you might be more pleasant than your old alarm clock. Give something new a try!

5. Get your blood flowing right after waking

If you don’t have a neighbor you can pick fights with at 5am you’ll have to settle with a more mundane exercise. It doesn’t take much to get your blood flowing and chase the sleep from your head. Just pick something you don’t mind doing and go through the motions until your heart rate is up. Jumping rope, push-ups, crunches, or a few minutes of yoga are typically enough to do the trick. (Just don’t do anything your doctor hasn’t approved.)

If you live in a beautiful part of the world like me, you might want to use a bit of your early morning to go for a walk and enjoy the beauty of the world around you. If you have a coffee shop open within walking distance, dragging yourself out of bed for a cup of coffee to savor on your walk home as the world wakes around you is a wonderful experience. Try it!

More Resources for an Energetic Morning

Featured photo credit: Frank Vex via unsplash.com

Reference

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