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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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The Ultimate Way to get to Inbox Zero

The Ultimate Way to get to Inbox Zero

Ah, Inbox Zero. An achievement that so many of us long for. It’s elusive. It’s a productivity benchmark. It’s an ongoing battle.

It’s also unnecessary.

Don’t get me wrong, the way Inbox Zero was initially termed is incredibly valuable. Merlin Mann coined the phrase years ago and what he has defined it as goes well beyond the term itself.

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Yet people have created their own definition of Inbox Zero. They’re not using it with the intent that Mann suggested. Instead, it’s become about having nothing left in immediate view. It’s become about getting your email inbox to zero messages or having an empty inbox on your desk that was once filled with papers. It’s become about removing visual clutter.

But it’s not about that. Not at all.

Here’s what it actually is, as defined by Mann:

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“It’s about how to reclaim your email, your atten­tion, and your life. That “zero?” It’s not how many mes­sages are in your inbox–it’s how much of your own brain is in that inbox. Especially when you don’t want it to be. That’s it.” – Merlin Mann

The Fake Inbox Zero

The sense of fulfillment one gets from clearing out everything in your inbox is temporary at best, disappointing at worst. Often we find that we’re shooting for Inbox Zero just so that we can say that we’ve got “everything done that needed to be done”. That’s simply not the case.

Certainly by removing all of your things that sit in your inbox means that they are either taken care of or are well on their way to being taken care of. The old saying “out of sight, out of mind” is often applied to clearing out your inbox. But unless you’ve actually done something with the stuff, it’s either not worth having in your inbox in the first place or is still sitting in your “mental inbox”. You have to do something with the stuff, and for many people that is a hard thing to do. That’s why Inbox Zero – as defined by Mann – is not achieved as often as many people would like to believe. It’s this “watered down” concept of Inbox Zero that is completed instead. You’ve got no email in your inbox and you’ve got no paper on your desk’s inbox. So that must mean you’re at Inbox Zero.

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Until the next email arrives or the next document comes your way. Then you work to get rid of those as quickly as possible so that you can get back to Inbox Zero: The Lesser again. If it’s something that can be dealt with quickly, then you get there. But if they require more time, then soon you’ve got more stuff in your inboxes. So you switch up tasks to get to the things that don’t require as much time or attention so that you can get closer to this stripped down variation of Inbox Zero. However, until you deal with the bigger items, you don’t quite get there. Some people feel as if they’ve let themselves (or others) down if they don’t get there. And that, quite frankly, is silly. That’s why this particular version of Inbox Zero doesn’t work.

So what’s the ultimate way to get to Inbox Zero? Have zero inboxes.

The inbox is meant to be a stop along the way to your final destination. It’s the place where stuff sits until you’re ready to put it in the place where it sits until you’re ready to deal with it. So why not skip the inbox altogether? Why not put it in the place where it sits until you’re ready to deal with it? Because that requires immediate action. It means you need to give the item some thought and attention. You need to step back and look at it rather than file it. that’s why we have a catch-all inbox, both for email and for analog items. It’s allows us to only look at these things when we’re ready to do so.

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The funny thing is that we can decide when we’re ready to without actually looking at the inbox beforehand. We can look at things on our own watch rather than when we are alerted to or feel the need to. There is no reason why you need an inbox at all to store things for longer than it sits there before you see it. None. It’s a choice. And the choice you should be making is how to deal with things when you first see them rather than when to deal with things you haven’t looked at yet.

Stop Faking It

Seeing things in your inboxes is simply using your sight. Looking at things in your inbox when you first see them is using insight.

Stop checking email more than twice per day. Turn off your alerts. Put your desk’s inbox somewhere that it can be accessed by others and accessed by you when you’re ready to deal with what’s in it. Don’t put it on your desk – that’s productivity poison.

If you want to get to Inbox Zero — the real Inbox Zero — then get rid of those stops along the way. You’ll find that by doing that you’ll be getting more of the stuff you really want done finished much faster, rather than see them moving along at the speed of not much more than zero.

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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