I know you've been there, too: staring at the ceiling at night instead of getting a good nights sleep, going over these negative thoughts in your head over and over, each time strengthening and tightening their crippling grasp over you.
In a recent blog about self-talk, I told you that the average person has between 40,000 and 60,000 thoughts every single day. However, far too many of those thoughts fall victim to the Negative Anticipatory Effect, where our fears, anxieties, and overload of information poisons the well of our thoughts.
Psychologists call this "Rumination," where we loop negative thoughts in our minds, consciously (although we may not realize it) reinforcing them and causing unhealthy worry.
However, those negative thoughts and rumination certainly don't represent reality. In fact, 85% of the things we think worry or stress about end up having neutral or even positive outcomes - not negative thorns in our side.
The good news is that there are proven techniques and strategies you can employ to eliminate or diminish excessive negative thoughts and end unhealthy rumination and looping. Basically, just like you can strengthen and harden a muscle by training it over time, you can do the same thing with your mind and your conscious thoughts! That's an extremely empowering revelation!
Of course, like anything, it will take some practice, and could even feel uncomfortable at the start. But the first step when you have a negative thought is to come up with an alternative.
Try to look at the thought logically, without giving more emotion or credence to one explanation or outcome over the other. Think of your thought on the fulcrum of a seesaw, and you can't let one side go down with overweight negative thoughts. Instead, balance it with positive thoughts.
You can do this by consciously proposing positive explanations/outcomes, and spend as much time "on that sunny side of the street" as possible.
Whenever you find yourself slipping to the dark side of the street - into negativity and bad outcomes - just make sure you take a few steps back towards the light by creating more positive thoughts.
Like we said, at first, this could be painstaking, as up to 90% of your thoughts may be negative, and balloon into bigger fears with frightening speed. But, through practice, it will get easier to take the "air out of" those negative thought balloons, and instead, shift to positive (or at least more logical) ideas.
It's also healthy to reframe negative thoughts, particularly about a setback, perceived failure, or snub. Called "Learned Optimism" by psychologists, this technique entails looking at the negative event with a positive spin. For instance, you can always say "I'll do better next time," "Now I know what to do or not do; or what I have to work on," or "This is a fantastic learning experience."
Remember that there are no failures - just learning experiences and opportunities to bounce back! Instead, focus on the fact that these situations aren't personal nor permanent.
Maybe you won't get the job; he does break up with you, or you do receive some bad health news? In life, it would be ridiculous to deny that the wor st case scenario never happens. However, we tend to worry about that worst case scenario FAR MORE than actually prepare for it! You can remain optimistic AND prepare for the worst event using a technique called Defensive Pessimism.
When you can't sleep at night/are distracted by these fears, etc., just pull out a piece of paper and write down a strategy that you'll employ IF these worst fears ever become a reality. Just by setting up a plan B, educating yourself, and the process of taking action, you'll feel far better - and will be able to put the paper (and the negative thoughts) down.
Another tip to help you dispute negative thoughts is by stepping outside yourself and viewing them through the lens of a third-person. For instance, if someone else - like your best friend or a family member you care about - was having these same thoughts, what would you say to him or her? You'd probably be comforting, reassuring, remain optimistic, and try to bolster them up with positive arguments that counter their pessimistic and negative thoughts. So why not do that for yourself, too?
That's also a great strategy to start minimizing destructive negative self-talk, which goes hand-in-hand with these negative thought patterns.
Still need more ways to dispel the negative ideas and emotions that are bombarding you every day? Set and repeat a mantra, like "This is only temporary and things will get better," which you can say to break the vicious cycle of negative thoughts.
Try physical techniques to improve your mood, mental health, and relieve thought anxiety, like getting fresh air and sunshine, intense exercise (the best stress reliever!), meditation, deep breathing, and yoga.
Remember, too, that it's totally normal to have negative thoughts. In fact, trying to suppress them - or piling on your self-guilt or anxiety for even having them in the first place - is actually unhealthy and can really backfire.
There are plenty of other tips, strategies, and hacks for changing the negative thoughts you're drowning in with uplifting, encouraging, and self-manifesting empowering ideas!
Contact me if you'd like to see how coaching with Coaching EQ can quickly reshape your thoughts, set you on a positive course, and completely change your life!