We all get negative thoughts from time to time. Often they just come and go, but sometimes they get stuck. Here are 5 ways to reverse negative thinking.
There are all kinds of reasons why you might be plagued by negative thoughts. Poor health, exhaustion, stress, hunger, sleep deprivation, unemployment, financial problems, unhealthy or difficult relationships and of course covid-19.
I often think of negative thoughts like tabloid headlines, the ones you read that seem far-fetched but then again, could quite possibly be true. In pops a random negative thought and left untethered, it can thrive and develop into a story that’s grossly exaggerated but by all accounts appears perfectly plausible in your current reality.
It may seem as though you can’t help those pesky thoughts that swirl around all that lovely grey matter, but here’s the thing, just as you’ve trained your brain to think negatively (yup, you have) you can train your brain to go in a different direction.
Now don’t get me wrong, we humans are pre-programmed to react to negative thoughts and feelings, to be cautious, it’s an innate survival skill. In psychology we call this negativity bias. Criticism can have a greater impact on us than a compliment, and bad news more of an impact than good news. Negative events make more of an impression on the brain than positive ones, and all this can have a powerful effect on the way in which we behave, on the decisions we make, our relationships and ultimately our life.
In the immortal words of Bob the Builder: Can we fix it? YES WE CAN!
(My kids will be cringing so much right now) But seriously folks, here are 5 ways to reverse negative thinking:
- Check your thoughts. By this I mean, listen to yourself. What words do you use to talk to yourself, to describe yourself, what you’re doing or what you’ve done. If you notice yourself thinking thoughts like “I’m such an idiot.” Or “I’m so unlucky.” Or “This is bound to fail.” Check yourself. NOTE TO MY KIDS: Don’t worry! There’s no way I’m going to mention “The Rap”. You know the one that goes; Yo better check yo self before you wreck yo self by Ice Cube? That one? Don’t worry, I wouldn’t dare embarrass you that much 🙂 So, whenever you catch yourself putting yourself down, STOP. Write a different line, a new lyric, sing it, shout it, think it, but be sure to change it. “I’m actually really smart.” “I might have done that wrong before but I’m doing it right this time.” “I am lucky.” Change the record.
- Use your imagination. Einstein once said (and he was no idiot) “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution.” Put your negative thought onto a cloud, a bubble or a leaf, and watch it float away. This might sound airy fairy or childish but trust me here. Your subconscious mind does not judge the thoughts you have. It doesn’t distinguish between a thought that is real and one that’s imagined, which is why this is so easy. You’re not tricking yourself, your re-establishing your authority. You’re in control.
- Find your inner comedian. When you get a negative thought, say it to yourself in a funny voice, a cartoon voice, hum it, rap it (who knew I had a thing for rap music) laugh at your thought, smile and let it go. Negative thoughts do not define you!
- Write the thought / negative belief down on paper. And then burn it (safely) shred it, bury it, stomp on it, destroy it. This physical act is a way of releasing the things that weigh you down, leaving you free to move on with your day and with your life. If you’re not a fan of writing, you could draw, paint or sculpt a representation of your negative thought and destroy that, screw it up or change its shape (you might want to go easy and avoid causing damage to those things you don’t want destroyed in the process!)
- Snap (out of) it. We’re talking here about interrupting a pattern, in this case, the pattern being intrusive negative thoughts. Choose a wrist band. It can be anything from a rubber band, hairband or a watch with a stretchy strap, as long as it snaps. Every time a negative thought pops in, snap the wrist band. Ouch. No need to do it that hard, just enough to stop the thought in its tracks. This process is designed to take you out of your own head and snap you back into reality.
You might know of some other useful ways in which to reverse negative thinking. I’d love to hear.
In the meantime, here are a couple of useful links: https://www.healthline.com/health-news/negative-thinking-can-harm-brain-increase-dementia-risk