Negative thoughts are normal, but when they take place too often, they contribute to depression, social anxiety, low self-esteem, and stress.
Uncontrolled negative thoughts rolling around our minds can create inner chaos. Our thoughts, emotions, and behavior are linked to one another. We don’t want rampant negative thoughts to profoundly affects everything we do, do we?
Ways To Control Negative Thoughts
We can use several techniques to get rid of the negative thoughts weighing on us. I find it to be more of a process that enhances and handles how our mind recognizes and responds to negative thoughts. It’s sort of like strength training.
- Use mindfulness to build and strengthen your self-awareness.
- Identify the negative thoughts.
- Replace negative thoughts with more realistic and positive ones.
- Practice acceptance instead of avoiding or denying the thoughts.
- Learn to cope with feedback and criticisms.
- Use a diary to log your thoughts.
Using Mindfulness To Combat Negative Thoughts
Mindfulness is the practice of detaching oneself from thoughts and emotions to observe them as an outsider looking in. Mindfulness can change the relationship we have with our thoughts.
The primary objective of mindfulness is to control our emotional reactions to situations or circumstances. Don’t allow the “thinking” portion of the brain to take over; simply observe.
Identifying Negative Thoughts
As we become mindful of our thoughts, work towards identifying and labeling negativity and cognitive distortions.
This negative thinking pattern is characterized by constantly assuming the worst possible outcome without ever considering the more likely and realistic possibilities.
Jumping To Conclusions
Making assumptions about what and how others think or how events will play out is a distortion many struggle with.
A person who labels themselves as “bad” at something will often have negative thoughts or feelings about other topics or activities, including whatever “that” is.
Overgeneralization is a pattern marked by the tendency to apply what’s happened during one experience to all experiences thereafter. Negative experiences can seem unavoidable, contributing to anxiety.
Personalization and Blame
Personalization often leads people to place blame on themselves for things beyond their control.
Assuming something is true because of your emotional response is called “emotional reasoning.” While some “gut feelings” help keep us safe, not every feeling has a reason or motive.
Sometimes we have to pause for a moment to accept the thoughts for what they are; it’s only a thought and not factual.
Replace Your Negative Thoughts
Cognitive restructuring can help us identify and change our negative thoughts to more beneficial responses. It involves a process of identifying, evaluating, and replacing negative thoughts.
Have patience because it can be challenging to think in this new way. With practice, it can become more natural. Here’s how the process breaks down.
- Ask yourself if the thought is even realistic.
- Consider what’s happened in the past during similar situations and figure out if your thoughts are on the same page.
- Actively challenge the thoughts by looking for alternative explanations and answers.
- Compare what you would gain versus what you could lose by continuing with the thought.
- Determine whether your thought is a result of a cognitive distortion.
- Ask yourself what you might tell a friend or family member with the same thought.
“Thought-stopping” is the exact opposite of mindfulness. It involves being hypervigilant for any negative thought because you insist they must be eliminated. The issue with thought-stopping is that the more we try to stop negative thoughts from arising, the more seem to push to the surface. This is known as “thought-rebounding.”
Cope With Criticism
The primary goal of improving our ability to take criticism and rejection is to increase our tolerance of the distress these situations can cause. In turn, doing so might stop the automatic negative thoughts.
Track Negative Thoughts With A Diary
“Thought Diaries” are used with any process to change negative thinking patterns. Utilizing such a simple tool helps us identify negative thinking styles, and gain a better understanding of how our thoughts cause emotional reactions.
Negative thoughts can get rapidly compound. It doesn’t take long before that negativity spreads. Knowing how to nip it in the bud has numerous benefits, like healthier emotional control, improved self-awareness, and a better outlook on things.