Negative thinking can have a strong and sometimes devastating impact on all aspects of our lives.
With the five keys listed below, and a little practice, I believe anyone can break free of negativity for good.
Getting drawn into a pattern of negative thinking can be likened to building a prison in your own mind. It holds you captive. I know. I've been there.
People try many different ways to 'break out' of their negative thought patterns including distractions, diversions or 'drowning their sorrows' only to later mentally beat themselves up for being still stuck in their negativity. It can feel like a real internal battle.
If you are struggling with negative thinking, I can tell you from my own experience that it is possible to turn things around and cultivate inner peace and happiness. With proper understanding and a little practice you can transform your life from the inside out.
Here are the five keys that can transform a negative mind into a thriving positive mind.
Key 1. Observe The Thought
Take a seat in the far back of your mind and simply observe the negative thought. (Think about how you’d watch a bird flutter about on a rooftop.)
Negative thoughts are generally a product of cognitive distortions, or irrational thought patterns, something recognized by psychologists and psychiatrists the world over.
You don’t require psychotherapy or medication – you only need to observe a thought, and then watch it dissipate.
Key 2. Question Any Overthinking
People trapped in negative thinking often feel hopeless because they don’t know what to do. You can’t always not think of things— you have to face your problems, you have to plan for your future and you have to deal with situations.
You can’t just bury your head in the sand and ignore everything. Trying to just ‘think positive’ about a situation that is truly difficult doesn’t seem authentic either. You need to understand why you are having this negative thought and to see it for what it is.
Here is a suggested course of action:
(a) Create two columns on a sheet of paper. Label the first column “Thought” and the second column “Solution.”
(b) When the overthinking appears, write down the time. Write anything of use in the “solution” column.
(c) At the end of the day/week/month, count the number of times the thought appeared and any insights.
Key 3. Determine the Evidence
Another way of reframing your thoughts is to evaluate the evidence behind them.
For example, if you’re always thinking “I never have enough money,” it may be helpful to assess the evidence and come to a solution (if needed).
Once again, you’ll create two columns.
In Column (A) write any supporting proof that you “never have enough money,” e.g. bank account balance, always asking for money, etc.
In Column (B) write any objective evidence demonstrating the contrary, e.g. having shelter, food, clothing, and so on.
What information is conveyed through this exercise? Can you say with 100 percent honesty that you “never have enough money”? If so, what’s the next course of action? Do you create a budget and limit your spending?
Key 4. Practice Mindfulness
What better place to mention mindfulness than after talking about money – a near-universal stressor?
Christopher Bergland, a three-time champion of the Triple Ironman triathlon and scientist, explains mindfulness
as “much more basic than most people realize.”
Bergland breaks down his approach to mindfulness in three steps: “Stop. Breathe. Think about your thinking.
Anyone can use this simple mindfulness technique throughout the day to stay calm, focused, optimistic and kind.”
Key 5. Choose Constructive Thoughts Instead of Destructive Thoughts
Now that you have developed some inner awareness you can deliberately choose to change thinking so it is constructive rather than destructive.
Positive or constructive thoughts help you effectively face your day-to-day situations.
Dwelling or overthinking on the past is not helpful and will cause negative emotions, but you can use past experiences to help make decisions and adjust your actions.
Worrying will only cause grief and anxiety but there may be some constructive action you can take such as taking out travel insurance or fixing a leak in your home. Once you’ve taken that action you can then drop any thoughts about it.
Constructive thinking allows you to be happy when things are going good, to put problems in perspective and deal with them in a practical way.
This is not a ‘quick fix’ method of turning around negativity (I don’t think there is a true one) but it is tried and tested and I can tell you from personal experience that it works.
The more you practice awareness of these thought patterns and what they’re doing to you, the faster you’ll begin to redirect yourself again to being mindful of the moment.
It’s like building a muscle and in time you become fit and mentally strong. In time the old habits are worn away and rather than being preoccupied with negativity, you’re being is engulfed in a deep sense of peace, as you’re connected to your life as it is unfolding.
It’s not that you don’t think or feel anymore; it’s just that these destructive thoughts no longer touch the essence of your being in the same way anymore. You become like a deep lake, less affected by the ripples on the surface. In time, your whole life is then transformed from the inside out!