Enjoy this guest post from Helen Sanders, the chief editor at www.HealthAmbition.com !
First, accept it:
Having negative thoughts is perfectly normal!
Our brain evolved to think, reason and ponder. This amazing ability of being able to anticipate future outcomes made us into the successful species that we are (source).
However, that came at a cost. Whilst being able to predict what will happen (‘if I throw this spear into that woolly mammoth it will kill it, I can skin it, I can cook it and then I can eat), it made us consider what may happen (if I throw this spear into that woolly mammoth, my neighbours might come and steal it and beat me).
Negative thoughts are normal, but they become a problem when we believe absolutely everything they say. They consume us and become part of our constant thought process, becoming walls from which there seems no escape.
But there is a way to beat this!
So let’s look at how to triumph over negative thoughts!
Don’t Run Away!
When confronted with negative thoughts, it’s tempting to try and push them out of our minds. Think about something different, watch some TV or read a book.
Alternatively, people may find solace in drugs or alcohol, but this is probably the worst reaction. Not only does it damage your health, but a recent study illustrated that drinking may make negative thoughts and memories more painful (source).
Even if you push it out of your mind for awhile, it will not be long before it pops back into your head and you are back to square one.
You haven’t run away from the thought, you’re facing it head on.
Well done! What now?
Don’t Believe the Lies
The negative thought is in your head. It says, ‘I am a failure’. The first reaction is to agree with it, and then search frantically over in your mind for all the occasions in your life you have been a failure; even turning positive situations into negative to agree with your own story.
If this happens you will be thinking even more negatively than you were 5 minutes ago! (source)
So don’t believe what your mind tells you! It Lies! It’s time to be proactive!
Be a Detective
Instead of giving the thought power, be a detective, investigate why the thought arose. Chase it back to its origins. Was it an email you read, was it a look your boss gave you or something someone said?
In doing this we take away the strength of the negative thought and see it as a just a symptom.
By following this method we can develop a more positive mindset!
Let’s assume your ‘I am a failure’ thought arose from your neighbor telling you your car is dirty. Instead of agreeing and pondering on your car, your overgrown lawn and your peeling paintwork, think about the cause. Okay, the car is dirty. So? It can be washed.
Then think about the catalyst. Why did the neighbor say that? What is going on in their lives? Maybe they are unhappy?
This promotes compassion in you which is proven to create happiness and combat negative thinking! (source)
Label Those Thoughts
By now you haven’t become overwhelmed by the thought. Excellent! Now it’s time to give that thought a name.
See the thought and accept it. Sticking with the ‘I am a failure’ thought, we can label this as ‘thinking of failure’ or just ‘failure’. The more you do this, the easier it becomes and soon it will become second nature.
In labeling thoughts, you take away their strength. You learn that these emotional responses and thoughts aren’t ‘you’, as ‘you’ are the one observing them from a distance. You are not controlled by them, you are in control.
This technique is a core aspect of mindfulness meditation which has been proven as a technique to overcome negativity (source).
Despite Everything, You are Still Here!
Now that you are in control of your thoughts, think back. How many times in your life have you been overwhelmed by negative emotions and felt that there was no escape? How often did you expect the worse to happen and play over in your mind all those disastrous scenarios?
I would guess a lot. And you know what? Most of those scenarios probably never happened, and you are still here!
Despite all that worrying and negative thought, you have managed to survive until today.
So what was the point in getting carried away with the negatives! It made no difference!
We all get negative thoughts from time to time, but the key is not to be controlled by them. They are not your boss! Follow these simple rules and you will have a more rewarding life!
Now that you know how to triumph over negative thoughts, go and enjoy! You deserve it!
Helen Sanders is chief editor at HealthAmbition.com. Established in 2012, Health Ambition has grown rapidly in recent years. Our goal is to provide easy-to-understand health and nutrition advice that makes a real impact. We pride ourselves on making sure our actionable advice can be followed by regular people with busy lives.