How I Learned to Stop Negative Thinking
Twelve years ago after I graduated from college I spiraled into a deep dark depression. I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, I was dating an awful guy who refused to kiss me, and I was so anxious all the time that I barely ate anything. I asked a nurse friend to help me find a therapist. The therapist recommended that I read Wayne W. Dyer’s Your Erroneous Zones. It may sound cliché, but this book changed my life.
I was 22 and thought that happiness was something that would happen to me. What I didn’t realise—that Dyer taught me—is I am in control of my own thoughts. There was no one holding a gun to my head telling me to be unhappy. My own negative thoughts were pushing me downward. “Change the way you think and you can change your whole life,” is a concept he preaches and one I have regularly referred to since that dark period. It took time before I overcame the depression, but in the end I did. Although it’s impossible to really end negative thoughts, it’s worth it to try and eliminate them. Practice these techniques on a daily basis, and you’ll find yourself being more positive and ultimately leading a happier life.
When you find yourself thinking nothing but negative thoughts, it’s hard to snap yourself out of it. Get together with a trusted friend or family member and talk about what’s getting you down. If it’s a situation that involves other parties (you didn’t get promoted at work or got into a fight with your maid of honour), talk about how you can deal with the issue in a positive way. Look for solutions rather than dwelling negatively on what happened. If your negative thoughts are suicidal, make an appointment with a therapist or your doctor.
You are the only person in your brain, therefore you are the only one who can control your thoughts. If you recognise that you’re starting to negative think, nip the bad thoughts in the butt. I have a horrible tendency to snowball negative think. Snowball thinking is where you start thinking one small negative thing and the more you ruminate about it, the bigger the problem becomes and the worse the situation seems. Here’s an example: I stayed late the last three nights. I don’t get paid overtime and my boss has not noticed my efforts. This means she probably won’t give me a raise. If I don’t get a raise, I won’t be able to move into a new apartment with my boyfriend. We’ll fight about it, and he’ll dump me. I will end up as a poor old maid. Working late doesn’t mean that you’ll end up alone—see why snowball thinking can be bad? If you notice yourself starting to spiral on this track, tell yourself, “sStop negative thinking.” Take a deep breath, read a book to get your mind on something else, or count backward from 10 to calm yourself and clear your mind.
When I’m feeling down in the dumps, I find comfort in repeating a mantra like “Everything will be ok” or “This, too, shall pass.” Remind yourself that everything is temporary—depression and being caught up in Negative Land included. If it helps, write the mantra down on a Post-It and stick it to your mirror. Have a chalkboard in your kitchen? Write inspiring quotes on it to keep you in a positive mindset.
Remember that no one is perfect, so cut yourself some slack. If you are having a bad day or experienced something upsetting, wallow in it for a specific amount of time, then let it go. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself when you do negative think. You’re only human, recognise what you’re doing, then stop it. The same goes for good days. If you woke up on the right side of the bed and had an awesome day and actually felt happy, that’s awesome! Celebrate and congratulate yourself for really embracing the positive life.
Like Dyer said, simply changing the way you think can have a huge impact on your life. Change the tone of your thoughts from negative to positive. Instead of thinking, “This party is totally going to suck, I’m not going to know anyone, and there won’t be any single guys,” think, “I may not know anyone, but I could meet some cool people and end up having a good time.” Don’t think that things are always going to go wrong. Think that things are going to go right! Stop thinking in extremes. My positivity coach encourages me not to use the word hate as it’s too extreme. Don’t be overly dramatic. Instead of saying things like, “My life is ruined!” Ask yourself, “Is this really the end of the world?” Chances are it’s not. Everything doesn’t have to be black and white.
Pick up a few books below to continue reading about this subject.