Have you ever woken up and immediately your first thought was something negative? Maybe it was you didn’t get enough sleep, maybe it was all the things you have to do at work, or maybe it was the sound of your crying kids? We’ve all been there. I know I have. I struggle immensely with telling myself negative things, downplaying compliments and convincing myself of things that aren’t even true.
Now, in the last year or so, I’ve had to come to grips that I struggle with a combination of anxiety/mild depression mixed in with negative thinking. It’s something I do not talk about often because I didn’t want to ever accept that. I can’t tell you how many negative thoughts creep into my head on an hourly basis. When I walk in a grocery store in France, I immediately feel everyone stare and my mind goes haywire. I literally have to wear headphones and listen to a mindfulness podcast. Since I don’t have a job, my mind likes to take that and use that as a tool against me. Sometimes, I just wake up and my mind is already pumping out negativity. I hate it! It drives me insane.
When I lived in Latvia it was particularly bad and this anxiety/depression combo went on for a few months. It got to the point where I didn’t even look forward to the next day because my mind was buried so deep in negativity. I was in a dark dark hole and wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to get out of it. My husband didn’t know what to do, and honestly there was nothing he could do. It was my battle and I had to overcome it from the inside out. With a few changes, I am able to now be more aware of my thoughts, stop the bad ones in their tracks and focus on the positive.
Negative thinking will always be a recipe for disaster and since I have really recognized that I do struggle with those things, I’ve made a promise to myself to overcome it naturally.
Here are my tips that I use to help me combat negative thinking when it creeps up!
5 Ways to Combat Negative Thinking
1. Mindfulness Meditation
According to Jon Kabat-Zinn, who came up with the Mindful-Based Stress Reduction program, he defines mindfulness as “awareness that arises through paying attention, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally”. Simply put, mindfulness is focusing your awareness to the thoughts, feelings and emotions in the present. Additionally, you focus on these things without judgement, and without believing there’s a right or wrong way to think at any given moment. For me, mindfulness is especially helpful as I tend to think of the past a lot.
Mindfulness is a form of meditation that brings me to the present and helps me flip the script on the negative thoughts. More importantly, it causes me to notice when my mind wanders, and bring myself back to the present. My action steps include:
- a) recognizing the thought
- b) taking deep breaths and focusing on my breathing
- c) Literally yelling “NO!” or “Stop!” out loud
- d) Asking myself “why do I think this is true?” 10/10 times what I’m thinking has no evidence to support the negative thought
- Replacing the thought with a positive. I might say “I am beautiful” or “I am capable of completing this _____”.
2. Write it down
I started writing what I’m thinking down and it made a huge difference. As I’m writing, I realize that the negative thoughts are just absurd and my writing turns into affirmations naturally. When I see what I’m thinking in front of me, I can better see the depth of how dangerous my thoughts are and quite simply, how crazy wrong they are. Having a thought journal has helped my anxiety as well. Whether you purchase one that guides your thoughts and helps produce positive thoughts such as this great journal or you make up your own thought journal with 3 headings–for example, a) negative thought b) evidence that does not support the thought c) alternative thought–you can really see what your brain comes up with.
3. Start your day off with a positive affirmation
I start my day by writing down positive affirmations. They are really helpful and it helps my brain to focus on positive things about myself, my life and my capabilities rather than all the things I think I can’t achieve.
4. Cultivate a sense of gratitude
Having a constant feeling of gratitude causes you to always focus on what you have been blessed with and the things that people take for granted. When I wake up, I simply say “Today will be a great day because I am breathing, all my 5 senses work and my arms and legs work. I am deserving of everything that is coming my way.” It’s simple. Show gratitude. Be thankful for the little things that you take for granted like smelling and breathing. It will shift your focus to a positive one.
Negative thinking can be the difference between success and failure. It’s the one thing, in my opinion, that can prevent you from achieving everything that you are capable of. It is the enemy of productivity and the friend of failure. It can be a mind-eating disease that plagues on you daily and cripples the true person you are. But, the negative thoughts don’t have to win. You can stop them dead in their tracks by acknowledging them and reshifting your focus immediately. Even if you have to literally say “THAT’S NOT TRUE!”, you are speaking life and truth into the environment which will immediately cause a mind shift.
I will leave you with this. You are valuable and you are capable. You will not let your negative thoughts dictate and control who you are. You are successful and you are intelligent. Your negative thoughts have no place in your mind and have no place in your life. You are strong enough and powerful enough and you can take back your peace.