How to Stop Negative Thoughts
Updated: Aug 22
When your mind is bombarded by negativity, it makes it difficult to focus or even appreciate the positive things in your life. This can affect how present you are with your family, the productivity of your work, and your ability to enjoy the little things.
Negative thoughts can bog you down, make you feel overwhelmed, and leave you feeling helpless and hopeless.
If you continue to feel hopeless and overwhelmed, your body's natural defense will be to shut down, disengage, and give up. This can be exceedingly hurtful for you and your loved ones. You might not be able to get rid of all negative thoughts, but there are ways you can minimize them. Here at New Leaf Counseling, we created some ways to stop some negative thoughts from taking over.
Move Past the Extremes
Extreme thinking is when you meditate on the best or worst case scenario of a situation. Most things in life are not black and white, so it is necessary that most of your thoughts are somewhere in the gray area. Yes, something might not turn out like you thought it would, but most likely there is some type of good in just about everything.
Don’t think in extreme lows, such as something being the ‘worst’ or a ‘complete fail’ – try to think of the potential good and possible drawbacks of any situation or scenario, and suddenly you won’t be quite as negative with your thought patterns.
By moving past extreme think and practicing gratitude, you are less likely to feel stuck in a negative emotion. You will be able to move through it and move on.
A helpful way to ease into that type of thinking is to separate your self-worth from your performance. We know, so much easier said than done, right? However, even just being aware of possible tendencies to pair your worth with performance or outcomes can help you recognize when you're doing it so you can take steps to stop it.
Surround Yourself With Positivity
The people you spend time with can have a significant impact on how you think and feel. Even though mindfulness essentially only has to do with you and your thought patterns, other people can influence its effectiveness. It is essential that you try to surround yourself with positive minded people. These people will encourage you, challenge you to grow, and hold you accountable to practicing gratitude when you feel stuck in negative thoughts. If you only surround yourself with people with think negatively, then it can be tough to practice positivity.
You can't always directly eliminate negative people out of your life, but you can reduce how much time you spend with them.
Spend more of your time with those that exude optimism and always seem to have an excellent way to look at everything.
Name It to Tame It
If you try to force positive thoughts before letting go of negative thoughts, it can feel overwhelming, less helpful, sometimes lead to anxious feelings. Our emotions have a strong grip on negative thoughts, so you’ll have the best results if you imagine yourself emotionally, “letting go” of them.
A helpful imagery practice to eliminate negative thoughts that you can't seem to get rid of is to think of the most negative thoughts that always seem to consume your mind and bring your mood down and give them all a name. They can be anything you want, as long as you can remember and identify them. Now, close your eyes and picture the names you have come up with and send them away. Turn them into balloons in your mind, and watch as those balloons fly away.
For example, if you can't stop thinking about a conversation you had with a co-worker that left you feeling self-conscious and insecure, picture your self holding a balloon, writing the co-workers name on it and then, after sitting with it for a while, let it go in your head. Imagine it floating away, getting smaller and smaller until it disappears.
Focus On the Positive
This seems like an obvious suggestion, but it goes deeper than just appreciating the good things in your life. It is easier to dwell on the negative thoughts over the positive, so a helpful practice is to stop minimizing the good things that you experience. A lot of times, people let fear keep them from experiencing joy: fear of something terrible happening, fear of failure, or fear rejection. Allow yourself to experience joy and don't dismiss it. If you finish a project before the deadline, celebrate it! You worked hard, and if you take a moment to lift your head up from the daily grind and acknowledge that you see how hard you work, you'll find a new appreciation for yourself and more stamina to keep working harder.
Focus on the positive things, whether it is a new relationship, a job, your favorite place, or a good book. Anything that brings you joy, happiness, and optimism is worth noticing, celebrating, and taking a moment to be with it.