Battling Negative Thinking

Many times you may catch yourself with negative thoughts running rampant through your head. Although it may feel that these thoughts have a mind of their own, you have much more power than you may believe. The good news is that you are able to switch out those negative thoughts for positive ones with the right practice and techniques. First, you must identify those not so fun thoughts, the negative ones. Here are a few common forms of negative self-talk you can find yourself using:

  • Filtering. This is when you magnify the negative aspects of your life and filter out all of the positive ones. Instead of focusing on the compliments you may have received on a work task or personal endeavor, you chose to focus on what could have been done better and what you still need to do.
  • Personalizing. When something bad happens, you automatically blame yourself. Your friends canceled the plans you had set for the night? Oh it must be because they don’t want to hang out with you. That is most likely not the case, but that is what you tell yourself.
  • Catastrophizing. You automatically assume the worst is going to happen. For example, you may worry that you will fail an exam. That thought snowballs into thinking that failing the exams means that you are a bad student, therefore you will never pass the course, graduate, or find a job. 
  • Polarizing. You see things only as either good or bad, there is no middle ground for you. This could mean that you need to see yourself as being perfect in all aspects of your life or you’re a total failure.

Now that you have identified some possible types of negative thinking, let’s move on to positive thinking. Like mentioned before, this may sound simple but it takes time and practice – after all you are creating a brand new habit. Here are some tips on how to think in a more positive way:

  • Identify areas to change. If you want to find yourself engaging in more positive thinking, you first need to identify areas of your life that you typically think negatively about. This could be your daily commute, relationships, or work. There is no need to tackle all of these negative areas at once, which can be overwhelming. Instead, start small and focus on one area that you can begin to see in a more positive light.
  • Check yourself. Throughout the day stop what you’re doing and evaluate what you’re thinking. If you find that your thoughts are going down a negative path, try and find a way to put a positive spin on them. 
  • Be open to humor. Don’t forget to crack and smile or let a chuckle out, especially during these difficult times. It is important to seek humor in everyday happenings. When you can laugh at life, you feel less stressed.
  • Follow a healthy lifestyle. Exercise is proven to positively affect your mood and reduce stress, while following a healthy diet can help to fuel your mind and body throughout the day. Finding the time to exercise can seem daunting, but we can make it less scary by splitting it up into smaller chunks. A 5 minute stretch here, a 10 minute walk there, and next thing you know you’re halfway through your daily exercise goals. 
  • Practice positive self-talk. Sometimes it can be hard to think of positive things about yourself, but here is a trick to help. Start by following one simple rule: Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to someone else. We are often our own harshest critics, remember to be gentle and encouraging with yourself. If negative self-talk enters your mind throw up the yield sign and explore that thought further. Take the time to evaluate the negative thoughts rationally and respond with affirmation of what is good about you.

Just remember, this will not happen overnight. Do not wake up tomorrow and expect your head to be filled with rainbows and butterflies. This takes practice, those negative thoughts can have a strong hold but eventually by putting these tips and tricks into play you will be able to have a more optimistic outlook on your everyday life.