How to Quiet Negative Thoughts

Earlier this month, I shared some of my favorite tips on how to be more positive. Today, I’m piggybacking on the topic and discussing how to quiet any negative thoughts in our heads. Let’s grab a coffee/tea, something yummy to munch on, and relax into a positive mindset ➳

Okay, we’ve learned how to be more positive. Now what about the times when our thoughts can’t seem to think positive — or straight — as if they’re being clouded and consumed by some overpowering, unexplainable cadence of negativity?

It can start with a simple, yet powerful, thought or feeling. Or perhaps with a negative, impactful statement someone just made. Sometimes you’ve just fallen into an enigmatic hole (this has happened to me quite a lot) with have no idea how to escape, or how you even got there in the first place. Then it begins to drag you down and consume your mind, until you’re feeling worried, anxious, or thinking “what’s the point in fixing this? I’ll still feel terrible,” or “This is just how it is. There’s no other way out.” Walking around with your own personal black cloud raining above you is no fun.

Unfortunately, as humans, it’s in our nature to participate in negative self-talk. Once we start, we have a tendency to think the same cruel thoughts over and over again. The more this happens, the stronger they grow. Negativity that consumes us can quickly become toxic, holding us back from living the life we want and deserve.

When it comes to our inner thoughts, it’s important to note that replacing our negativity with positivity isn’t about turning negative thoughts off, nor is it about turning false negative thoughts into false positive ones. Rather, our goal is to reframe any negativity in such an effective way, that they become detached from needless toxicity, and are instead focused on the positive building blocks that can be utilized in the present.

I am not here to tell you to suck it up, turn that frown upside down, or any of that ineffective nonsense. I am here to remind you that it’s okay, I know you are trying, and to bring you some raw, useful strategies that not only have I used, but have been psychologically proven to help with negativity and gradually eliminate it altogether.

Okay, enough negative talk — hah, see what I did there (this post is still about positivity!) Let’s think about how we can create new, positive paths that are easier to travel to.

Record & Review

In order to change your thinking, the first step is to clearly understand what you are thinking. When a negative thought begins to enter your mind, instead of ignoring it and pushing it to the back of your head, pay closer attention, record it and review.

This means that the second you think negative, pause and immediately write it down. For instance: “I’m never going to get this job because I’m not good enough and don’t have enough experience.” Get the thought out of your head while it’s raw, before it’s reached its maximum. Then, quickly identify what exactly triggered the thought: “This is a new field for me and I’m feeling a bit out of my comfort zone.”

While this may be uncomfortable to do, the process of recording and reviewing your thoughts can help bring a healthy, realistic awareness to the negativity that may exist within them. Ultimately, this will help shift your mindset into a more positive one.

Question the Negativity

Along with recording and reviewing negative thoughts, try to question them by asking things like: “How vital are you? Should I take you seriously? Are you real or a facade trying to dictate who I know I am?” You may be pleasantly surprised to discover that many of our negative thoughts are either minuscule (not to say they aren’t important, of course), or they don’t hold any truth — especially the ones that suddenly pop up. Sure, there are negative thoughts that may stem from a larger, deeper situation that you shouldn’t take lightly, but this method is great for those times when you’re focusing on one small mistake, one bad day, or when you literally have no idea why you are even thinking negatively in the first place. Why let something consume you that you know shouldn’t even be there, especially if you actually want to escape it?

I like using this method as it helps me realize that just because there is one thing trying to take over me, I still have the power to lift myself up. It allows me to stay level-headed by giving me an honest reality check and fine tuning of my thoughts.

Don’t Lie to Yourself

This is probably one of the most important thoughts I’ll share. Humans are easily susceptible to self-deception because we have emotional attachments to our beliefs. We begin to identify ourselves based on them, even if they’ve caused us to hurt before. We’ll deceive ourselves to trust something that isn’t true, whether as an easier way out of a troublesome situation, or out of fear of facing and overcoming it. When we do this, we’re denying ourselves from a true reality that we know we deserve.

Self awareness and honesty are critical keys to shutting down negative thoughts and heading toward a more positive path. It can be very easy in the heat of a negative mindset to begin mustering up a variety of reasons as to why you’re feeling desolate — even if they actually have nothing to do with it, or you know deep-down inside that the reasons aren’t true. This is toxic to yourself, and can only cause you to spiral downward into an unhealthy state of mind, which you obviously don’t want!

It’s an emotional, mental and physical defense mechanism to distort the way we see and feel things, or automatically trust our inner monster — it’s an easier route, after all, not having to face your feelings, but it’s incredibly bad for you. These automatic thoughts can fill our heads without us even being aware of them or their inaccuracy, causing us to believe what our minds are making up for ourselves. Of course, it’s good to trust one’s judgement based on experiences and confidently knowing who we are, but if you’re in the opposite mindset of feeling like you’ve lost yourself, it doesn’t exactly make sense to trust your own thoughts, does it? That’s when you know you need to take a step back and find out how to be honest with yourself, even if it means seeking the assistance from others. Communicating with and about your thoughts is so, so important.

