11 Ways to Stop Negative Thinking (for Now)
Negative thinking is something we all will struggle with at some point in our lives. Even the most positive of people have their rough patches. And the depressed among us can allow it to affect our physical, mental, and emotional well-being. It can even cost a person his or her life.
It’s important to realize that negative thinking comes and goes. In the preparation of this article, we were thinking about calling it 11 Ways to Stop Negative Thinking Once and for All. But that’s impossible. Because life ebbs and flows. It has ups and downs, and you will not shut it out entirely. But if you learn to recognize it and take the appropriate steps when it does rear its ugly head, well, that can make all the difference.
In the following article, we’re going to give you the action plan for fending off negative thoughts as they come. Let’s begin!
1. Be Focused on Goals
One of the best ways of dealing with depression is to beat it down and not give it a chance to lead you into harm’s way. The way you do that is to always have something to look forward to. Of course, depression of the clinical variety should be administered to by a professional. But when it comes to the everyday malaise of depression, that can be handled within your control.
When you have a mission or motivation, you don’t give yourself a chance to get swept up in the flow of negative emotions that lead to defeatist attitudes. But to do this right, you need a clearly stated objective — consider writing it down — and a step-by-step action plan. You’ll also need a method of evaluating whether you accomplished your mission or not.
2. Keep the Past in the Past
It’s hard to focus on forward momentum when you keep going back to re-litigate past failures (or victories). Nothing you’ve failed or succeeded at before is going to take care of the work that needs to be done in the present.
The older you get, the more you’ll see the types of people that Bruce Springsteen sings about in his hit classic, “Glory Days.”
“Time slips away, leaves you with nothin’ Mister but boring stories of Glory Days. Yeah they pass you by. Glory Days. In the wink of a young girl’s eye. Glory Days. Glory Days.”Lyrical Excerpt from “Glory Days,” Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
On the other hand, you’ve got people who did nothing but fail at life before. Now they’re more capable than they realize but they’re handcuffed to those old failures without realizing how they’ve changed or grown into something. Either way, the past can be corrosive when one dwells on it too much in relation to the present.
3. Plan for Challenges
You are going to face them. They are what usually bring on the temptation to give into your negative thoughts. But if you can keep yourself from getting swept up into the emotional turmoil of difficulties and failure, you can usually find a way through.
So do yourself a favor if you feel success starting to slip through your fingers. Sit down with a pen and paper in hand. Start with the final outcome you’d like to see. Then, backtrack it step-by-step. “Reverse engineer” your way to the very first step you’d need to take. Then, take that step.
4. Count Blessings
As you face challenges and deal with your baggage, it always helps to look at the good things you’ve got going on in your life. Because in every good thing, you have a resource that can help you through the tough times. These “blessings,” for the religious among you, can be the people you care about, the small or large successes you’ve experienced to this point.
It can be your network of connections, a specific skill you’ve gotten quite good at, financial security, material possessions of some kind. You have more blessings than you think. Sit down in the same way you did with your challenges and list these blessings out. Leave no stone un-turned. From the largest to the most insignificant factor, write down everything and everyone that you like in your life. They’ll keep you on track through the challenges, help you recover from failures, and keep you grounded when you experience your share of successes.
5. Be Resilient
Failure is the one thing that every single person — successful or not — has experienced. Don’t think that current tribulations are the last you’ll ever face, or that they will last forever without some turn toward good fortune. Resiliency is realizing that bad doesn’t come and go and then never come again.
Resiliency means that you know ahead of time how you will pick up, move on, and plow forward when (not if) those failures occur. One way to test your resiliency is to step out on your own without the financial or emotional support of your Mom, Dad, or significant other and start taking risks and making mistakes. There may be some rocky roads ahead, but you’ll test your mettle and know what you’re capable of accomplishing.
6. Give Back
Negative thinking makes it really easy to wallow in misery. So the way to negate that is to make sure misery doesn’t have any room to grow. How do you accomplish this when you’re down in the dumps? By realizing this one simple reality.
