Dont let negative thoughts feed on your mind like worms in the earth. Take control with these techniques to stop negative thoughts.
Why is it so important to stop thinking negative thoughts? This infographic sheds some light on the subject.
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We human beings experience an average of 50,000 every day. 50,000. That’s one for every 1.6 seconds of the day. And most of those thoughts are not remotely helpful. For instance, you might find yourself obsessively thinking and worrying about the future.
But there’s good news too: you have the power to change that negativity right now. You have the power to remove negative thoughts from your mind forever, if you want to. That’s right; if you want to.
I’m going to presume that right now it seems obvious that would want to remove negative thoughts from your mind forever. But that might not be the case by the end of this article, because the truth is that negative thoughts play a vital role in your life.
Ruth Harris, the author of The Happiness Trap, says that 80% of everyone’s thoughts contain a degree of negativity. Negative thoughts are perfectly natural, and in fact they are very important. Imagine that you wanted to buy a house but knew you couldn’t afford it. You might negatively tell yourself, “I can’t afford that house.” That’s a simple negative thought. Taken at face value you might think it would be more positive to to say to yourself, “I’m buying that house because I know I’ll make enough money to afford it.” But what if you don’t? What if you end up bankrupt because of it and spend your life paying off debt? In that instance your negative thought would have saved you from a lot of suffering.
Negative thoughts are imperative because they tell you how to navigate potential pitfalls.
As Ryan Holiday [editor for the New York Observer] says, “Far too many ambitious undertakings fail for preventable reasons. Far too many people don’t have a backup plan because they refuse to consider that something might not go exactly as they wish.” That’s why we need some techniques to stop negative thoughts.
Cognitive scientist Art Markman, Ph.D agrees. “The research actually suggests that focusing on a positive future lowers people’s motivational energy.If you want to do a better job of achieving difficult goals, then it is important to contrast the future and the present. In particular, it is important to know what the obstacles are that will get in the way of achieving the desired future.
Sometimes a negative thought can be a good thing. But there are nevertheless certain types of negative thoughts that are harmful, types of negative thoughts that you need to remove from your mind. As Margarita Tartovsky, M.S., says, “Negative thoughts can sink our mood and perpetuate a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. They can lead to everything from lost opportunities to depression.
One of the best ways to stop stress is to stop thinking negatively. And the best way to begin to do that is to realise just how often you think negatively.
The types of negative thinking that are harmful include:
If you have any of these types of thoughts you should definitely start using some techniques to stop negative thoughts.
All-or-Nothing Thinking. “If I don’t do this I’ll be a complete failure.”
Disqualifying the Positives. “Life is always bad.”
Negative Self-Labeling. “I am a complete failure and I always will be.”
Catastrophizing. “This isn’t just going to be bad, it’s going to be the worst thing of all time.”
Mind Reading. “I know people like me because I can read their minds.” Note that although this sounds positive it’s really negative because it’s delusional, you probably can’t actually read minds.
Should Statements. “I should do this and they should do that.” .
Excessive Need for Approval. “I need you to need me.”
Disqualifying the Present. “Everything will be all right later.”
Dwelling: “I have to think about everything that’s wrong in my life.”
Pessimism: “That glass is clearly half empty.”
Take a look at my article on Negative Self Talk.
I created this infographic of the information above. You can share it / print it / put it on your wall so you know every time you’re being negative.
Have you ever noticed that your negative thoughts happen spontaneously?
The majority of truly “Negative” thinking pertains to spontaneous negativity, or negativity that isn’t logical or rational but which is negative solely for the sake of being negative. “Negative thoughts are automatic thoughts in response to uncertainty, anxiety, disappointment or other challenges,” says Tamar Chansky, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist.
Negativity often spontaneously manifests. You may be sitting in a bar when a perfectly reasonable stranger walks in and looks at you quite innocently, and then you suddenly and illogically decide that they don’t like you. The thought’s not based on reality or even logic, it’s negativity for negativity’s sake. Such thoughts are sometimes the result of a specific mental health problem. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder leads to irrational obsessive thoughts, for instance. Generalised anxiety disorder, meanwhile, creates irrational worries that are usually situational. Panic Disorder often creates negative thinking about health or the inability to escape a certain situation. And social anxiety creates irrational negative thoughts around other people.
