And there it is again. The sneaky villain that never fails to recognize just the right moment and way to spoil my day and fill my head with negative thoughts and worries. I swear the sly spy knows all about me, all of my fears and doubts, all worries and problems. It knows even those stuff I’ve never told to anyone, I’ve never dared to think of, let alone saythem aloud. It just won’t let me be happy. It won’t let me be.
We are all facing negative thoughts occasionally, and that is perfectly normal. It’s a part of being a human, and we, humans, have a tendency to overthink, over-analyze and over-doubt. That is a part of our survival instinct mechanism, an automatized response to everything we face, to everything our mind recognizes as a potential threat.
But if repetitive, those negative thoughts can lead us to the dark path of depression and anxiety. Handling negative thoughts adequately is, therefore, of crucial importance for our wellbeing.
Here are 5 methods that will help you deal with the negative thoughts:
1. Learn to recognize thought distortions
“We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” – Anais Nin
We often see a problem even when one does not exist and this most often happens because of insecurity or a lack of self-confidence. It’s quite simple, actually. When faced with a difficulty of any kind our brain looks for a solution, using the available resources, leaning primarily on the experience and knowledge. If the experience, in our eyes, hasn’t been so positive, or if we could not imagine it as turning positive, we are likely to interpret the faced difficulty as a problem, and not just any problem, but the one with a likely negative outcome. And that, there, is the real problem, for we are not seeing things as they are, but rather as we are.
You must learn to recognize these thought distortions because only then you would truly be able to see the things objectively, and only then you could actually address them properly. Some of the most common negative thought distortions are:
- Personalizing. Not everything is happening to you nor because of you. You are not the center of the universe. Each person has their own microcosmos and each thing happened because of a whole chain of reactions that lead it there.
- Black and white thinking. Things are actually almost never solely black nor white. There are over 50 shades of grey in between, and for each why there is most probably
- Filtering. We are filtering when we are disregarding any positive aspects and see only the negative side of the situation.
- Catastrophizing. Assuming the worst scenario is going to happen.
- Global labeling. Attaching a harmful label to yourself or others, based on a single action or event.
And there are many more. Therefore, observe the situation from afar – be open-minded and do not exaggerate. Once you get the hang of recognizing these distorted thoughts, you’d deal with issues with much more ease and confidence.
2. Question the thought
We are living in quite a stressful environment and there are
negative inputs around each corner, like little monsters creeping in the shadows, lurking under your bed. And every now and then they jump up in front of you, their little claws clutching up your sleeve, eager and persistent.
They do look scary and they surely are after you, but the question to be asked is how dangerous they actually are. Do you have to fear them? Do you have to deal with them? Do they really matter? Are they really real? How do you know? Shall you take them seriously? There is no point in worrying about insignificant things. In the end, they would not matter anyway. Define your priorities and enjoy your life.
3. Handling negative thoughts Face on!
Pushing away or repressing negative thoughts is not gonna help. They are
already in your head, so deal with them! Inspect them, try to understand their origins. Don’t be intimidated nor lazy. Be productive, approach them as if they are a challenge, not a dead-end, and look for positive aspects. Learn something out of each failure and each victory. By doing so, you will not only learn how to handle negative inputs and situations in the future, but you will also learn your strengths. Look at this as a game – each time you level up, the opponents you’re facing get tougher, but so do you, and so your skills and tactics get more advanced.
4. Make a break and freshen up your mind.
If you are feeling stuck, it might be time to take a break and relax a bit. Go out for a walk, exercise, meditate, listen to music, grab a coffee with friends. Then refocus with a fresh perspective and knock that wall down. Or jump over it. Or go around. You can do it – most of the obstacles exist only in your mind.
5. Talk through your negative thoughts.
Negative thoughts are a way our mind is signaling us something is wrong, and only the right interpretation leads to two-way communication. We must learn to listen to ourselves. Our brain has a capacity to create the most fantastic stories, with plots so twisted that even Sherlock Holmes
would be left perplexed. So, when in doubt, talk it through. You can do it on your own – address what’s bothering you out loud and have a positive conversation with yourself, go through the arguments, analyze the motives, suggest solutions and potential outcomes. Or talk to your friends, ask for their opinion. A fresh opinion is always welcome. Or talk to a professional. In any case, be as proactive and as constructive as possible. The key to handling negative thoughts is to learn to listen to yourself and to learn to interpret and handle what you hear.