How to Conquer Negative Thinking
We suggest making a challenge to remove all of those negative thoughts from one’s head. We, as people, tend to think about the negative experiences more than on the positive ones, right?
That is innate, and it serves to help us stay safe from danger, and be able to have a quick reaction when we are in some sort of crisis. However, being negative all the time prevents us from being happy.
Some people are more prone to thinking negatively than others. According to Judith Beck, a psychologist, the way we think may be genetic or a result of some experiences we have had during our childhood.
For example, kids may be prone to negative thinking if they have experienced bullying, teasing, some sort of abuse, or blatant trauma. A study from 2013 says that women are more likely to have negative thinking than men. (1)
Rick Hanson is a psychologist as well as a senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center, and he says that it is in our nature to learn from negative experiences, and less from positive ones. However, practicing can help you stop this cycle of negative thinking.
Surprisingly, the first step that will help you prevent negative thinking is actually not trying to stop them. (2) If you feel like you are overthinking about some lost promotion at work, do not tell yourself that you need to stop thinking about this.
Dr. Beck says that when you worry and obsess over things and you try to control them, you make them even worse. So, you can become aware that you are in that negative situation, and try owning those thoughts by saying something such as “I’m obsessing about my lost promotion.”
When you acknowledge your negative thoughts and accept them, you are close to stopping them. Mindfulness meditation helps in lowering the stress and reactivity, and the basis is acceptance.(3)
You do not need to close your eyes and meditate each day in order to feel the benefits. Instead, you may remind yourself to follow your thoughts without trying to alter or change them immediately.
When you accept those negative thoughts, they become less hard for you. If you are mad at yourself for being worried or telling yourself to stop being worried, you give bigger power to negativity.
When you finally accept that you have a negative thought, you can make yourself challenge it. So, when you think about that lost promotion, you may have been worried about your overall competence.
Then, you should ask yourself whether just one setback makes you incompetent, or which things that you have done make you a competent worker. But, if you find it hard to challenge your negative thoughts, imagine that your friend is the one go received bad news.
Think about what would you tell him, and think about how that advice would help you. This method is known as Socratic questioning, and one study from the University of Ohio says that it helps people lower the symptoms of depression. (4)
Fifty-five adults participated in the study, and they were enrolled in cognitive therapy sessions for sixteen weeks. According to the researchers, as they observed the footage, patients had lower symptoms when their therapists would have asked them Socratic questions.
With the help of this type of question, the patients were able to observe their negative thoughts and get a more realistic view of them.
Of course, sometimes it may happen for your thoughts to be valid, but your predictions are not. For instance, if you are left by your partner, thinking that they do not love you may be true, but thinking that no one will ever love you is not true, according to Dr. Beck.
So, you are ready to become active. If you worry that no one loves you, make sure to hang out with your family and friends. Make a list of all of your achievements if you are feeling hesitant about work.
You may ask some of your friends to write you a letter with everything good about you, and you can reread it every day.
The author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm, and Confidence, Dr. Hanson, says that you may find it useful to ask yourself what you are achieving by thinking negatively.
If you are thinking about your financial issues, while thinking about finding a solution, that is useful. Anyway, thinking about some other problems like a foreign crisis is not going to help you or change anything.
At those times when negative thoughts are making you feel overwhelmed as well as agitate, you should inhale deeply. In fact, controlled breathing lowers stress and eases anxious thoughts.
After all, if you feel that your thoughts are interfering with your everyday life, you should think about seeing a professional. It may be helpful to see a therapist who teaches practical methods to deal with unwanted and continuous thoughts.
In cases in which negative thoughts are coming from clinical depression or severe anxiety, it may be helpful to talk with a therapist about the cause of those symptoms. And, you may discuss meds that can help you as well.
Until you sort out what is the best approach for you, take a break and analyze your thoughts. Dr. Hanson says that it is good to ask yourself whether your negative thoughts are helping in building you or are they destroying you.
We hope that this article was helpful, and we wish you to have enough courage in the next year to battle any issue you have. Remember, you need to work on yourself in order to make a change.