Negative thoughts produce physical manifestations
Different quality thoughts have been proven to produce different physical manifestations in the body. The body releases different chemicals based on the environment. When we’re around things that make us happy the body will release serotonin, dopamine, or oxytocin, all of which produce positive emotions. Conversely, if we’re in a stressful environment the body will release cortisol as a stress response.
Does thinking negative thoughts affect our chemical balance? How about positive thoughts. Can thoughts possibly produce different reactions in the body?
Interestingly, physical and mental pain produce virtually the same result in the body. “When people feel emotional pain, the same areas of the brain get activated as when people feel physical pain: the anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex,” says Alan Phogel, Professor of Psychology at the University of Utah. This has even led a team of scientists to research the affects of acetaminophen for emotional pain. “ [Taking acetaminophen leads to] less activation in the anterior insula and the anterior cingulate cortex,” says Phogel.
That’s why some people actually take pain killers for emotional pain, though this is probably not recommended. What’s interesting to note is that emotional pain and physical pain are so closely related. It’s because of this relationship that negative thoughts can produce physical pain. You have already experienced this fact first hand. Think about the last time you felt stressed. You probably experienced strain around the neck and lower back. This is one of the most common manifestations of negative thinking, but there are many more.
In ‘the Sacred Life,’ David Suzuki wrote that “condensed molecules from breath exhaled from verbal expressions of anger, hatred, and jealousy, contain toxins. Accumulated over 1 hr, these toxins are enough to kill 80 guinea pigs.” It’s easy to see how much of an affect negative thinking can have on the body.
According to an article in The Lancet, San Francisco based researchers examined the deaths of 30,000 Chinese-Americans and 400,000 white people and discovered that the Chinese who believed themselves to have been born on an ill-fated year (according to Chinese astrology) died young, which the scientists states was precisely due to their belief in their ill-fated birth.
In another study, 79% of medical students developed the illnesses they were studying because they became so paranoid about them.
The problem is that negative emotions trigger the amygdale in the limbic brain to produce a “Fight or flight” response in the body. In fight or flight mode, the immune system stops function properly, leading to illness, and all because of negativity.
Now for some techniques to stop negative thoughts.
To remove negative thoughts from your mind forever, you have to learn that thoughts simply are not real. ” The difficulty isn’t that we have negative thoughts. The problem comes when we believe our thoughts are true,” says Barbara Markway, Ph.D, a clinical psychologist. That is one of the best techniques to stop negative thoughts.
The way to remove negative thoughts from your mind forever is to realise that thoughts are just thoughts and aren’t real.
Amazingly, this is the same for positive thoughts. A fixation on a certain positive thought can lead to just as many complications as a fixation on a negative thought. Imagine believing that you’d never die. Now how does jumping off a skyscraper sound? Okay, it’s an extreme example, but it certainly illustrates the point.
What matters is that we realise that negative thoughts are not real, they’re just thoughts. As soon as we realise that we’ll stop panicking every time our mind says something horrible.
There are many ways to train yourself to realise that your negative thoughts are not real. Here are some of the best
I’ve written a separate guide to using meditation for anxiety, which you should use as well as the techniques below.
One of the best techniques to stop negative thoughts is to realise they’re not true. Here’s how
1: Meditate: Meditation has been proven to empower individuals over their thoughts. And there is no better way to beat depression than with meditation. When you meditate you silence your mind and come to observe your thoughts calmly. You teach yourself to see a thought as nothing but a thought.
2: Write the thought on paper: This is one of my personal favorite techniques to stop negative thoughts. It’s a lot easier to see your thought for what it is (often just words) when you write it out on paper. Write all your negative thoughts out and then look at them. You’ll very quickly realise how unreal your thoughts are.
3: Or draw it out: Some thoughts don’t comprise of words but images. For instance, perhaps you think you’ll become ill. In this case draw out precisely what your mind is telling you will happen. Negative thoughts like that melt under the light of reality.
