Frame of mind can be a powerful thing. Our thoughts alone can lift us up or drag us down, sometimes both within the same day. But we don’t have to be powerless to our thoughts and emotions. It’s not easy, and it doesn’t mean that you will never have a negative or doubting thought…but it does mean that you can learn to recognize them, deal with them and slowly start to counteract them.
If that particular topic is something you would like to me to write more on, I can. But that is not the topic I am covering today. Today, I’m talking about everyday negativity and the issues surrounding it.
- Counter the negative thoughts out loud. – Ok, it might sound a little crazy, and you may feel a bit strange in the moment, but I have found this to be one of the most helpful things when the negative thoughts are starting to make me “spiral.” I can go from “That one thing didn’t go as I would have liked it to” to “I am a failure at life” REALLY quickly. Stating that those thoughts were wrong, and stating things that were actually true, helped me keep things in perspective.
- Learn what activities bring you down. – They can even be ones that you enjoy starting off, but suck you in and make you feel worse over time. For me, it’s something kinda ridiculous and is going to sound silly, but it really is my main trigger activity: I cannot read online stories, particularly fan fiction, for any extended period of time. I started reading them when I was in my early teens and I still enjoy reading them. But now I know that I have to watch myself VERY closely or I will get sucked in. And then there are days where all I want to do is read…where literally every other thing doesn’t matter. While this may not seem like it directly leads to negative thoughts, at least for me, it does. I don’t know why this happens with fan fiction, but not books, but it does. So maybe there is an activity that causes a similar reaction in you. (Or maybe I’m weird and this doesn’t happen to anyone else…I have no idea)
- Distraction. – It sounds simple, but it really does work. If you can catch yourself early enough, find something else to focus on. I’ve found something fun or silly works best for me. This doesn’t work too well for me if I don’t catch it early on, if I’ve been “spiraling” for hours that isn’t really going to help.
- Talk to someone. – This one is hard. It doesn’t need to be in therapy (though therapy can really help!) but talking to someone, verbalizing your negative thoughts to someone else, can help you to see how extreme and unrealistic they actually are. And it generally will make you feel better, feel less alone, to have someone to talk to. This is especially important to me when I’m deep within a spiral and can’t talk myself out of it.
- On a side note, try to make sure you aren’t doing this too much, as it can have the opposite effect if you are constantly verbalizing your negative thoughts. It can also be really damaging to relationships if all you are doing when you are with them is talking about your fears and negative thoughts….I lost at least one close friend by doing this after my divorce. I didn’t realize at the time that I was doing this, but that doesn’t change the truth.
- Create personal positive affirmations. – It feels silly when you do them, I know. And honestly, I don’t really do them anymore. But they really helped in the beginning. Make them positive and say them with confidence. These are not questions, so don’t have that uncertain or questioning lit to your voice.
- Exercise. – It’s all about the endorphin…Ok, not just about the endorphin, but they are nice 🙂 Exercise can help so much, in so many ways. Better sleep, increased confidence and energy…I could go on and on. I know it’s hard to exercise when you feel terrible, but even a walk outside can help.
- Speaking of which…get outside. – Being outside has all sorts of mental and physical benefits. It really can help to get outdoors more often.
- Find an activity that brings you joy. – This could be a new (or forgotten) hobby, volunteering, really anything. But make it intentional and make sure it’s something you actually enjoy (not just feel like you should enjoy). I had stopped making art, or doing much of anything art related, for a long time. Starting creating again lifted me up so much, and even was one of the things that led to me starting this blog!
- Meditation. – This can be really hard when you are dealing with negative thoughts. Try short guided mediation to make it a bit easier. There are a ton of great apps available that make it really easy to try for yourself and it really can help!
- Surround yourself with positive people. – Yes, I realize you can’t get away from every negative person in your life. But when you can, choose to interact more with people that are more positive. I’ve found when you spend more time with negative people, it almost becomes a “complaining competition” and can quickly bring on all my negative thoughts. Along with that, they may unintentionally push down any attempts you make at being more positive or optimistic when around them, which doesn’t help either.
- Try to be more outwardly positive. – Yup, I’m going to end this out with “Fake it til you make it” Obviously this doesn’t always work, but it does help. This is actually one of the things I go to most often anymore, along with distraction and countering them out loud. For example, if I’m having a terrible night at work, I try to find a happy podcast to listen to, tell myself I’m not going to let this get to me and make sure I’m greeting coworkers and customers with a big smile and a friendly attitude. That does so much more to lift me up than the days where I don’t do that and just complain or be grumpy.
None of these are a true “fix.” I’ve been doing these for a couple years now and I still have to fight spiraling into negativity….but not as much as I used to. It takes practice, but you can start to recognize when it’s starting to get worse and head it off. And it’s not as hard as it used to be either! I find that now I have many more positive days than negative ones, which is honestly something I never thought I would say again after my separation and divorce. And even when a day starts out negative, it rarely stays that way anymore.
I hope this has helped you think of some new ways to squash those negative thoughts and bring on the positive ones! That dark time in my life, and all of the positive changes that have come since then, are some of the big reasons why I started this blog! I want others to be able to make those positive changes in their own lives, improving their life and bringing them more happiness. 🙂
How do you battle negative thoughts?