It’s sad to admit, but negative thinking has long been a part of my life. I never thought I was pretty enough or skinny enough and this, sadly, went beyond just superficial teenage angst insecurities. I would belittle myself during conversations with others, automatically left to worry endlessly over what I said, how I said it, how I looked while saying it, and so on… Through this negative thinking, which can develop into an addiction (that’s right, an addiction), I have psyched myself out to anticipate the worst possible outcomes, had my peace taken away from me in exchange for an anxious mind, and doubted my abilities.
But, believe it or not, there is a plus side to negative thinking. For one, it has opened me up to be aware and realize the parts of myself that could use some gentle changing. I’ve sought advice from therapists in the past and have formulated a few of the techniques I try to implement on a daily basis to finally… finally, silence these negative thoughts.
Read on for them and let me know in the comments of any ones you use, or if the ones I shared helped!
This is so important—probably the most important piece of advice I could ever give to someone. Resisting is the number one reason why your negative thinking and anxiety lingers. It is our very resistance that keeps our mind having bad thoughts. For example, say I were to tell you not to think of a pink elephant; you’re going to think of a pink elephant, right? By resisting, you’re creating patterns of thinking in your mind to believe that your thoughts are things to be afraid and shy away from. They’re not. All you need to do is learn to not be affected by the ones that would normally bother you.
I recommend the book, At Last a Life by Paul David—it’s the best book I have ever read on anxiety and there is an app available for it too.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: meditation is hands-down the most amazing thing I have ever done. I used to put it off, saying that I wasn’t some sort of hippie freak to like that sort of thing, but once my anxiety got really bad to the point where I was having panic attacks, I got the Headspace app and began with the free 10 minute 10-day sessions. I, like any other normal person, spent the first few days sitting there, thinking about everything else besides my breath. I thought of school, of my anxieties, of what I was having for dinner that night. You name it. But slowly, I began to find myself tuning in my breath and finding my mind feeling so clear, just like a bright blue sky that Andy, the creator, often talks about.
Now, I meditate 20 minutes per day and find that I have become more patient, more grateful, less anxious, and most of all, have learned not to judge and take every thought at face-value.
Exercise and eat well
This has been a hard one for me as I am a notorious yo-yo dieter and have always suffered from low self-esteem. Eating well and exercising often, however, has helped silence these negative thoughts and perceptions. I find that it’s as if my mind knows that I am treasuring myself and, as the result, negative thoughts don’t stick as much.
Try it out by beginning a light practice like yoga or something more intense and incorporate healthy eating as much as possible. Your mind and body will thank you for it.
Imagine a stop sign
I know I said to resist the negative thoughts, but trust me, this won’t affect it. This a thought-stopping technique. The next time you have a negative thought, instantly imagine a red stop sign in your mind, then instantly replace that thought with something positive. This will begin the process of getting your mind into the habit of automatically stopping negative thoughts until they become fewer and fewer.
Use affirmations/positive thinking
I am a big believer in affirmations. They are short statements that can instantly make you feel better. Tape a few next to your mirror, saying kind things like “I love myself,” or “I deserve happiness.” Then, repeat them a few times a day.
Another thing you can do is write down your negative thoughts and, through the advice from the novel Feeling Good by David Burns, replace it with a positive, more rational statement. The book will also teach you to accompany both of these with the dysfunction in your thinking, such as mind-reading, which is when you think you know what people are thinking. For example, if you see people whispering and automatically assume they are talking bad about you.
Know of any other tips?