Nobody benefits from an untempered negative thought.
Negative thoughts feed off each other, and once they get started, they have the potential to grow until they become all-consuming. Any negative thinking can do this, regardless of merit. A petty argument with a coworker has just as much potential to ruin your day as legitimate worries about health or finance. Instead of letting a single negative thought balloon into a bloated mess, try to replace it with a happier or more productive thought, instead. Proactively replacing negative thoughts with positive ones is one small, simple step you can take towards a healthier and happier life.
The goal is not to eliminate the possibility of negative thoughts, but rather to work through them when they occur. The person who overcomes obstacles is always stronger than the person who never encounters any.
So don't let those cynical thought journeys take hold of you. Instead, arm yourself with several effective ways to clear the negativity and replace it with something more positive. Positive thinking will help you reduce anxiety and give you a chance to find tangible solutions to your real-world problems. Here are eight simple, free tips to help you get started.
This one is simple. Negative people perpetuate negative thoughts. Sometimes a pity party sounds like a good idea, but commiseration will never leave you satisfied. Seek out the positive people in your life, the ones who will give you kind but honest support.
For maximum effect, a mixture of the past, present, and future works well. Think of past memories that have shaped who you are, current relationships that lift you up, and future plans you're looking forward to. Doing this will put your life back into focus.
Negative thought patterns often concern the future. ("I'm not learning my new position fast enough, surely my boss is going to fire me!" or "My son and his girlfriend broke up today, which means he'll soon become depressed and unproductive.") Meditation can help bring you back to the present by focusing your thoughts on your own body and breathing. Regular meditation may help with anxiety1.
If you've never meditated before, you may want to check out a guided meditation to get you started. Other people prefer to meditate in silence or with music. There are many free resources on the internet that will help relax your mind and promote positivity.*
Playing the victim is never helpful, even if you were the victim. Understand that taking responsibility for your life does not mean taking the blame for bad things that have happened. It merely means taking control of your future.
If you allow yourself to focus on how others have caused your problems, you will forever be stuck waiting for those same "others" to fix these issues for you. Instead, cast everyone else aside for a moment and forge your plan for progress. *
It's all about framing. Adopting a higher level of self-compassion has been shown to increase positive outcomes2. Instead of resigning yourself to the worst possibility, think instead of how you'll overcome it. Change "I'm never going to fit in at this new job" to "I'm sure this new position will be challenging, but I will gain valuable experience as I work through it."
Doing this can be tricky, so make sure you're in a supportive environment (this is where all those positive people from the last tip come into play).
Don't forget to give yourself and everyone else a break now and then. Everyone makes mistakes, and it's the people who learn from them that genuinely grow. Perhaps you made a mistake. Judged too quickly. Yelled when you shouldn't have. Or maybe it was someone else who acted rashly. In the end, all you can do is move forward. Don't forget the past, but also don't dwell on it.
Sometimes a problem may seem out of your control. Many people depress themselves over politics or trauma they see on the news. If you find yourself in need of a positive distraction, then consider helping others. Volunteer at a charity or give someone something that you cherish3. Perhaps a friend of yours could use a home-cooked meal?
Focusing on a kind task will help your mind break free of negative thoughts. And the satisfaction you get from helping others will lift your mood.
There's an innate sense of pride and contentment that comes from tangible creation. Painting, cooking, writing, even potting a few plants all let you take a moment to appreciate your efforts.
Remember, your thoughts are what you make them!
(1) The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH). Meditation: In Depth
(2) Bergland C (2017 Jan). Self-Compassion, Growth Mindset, and the Benefits of Failure
(3) Dyer W, Dr. (2009 Dec). Share What You Love