4: Tell someone: If you’re an open person, this is one of the best techniques to stop negative thoughts. The average person will pretty quickly tell you if your thoughts are total bullshit. So tell them, and let them confront those negative thoughts for you.
5: Play with the thought: Whether your thought is a voice in your head or a picture, try playing with it. For instance, if it’s a voice then imagine the voice changing, becoming higher pitches, lower pitched, louder, quieter and so on. If it’s a picture make it brighter, dimmer, bigger, smaller, and so on. By playing with the thought you teach yourself that you have ultimate control over all your thoughts.
6: Think the same thought backwards: When you think the same thought backwards you essentially make the thought a little game. You make it something tangible that you can play with. This technique is definitely alternative but it definitely works.
7: Rate the thought from 1 to 10: Objectively appraise the thought. If it’s a negative thought that actually holds some important truth then you might like to rate the thought highly and even thank your mind for the helpful information it provided. If it’s an utterly stupid and worthless thought, rate it a 0 and tell your mind to come up with better thoughts.
N.L.P Technique For Negative Thoughts
The following is a classic NLP (neurolinguistic programming) technique that lot’s of people have said they find helpful. It’s particularly good for negative thought depression.
- Negative thinking depression occurs for a reason. Life teaches us what we need to know. Since the time when humans were in caves we have been conditioned to use “Negative bias” to see potential dangers. Thousands of years ago this ability was important, because we needed to be aware of dangers in the environment. But in today’s modern age, negative thought bias is something of a “hang over” of our evolution, leaving us with negative thoughts that cause depression.
- Bring your negative and depressing thought to mind. Let the thought enter your mind. Now, rather than immediately forcing this negative thought aside (which is likely what you usually try to do), allow it to settle in your mind. Remember, it is only a thought / image, it cannot truly harm you. So allow it to stay in you mind for now.
- Imagine that the negative and depressing thought / image is actually a TV channel. See or hear the negative thought / image and realise that it has certain qualities. For instance, if a voice is saying something in your head, that voice has a tone, a volume, a pitch and so on, and a negative image has colour, zoom, etc. To make the negative thought more comfortable, lessen the quality of the TV. Perhaps make it black and white. Turn the sound down. Change the tone of voices. Just play with that negative thought or image and make the signal weaker. This will make it easier for you to hold the image in your mind comfortably. When you are able to hold the thought in your mind with relative comfort,
- Tell yourself that the negative thought is actually a lesson waiting to be learned and that the lesson will help you once you see it for what it truly is. Then continue to examine your negative thought, searching for this lesson. Just look at the image and know that somewhere in it is a truth that will turn negative to positive.
- Once you start to feel comfortable doing this, begin to improve the quality of the TV (the mental image, sound etc). Turn the sound up (if there is sound), make the image bigger, brighter, etc. Just make that TV more like HD and then more like cinema and eventually, when you get really really comfortable, like real life.
- Now that you have played with the TV (the negative thought) you will realise that you have power over it. You are able to make the signal stronger or weaker as you choose. Know that you have power over the negative thought and let that be a comfort.
- Continue to investigate the thought for its positive lesson. Just play with the TV. Make it weaker and stronger and just continue to play with it and examine it. Eventually you will hit a moment of realisation. This moment will come out the blue. You wont notice it slowly arising, but a moment will come when all of a sudden you are looking at that negative thought in a very different light. You will know when this moment comes because you will have a physiological reaction; your body will react somehow. You will likely move spontaneously whilst feeling a moment of revelation. This is the lesson life is teaching you. Once you see the beauty in this once negative thought, realise that life is always right, that a negative thought is only negative because you are not looking at it in the right light. This should help with any future negative thoughts.
You can use all these techniques to stop negative thoughts.
All these techniques to stop negative thoughts revolve around the same idea. You are teaching your mind to recognise that thoughts aren’t real and that you are the master of the thoughts that run through your mind. You are CEO of your own mind. If negative thoughts try to convince you that they’re running the show, face them square on and say, “You’re just a thought. I’m master of my own mind.”