We all have negative thoughts. I often find myself concocting stories in my head, most often imagining the worst possible outcome for whatever is before me now. But most of us will have these episodes occasionally and get back more often to a balanced state of mind. For others, unfortunately, these thoughts can overwhelm or even cause poor health.
We need to learn to challenge our negative thoughts and distortions. We need to question the truth of these thoughts then replace them with uplifting and realistic thoughts. We can learn to act in a way to be our best selves. We can choose to reinforce healthy habits, choices, and behaviors.
Of course, we are constantly surrounded 24 hours a day with negativity and crisis after crisis. Much of this is media driven. They sensationalize stories to drive views and clicks. Even before the internet the phrase “If it bleeds it leads” was the way the media went. It can be good to find yourself an unbiased news source and view it briefly. Negative people are a little harder to avoid. All you can do there is to stay away from them or remove them from your life if possible.
It is best to focus on the things that are in your control. You can use something called reframing. Say you have five tasks that need to be completed at work. Say the day is half over and you have only finished two. A negative way to view this is “Oh no! I am not even halfway done, I have so much to do!”. This puts you in the frame of mind that you will never get done. Instead think “I am almost half done! I can finish the rest easily”. This reframes the thoughts. Sometimes, this perception switch is all that is needed to keep you in a constructive direction. Also, planning your day the night before, prioritizing your tasks and taking small steps can be very helpful.
It is good to know that many things that trigger our negative thoughts may have been imprinted upon us before our rational mind was even formed in early adolescence. Unresolved childhood traumas can impede your personal growth. We need to understand that deep- seated childhood experiences can form patterns that affect us in our adult life.
Setting goals and learning new skills can help to move your life forward. Replaying negative past events and forecasting dire outcomes are just thoughts in our heads. The past is past, and we do not know the future no matter how many stories we make up. Often negativity comes from lack of direction, focus, and planning. The choice is ours to forecast positive rather than negative outcomes. You need to recognize quickly when a negative thought creeps in. Observe it, release it and replace it with thoughts of previous success, positive affirmations, or simply feeling grateful. These mindful exercises can stop negative thoughts in their tracks.
Surround yourself with people that lift you up rather than put you down. They will support and inspire you to see the good among the challenges in life. Do minimize sources of stress by avoiding endless news cycles. Set healthy boundaries around negative people. Be active in letting go of limiting beliefs and negative self-perceptions. Learn when those thoughts start and quickly nip them in the bud.
Kathleen Weaver-Zech and Dean’s Team Chicago