Let’s be real.
We constantly get caught up in negative thoughts, being fully aware that it only drains you of energy and keeps you from living in the present.
Yet, we fall prey to the negative downward spiral.
It typically starts with a small thought that quickly snowballs into something bigger.
Human beings have a very interesting way of dealing with negative thoughts – we replay it over and over again in our head, like a broken record, hoping we’ll find some form of solace or solution to our problems.
I don’t know about you, but for me, doing this actually makes things worse. Because the more I give in to my thoughts, the more power they have over me.
It’s about time you break out of this cycle of thinking.
When you push through the walls of negativity, you’ll find a stronger and better version of yourself waiting for you at the other side of it all.
Here are 15 ways you can practice to free yourself from being engulfed in your negative thoughts:
1. Recognise Your Negative Thought Patterns
They say that awareness is 90% of the journey. Before you can free yourself from any negative thoughts, become aware that you’re experiencing these thoughts in the first place. Once we learn to identify these thought patterns, we then have a choice about how to act from a place of conscious intention.
Most people that are hooked onto certain negative thought patterns subconsciously suppress their thoughts, that even though they know they are giving in to the negativity, they cannot identify with these thought processes. Once you really pay attention to these patterns of negative thinking, you have the ability to bring about a transformation, one step at a time!
2. Un-identify With these Negative Thoughts
Too many times people who are trapped in negative thinking feel hopeless because they don’t know how to take the next step forward. If you tend to identify yourself with the negative gremlins, consciously realise what thoughts are influencing your behaviour to stop the self-sabotage.
The first step is to disassociate with the negative thoughts – your thoughts are not you.
Un-identify with every negative thought that you have displaced as a part of your life. It’s time to take control of your life, starting with how you manage your thoughts.
3. Stop Complaining
Tell me if you can relate: You complain to your friend about something that has been bothering you, hoping to feel better, but still don’t? That’s true to an extent – but don’t make it your go-to strategy.
Because in reality, expressing and talking out your negative feelings may have a therapeutic effect, but complaining too much can create negative energy. When you stay focussed on a complaint, you are giving those negative thoughts power over your life.
4. Take Responsibility
No matter how difficult the situation you may be in, there is always a way out. You just have to ask yourself if you want to continue throwing a pity party for yourself, or if you want to do something about it.
5. Acknowledge that Your Setbacks Are Not Permanent
Negative thoughts usually muddy our thinking, but remember that the more you believe in a negative situation, the more attention you give to it. You need to break the habit of seeing setbacks as permanent.
6. Surround Yourself With Positive People
You model the people you hang out with. If you want to change your life, you need to change your thinking, so surround yourself with people who elevate your thinking and inspire you to get better results.
If you are constantly around negative thinking people, guess what? You could end up thinking just like them! Instead, be around people who’re excited and have control over their life. You’d be surprised at how easily their attitudes can rub off on you.
7. Stop Generalising What Happens in Your Life
When we experience a bad situation, we tend to extend the resulting feelings/thoughts/beliefs to everything else. It’s as if we’re generalising the situation to be the “story of our life”. The reality, however, is very different.
One problem or mistake does not result in a lifetime of the same outcome. Take control of your thoughts and move forward.
8. Talk It Out
Talking it out is different from complaining, you go about it in a more conscious way and solve the problem instead of ranting about it. By putting your thoughts into words, you have a mental visualisation to help put things into perspective – giving you an opportunity to deal with the root of the problem.
9. Form Healthy Rituals
Bad habits prevent you from accomplishing your goals. And yet, it’s hard to fully quit them. A great way to combat a bad habit is to replace it with a healthy ritual – for example, if you’re used to watching TV all evening, you can create a ritual or make a commitment to cut down TV time and use it to spend learning something new, hanging out with the family, playing a board game or two.
The idea is to take it one step at a time and develop new rituals instead of attempting to completely cut off a long-running bad habit.
10. Remove “I Can’t” From Your Vocabulary
The only person holding you back from fulfilling what you need to do is… you. Instead of saying “I can’t”, practise saying I “can”. Because let’s face it… most of the time, you choose to say you can’t because of fear, lack of self-esteem or laziness.
When you replace your terminology with “I can”, you engage an entirely different neurology. This is when “problems” become “possibilities”. Emotion creates momentum. From there on, it’s a matter of taking the next step, and the next and so on until you get it done.
11. Rise Above Other People’s Opinion of You
You are your own person. Don’t let anyone define your self-worth and self-image. Live your life based on your own standards and not by other people’s thoughts, opinions and beliefs. Remember that everyone is on their own journey – and most of the time, they don’t even realise when they say something hurtful.
12. Fail Faster & Learn from Your Mistakes
We all make mistakes. It’s an inevitable part of life. And to be honest with you, mistakes are a good indication that you’re putting energy into what matters to you. When mistakes happen, the most important thing to focus on is your intention and how you apply the lesson.
When you’re too focussed on the mistake, you get caught up in the self-blame game and let it affect you for a prolonged period of time.
13. Improve Your Body Language
Do you constantly frown, slouch and close off from other people? If this is you, you are likely to dwell in negative thoughts.
We don’t realise it but our body language speaks a ton. Not only that, bad body language can lower your self-image, self-worth and your confidence. Leading to a negative spiral of thinking.
There is no one “right” way to use your body language. What you do can be interpreted in so many ways. But there are some common ground rules that always apply. For example, if you cross your arms too much, you’re keeping the other person at bay. You may come across as too defensive or guarded.
14. Do Something Meaningful
A meaningful life is different from a happy one. The natural question that arises is what’s more important – being happy or following your purpose? Research suggests there is more to life than just aspiring to be “happy” and a happy life may not be a meaningful one. Studies suggest that an obsession with happiness may actually be related to a feeling of emptiness.
Is what you do meaningful? If not, why are you still doing it? How can you transition from doing what you’re doing, to something that’s more meaningful and aligned with your purpose?
15. Be Grateful for Things You Have
I get it – it’s so easy to think in terms of what we don’t have rather than what we do have. Your life may not be easy or perfect or exactly as you had planned it, but guess what?
If you choose one thought over another, if you choose what you have over what’s lacking, and be grateful for it, you’re firing a more positive neurology that is much more conducive to a better result (and life).
Over to You
Life can be full of unanswered questions and uncertainty – we’re all doing our best we can with the resources available to us. One of the most empowering resources we all have is the gift of choice. At any point in your life, you can choose to focus on what’s working rather than what’s broken… become solution-focussed than problem-focussed. And turn things around.
Because let’s face it… nothing is forever. You can keep asking questions like “why me” or you can be thankful for the experience, and move on taking the lesson learned.
What have I missed? What else would you add to the list above? Leave a comment – I’d love to hear your thoughts.