Feeling stuck in negative thinking? Constantly perceiving and expecting the worst in a situation is a stressful pattern – and over time, may even feel like an insurmountable roadblock to happiness.
With practice, however, you can learn to disrupt and overcome negative thoughts. Here are six tips and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) skills to give negative thinking the boot from your brain:
1. Feeling low? Aim for neutral, factual thoughts instead
If you’re feeling really low – and positive thinking simply feels out of reach – shoot for a neutral thought instead.
So instead of replacing, say, “My hair looks horrible today” with an overly-enthusiastic “My hair looks amazing today!” stick with something neutral – i.e., not negative or positive – like “My hair is curly today,” or “My hair is clean today.”
“Instead of replacing, say, “My hair looks horrible today” with an overly-enthusiastic “My hair looks amazing today!” stick with something neutral, like “My hair is curly today.”
2. Set a reminder to reframe your thinking
Sometimes, our negative thoughts are so persistent that we don’t even notice we’re having them in the first place.
Set a reminder to recite a personal mantra, compliment yourself on your strengths, or applaud yourself! You don’t need anything fancy — set a daily lunchtime and/or post-work reminder on your Google Calendar or try an app like I Am, which sends you positive affirmation push notifications!
Setting this reminder, even if you aren’t having negative thoughts, could keep negativity at bay, and eventually reduce its frequency and impact.
3. Try the “name it to tame it” technique
If you find yourself telling the same self-berating story over and over again, give that story a label.
That way, the next time you have some version of that negative thought, rather than letting it consume your mental energy, you can identify it for what it is (e.g., “oh, there’s that self-blame story again” or “go away grouchy Oscar!”), which could help you let it go.
“Label or name your negative thoughts — so that next time they comes up, you can identify it for what it is and let it go, rather than letting it consume your mental energy.”
4. Simply say "no, thank you" to negative thoughts
The second they start creeping in, politely quell negative thoughts with a “no, thank you!” Let them know they’re unwelcome guests in your mind.
5. Replace negative thoughts with something you’re grateful for
If you feel flooded with negative thoughts, get out a pen and paper and write three to five things you’re grateful for.
It might help to start with something physical and immediate – e.g., I’m grateful for this warm room, or this fun song playing over the loudspeakers – to warm up, before expanding to other reaches in your life. Gratitude Flow is a chrome extension we love that is a nice reminder every time you open a new tab!
“If you feel flooded with negative thoughts, get out a pen and paper and write three to five things you’re grateful for.”
6. Get extra support from a therapist
If your negative thinking is significantly interfering with your happiness or well-being, or you want a supportive guide on your journey to positive thinking, try Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a skill-based approach to talk therapy, and can help you gain self-awareness of your own unique thinking and behavioral pattern.
CBT can also help equip you with tools to conquer negative thoughts – and your therapist can help keep you on track! Visit Zencare.co to find a CBT therapist!