You may not be able to affect positive change in your own life due to a unique set of unfortunate circumstances. But you can make someone else happy by doing something for them. Showing generosity — even when life isn’t so generous with you — has a way of coming back to you and repaying the losses you’re currently facing. At the very least, it can make you feel good about yourself. And that feeling will convince you you’re not a failure and that you do have what it takes to be resilient and try again.
7. Take Care of Your Mind and Body
It’s important when bogged down by negative thinking that you’re able to step away from the pressures that are causing this train of thought. Step away frequently to get the kind of mind-and-body nourishment that you need. That could mean any of the following:
- Workout: exercising is important to so many facets of health, not just how it shows in your bone density and muscle tone; it actually makes you feel better.
- Read a book: for desired knowledge or leisure, either one will do you a world of good and rejuvenate your willingness to tackle challenges.
- Watch a movie or favorite TV show: sometimes it’s a good idea to let entertainment options do all the heavy mental lifting, thus allowing you to turn your critical thinking focus off for a bit.
- Go out with friends: don’t do anything too crazy, but make memories!
You can probably think of a dozen or more specific activities to add to this list. Let your brain run wild and do it!
8. Cut Out Negative People
One thing AA always tells people who suffer from alcoholism is this: you don’t go hanging out with your old drinking buddies if you’re trying to stop drinking. On that same note, you’re not going to ditch negative thinking if the only people you ever interact with are lamenting the worst parts of life.
You don’t have to get rid of friends and family members altogether. But if you have any who are overwhelmingly negative, it would be a good idea to limit the amount of time you spend with them or reconfigure how you spend the time that you do with them.
For example, you could start making sure that anytime you’re around that person moving forward, it will be in a situation where they can’t unleash all their negativity. (This may require the presence of other people as well.) Then, when you do hang around them, make sure you take advantage of that “buffer” to model the positive type of person that you want to be. It’s possible they’ll catch onto the New You and save their wailing for somebody else. Or, maybe it’ll actually rub off on them!
9. Commit to the Process of Being Positive
Being positive is a process. It requires the ability to recognize negative thinking. Not just as it occurs but the circumstances leading up to it. It also requires you to replace that negative thinking — every particle of it — with something more positive.
This won’t always be an easy thing to accomplish. You’re going to feel very mechanical at first if you’re not used to it. But it’s an issue worth forcing on yourself until it becomes a learned behavior. From there, you’ll start to recognize things that make you feel better about situations and life in general. Make an effort to cultivate those things every chance that you get.
10. Practice Affirmations
An affirmation is a positive statement meant to AFFIRM your drive to accomplish something. In its best form, it is hyper-specific. That is, it helps you to fixate on accomplishing a specific goal and gives you the confidence to do it.
One of the most famous places the affirmation shows up is in the classic book on finding success and entrepreneurship Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. An affirmation should spell out the specific goal you hope to accomplish, dictate a realistic time frame for accomplishing that goal, and define a means for attaining it.
From there, it’s up to you to repeat the affirmation out loud twice per day. Once before bed. Once when you wake up in the morning. Do it until you start to internalize it and you actually have faith that there is nothing that can stop you from accomplishing it. Hill found this to be a recurring thing among the successful business people he interviewed for the book. And it can work for you, too.
11. Visualize Your Success
Part of successfully applying an affirmation to your life is visualizing how and when it will happen. It may sound silly, but you need to sit down with your eyes closed and try to see you getting that A or making your first million dollars by the age of 30 as if it were a movie playing out before you on the big screen. This tactic will help you start to see the moves that you’ll need to make to get yourself in the right position for success.
Along the way, your affirmation and your visualizations will change. That’s to be expected. But the mere act of doing them will take you somewhere better than you are, and it will stifle the temptation to give into those negative thoughts.
Negative Thinking Can Be Beaten
Negative thinking does not have to rule your life. If you’re ready to take control and to make the rest of your college years or the start of your career everything they can be, then start employing the tactics above today. Now, what are some ways that you have defeated negative thinking? Sound off in the comments section below.
[Featured Image by Chartered Professional Accountants of British Columbia]