If something unfavorable suddenly enters your life, you can’t explain why and you don’t know how to get out of it even though you want to, please don’t allow yourself to automatically shut down and let the thoughts take over. You are greater than them. If you’re hurting, let yourself feel your hurt fully — it’s OK to be seen in the truth of pain in order to set your spirit onto a better path. Anxious feelings and negative thoughts are no fun, but they’re certainly surmountable if you’re honest and trying.

The “Just Because” Method

This technique involves coming up with a statement that you can recite to yourself when you feel your thoughts spiraling into negativity. An action like this will help you acknowledge that you have the power over your bodily responses and thoughts, and to increase this power over time.

To practice this method, tell your mind something along the lines of “just because I’ve been struggling with my everyday myself, doesn’t mean I never will find myself again.” Find what’s upsetting you, then insert “just because” and “doesn’t mean.” Now relax.

Positive Affirmations

Positive affirmations can be very beneficial, as outlined in my post on How to Be More Positive. As soon as you feel a negative thought coming your way, think positive. I know it’s easier said than done, but this positive thought can either be specific to the problem, or something completely random to just help you get out of your own head.

For example, if you’re trying to find love while simultaneously thinking you are not good enough for it, you can say “I am a worthy, kind and loving person, and an equally worthy, kind and loving relationship will come my way.”

Practicing this method on a daily basis can help reshape your thinking, making it a powerful tool no matter what thoughts are running through your head. Be mindful of your positive affirmations and you’ll be on your way replacing the bad with the great.

Find the Good

If you’re in a setback, I know it can be daunting and feel like everything around you is dull and trying to dominate you. To counteract this, ask yourself questions to not only help you feel better in the moment, but also grow for the future:
  • What is one good thing about this situation?
  • What is one thing I can do differently — should this happen again — to have a better outcome?
  • What is one thing I can learn from this?
  • Will this matter in 5 years? 5 weeks? 5 days?

Be Grateful

I know that everyone has their own struggles, hence the famous quote “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Even so, it’s important to take a moment and be grateful for all that we have, especially the everyday things that we may oftentimes take for granted. For me, I am always grateful for the following:

  • Having a roof over my head
  • Being able to have fresh food and clean water
  • Loving friends and family
  • My overall health

When you take the time to accept these everyday parts of your life, you may be able to shut off any overpowering negativity, at least in that very moment.

Live in the Moment

Along with being grateful, it’s important to live in the moment. When you’re trapped in a negative state of mind, you’re thinking about something bad that happened, may happen or both. To escape this, shift your attention fully into this moment instead. Into what is here and alive right now. What you are worth — because yes, you are worth more than your thoughts may tell you otherwise.

Try to make it a habit to spend more of your time in the very present, in order to escape the negativity of the past as well as thinking about any potential outcomes of the future (which we don’t even know!). I know this sounds a lot easier said than done, so here are a couple of ways to place yourself into a mindful, present state:

Focus on your breathing. I never thought about how much this could help until I recently started a new yoga challenge that involves a lot of breathing and being in tune with both your body and mind. All you have to do is take a minute or two to take slow, deep breaths, making sure to breath with your stomach and nose. Focus only on your breaths and nothing else.

Take in your surroundings. Even when I’m not in a negative state of mind, I love taking a moment and turning my attention to the world around me and nothing else. Focus on it all: the people walking by and their muffled conversations, the sounds of the birds, the warmth of the sun against your skin, the sight of clouds moving across the sky.

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Along with these exercises above, keep the following in mind to continue practicing positivity, and gradually eliminating negativity:

  • Thinking positively is not about expecting it to happen right away. You must first accept what is happening, and work on making the best of it.
  • Use the exercises I’ve outlined above to motivate you rather than drag you down further. Remember that you are in control of the way you respond to your life.
  • There is no such thing as wasted effort! Even if you end up with disappointing results at first, you will also end up being stronger, more educated, and more experienced. All the better for continuing that effort into bettering you and your thoughts.
  • Slow down. Breathe. Know that you are where you are meant to be at this very moment, and this present step and experience are vital.
  • Embrace the positive energy that begins to flow from your new decision-making, in order to rise above and beyond toxic thoughts that never belonged in your mind in the first place.

Feeling down? Let’s begin with a simple exercise 

Exercise #3 & _: First, jot down a brief sentence or two about a specific negative thought that’s been troubling you. Then, use one of the methods above.

I hope these exercises are able to help in some way. Let me know what your favorite method is, if there’s one not listed that helps you, and remember to always think positive 🙂

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9 thoughts on “How to Quiet Negative Thoughts

  1. Hey, Danah,

    This is one of the BEST articles I’ve read on how to transform from Negative Nelly to Positive Polly! Especially the “Just Because”. I feel that the whole “turn that frown upside down” statements are useless and irritating.

    Liked by 1 person

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