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5 Steps to Overcome Negative Thoughts
Sometimes it feels as though there is a video loop running in your head, replaying everything that had ever gone wrong in the past, every flaw you have (or imagine you have), and every mistake you’ve ever made. Sometimes it’s hard to pick yourself up after a loss or a failure. You become obsessive, nitpicking all the possible ways that you failed to get what you wanted. The dialogue revolves around “should’ve” and “could’ve.” It becomes harder to stop negative thoughts, and you increasingly become depressed or frustrated. On some level, you know that this kind of thinking is not doing you any good. The question is: how do you pause, skip the negative thinking, and switch to a more positive viewpoint?
- Make the decision to stop bullying yourself. Are you the type to condone bullying of others? Do you believe a parent should berate his child over the smallest infraction, using expletives? Have you ever called a friend “loser,” “stupid,” “ugly,” or “worthless”? If the answer is no, then why accept those hurtful terms to describe yourself? If you recognize that the language you are using is hurtful and is making you feel bad about yourself, you can tell yourself aloud, “Please stop this now.” Treat yourself kindly. Think of yourself kindly.
- Do not blow things out of proportion. Avoid exaggerations such as, “This is my only chance and I’ve blown it, I’ll never get another” or “I always make the same mistake, I never learn.” (In fact, try to erase the words “never” and “always” from your vocabulary.) Try to revise those statements into, “I did not let the opportunity pass, and I know I tried my best,” or “I made a mistake this time, but I’ll do much better next time.” And remind yourself that “this too shall pass” and “tomorrow is another day.”
- Accept that flaws are part of being human. Every person has insecurities. Every person has made a mistake. No person can claim perfection, but every person can make the effort to change for the better. Every time you make a mistake, you learn from the experience. Relax, breathe, and move forward.
- Try a little meditation. If you’re willing to try, meditation can teach you certain breathing techniques to anchor your awareness but detach yourself from reacting to negative thoughts. You could learn to take a few minutes each day to calm down, let go of the constant stream of criticism in your mind, be mindful of what is helpful and what is counterproductive, and gain perspective on what you feel.
- Keep a positive thought catalog. One may not necessarily overcome all negative thinking – but why not balance it with some positive thinking? Perhaps it will help if you take note of the achievements and positive ideas of the day in a notebook. Writing is a form of catharsis; it can also be a method of reinforcement and affirmation. Make it a habit to write things that make you feel good about yourself. Write about what makes you happy. Write about how thankful you are in a “gratitude post.” This way, when you start spinning a web of negativity, you can look into your catalog for encouragement, and remind yourself that there are also good things in and around you. Eventually, positive thinking could become habitual and effortless.