7 Strategies to Turn Off Negative Thoughts
Just like the snowball rolling out of control, bigger and bigger, faster and faster, negative thoughts drain our energy and rob all our strength. And the more you give yourself to these negative thoughts, the stronger they become. Worse still, in the same way it’s harder to stop the small snowball once it’s rolled a few yards along the valley and gotten bigger, it’s also harder to stop a ball of negative thoughts that’s already started rolling.
What Should We Do With Negative Thoughts?
Life gives us challenges. A lot of the time it’s without giving us a break or keeping in mind what resources we have. In view of that, having negative or defeatist thoughts is normal. But, feeding them, holding onto them, or even chasing after them lowers our quality of life and poisons our own self-image. Why do we need to attack our own self-esteem like this?
Sometimes a negative thought hurts, and a lot of the time it shapes our actions. It can make us act desperately even when there’s need for it. It can also encourage the possibility of throwing in the towel from lack of resources or skills when we’d still have had a lot to say. Ultimately, negative thoughts tend to shape our decisions, and not exactly for the better.
So, why do we feed a negative thought when we know it hurts us? The problem starts when the first negative thoughts jump out at us and we don’t deal with them well. Ultimately, when the ball is small and hasn’t infected everything it touches. For example, there are people who deal with negative thoughts, or rather, the anxiety they cause, by “shutting off” the freezer. It’s a strategy that tends to create even more negative thoughts. In this case, thoughts about our self-control and our bodies.
With this kind of thoughts comes another strange phenomenon: even if you’re aware you need to forget that thought, it’s hard to turn it off. The more you think about it, the more it sticks out. And you get stuck there, obsessing over something that doesn’t just make you feel bad, but can also cause you to seriously risk your mental health.
How to Turn Off Negative Thoughts
So, how do we get rid of this negative thought? Honestly, you can’t avoid it completely. Sometimes negative thoughts are just a little spark in our brains. We need to be aware of when this happens, so that we can immediately recognize them and in that way know if we’re thinking negatively.
The following strategies will allow you to turn off negative thoughts and help you start thinking positively.
1.- Watch your thoughts: negative thoughts are generally a product of cognitive distortions, or patterns of irrational thought. Watch them like you’re a spectator. If you don’t let them take over your mind they’ll just disappear. Look at them as logs floating downstream. Sooner or later you’ll lose sight of them. Accept your negative thoughts and let them leave.
2.- Rethink any question you’re brooding over: brooding is a pattern of obsessive thought. When we brood over something we do it thinking we’ll be able to solve it just by thinking more about it. It’s something that, in general, is completely pointless. You should resolve the stuff that’s really part of your thoughts and get rid of what you’ve created in your head, before looking for a solution. Don’t be alarmed if it turns out there wasn’t a problem after you’ve eliminated the fantasy, no problem but one you created yourself.
3.- Move and take physical action over your thoughts: when you find yourself trapped in a negative thought, get moving. Changing gears in order to wake up positive thoughts isn’t very easy when your mind is occupied looking for a way to suffer. This is a good time to go out for a walk, go on a run, dance, or practice yoga. Don’t stop thinking–your mind is really occupied–just let your body take the reins and bring your mind to another place.
4.- Avoid things that trigger negative thoughts: a song, picture, piece of reading, something you see on TV, certain people’s company…Once you figure out which things lead to your negative thoughts, avoid them. And, however you can, replace them with other ones that awake pleasant feelings inside you. Don’t martyr yourself or make it harder.
5.- Surround yourself with positive people and pleasant experiences: if what you see, hear, and read is positive, if the people around you are positive, it’ll be easier to keep negative thoughts at a distance. Any trigger of negative thoughts will be easier to turn off if you’re surrounded by optimism.
6.- Repeat positive statements in situations where you used to think negatively: negative thinking tends to be a learned habit. So, instead of letting any habitual negative thought invade you, pick up the habit of thinking positively in those scenarios. To remember or reinforce it, you can have it in front of you. Written on paper, on your clothes, on your computer or phone wallpaper, or even on your own skin.
7.- Remember that no one is perfect and move forward: it’s easy to get hung up on your mistakes. But the only thing you can do is learn from them and move forward. Nothing’s going to change no matter how much you brood. And if it’s a weakness or limitation that wakes up your negative thoughts, focus on your strengths and good qualities. If you can’t change what you’ve got, make sure you get the most out of it.
Thoughts Won’t Last Forever
Negative thoughts are short-lived and temporary, unless we make it otherwise. They don’t have any real power of their own, but they can hurt us quite a bit if we give them the chance to grow. A thought only has as much power as you give it. Negative thoughts pick up steam when we turn them on. Turning them off afterwards is a hard task: it’s not a thought anymore, it’s a habit.
We’re all responsible for the ways we need to process our own thoughts. It doesn’t matter where the thought came from. What’s important is that you can turn it off and create a good environment for the duration of those thoughts to go down. The key is to detect these negative thoughts before they have time to dig into your head and defeat your allies.