Winter is only around the corner now, and a lot of us are starting to feel down right miserable. This year, stop your misery in its tracks, before it grows. Control your negative thinking. This quote resonates with me because it emphasizes the importance and power of the mind to control our happiness:
“The trick is in what one emphasizes. We either make ourselves miserable, or we make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.”
~Source: Carlos Castaneda, Journey To Ixtlan: The Lessons of Don Juan
I actually think negative thinking, the way we make ourselves miserable, takes more work and energy from us versus thinking positively. Here’s why.
Negative Thinking Sucks More Energy
- Negative thoughts become obsessive.
Have you ever painted a negative scenario in your mind, that you just can’t shake? It becomes all you can think about. Suddenly, work, chores or free time activities become drawn down and consumed by these thoughts. It makes it difficult to concrete or think about anything else. This type of cyclical thinking becomes exhausting! It zaps the life out of us and makes us feel drained by the end of the day.
- An exaggerated reality is quickly built from negative thinking.
Bad thoughts quickly expand and amplify the situation in your mind. Within minutes or hours, one negative thought can blow up a situation in your mind to be much bigger than it really is. This often leads to stress and the inability to get things done to move you out of this negative thought pattern.
So if negative thinking zaps our energy, focus and ability to positively move things forward, how can we control and change our thoughts?
3 Tips to Minimize Negative Thinking
Step 1: Recognize it.
The first step to hault negative thinking, is to be aware of what you’re doing, thinking, feeling and experiencing, but don’t judge yourself. Acknowledge that you’re not alone—that everyone goes through what you’re dealing with at some point. Give yourself some self-compassion.
Step 2: Stop the path, put yourself in a happy place.
After recognizing that the cycle has started, change your thoughts. When I start spinning into a negative cycle, I pause and breath deeply for 1 minute. This helps give me control back over my thoughts. After this minute of breathing I love turning on my favourite song and dancing around. Moving your body for even 10 minutes often acts like taking an anti-depressant. Upbeat music and dancing puts me in a better place almost instantly. You may find getting out for a quick walk in nature helps you here. Or playing your favourite instrument or petting your cat or dog. What puts you quickly in your happy place, is unique to you.
Step 3: Track Your “Bright Spots”.
If I’m unable to snap back into a positive frame of mind through my actions above, I track my “bright spots”. In a notebook, I record everything that’s working well for me each day and how I can complete more of these actions. All “bright spots” count, no matter how small they are. They can be related to health and fitness, or anything else in my life.
Here are some examples you may relate to:
- You parked in the furthest spot away at the grocery store each time you went.
- You made 3 more meals at home this week.
- At a restaurant, you opted for a salad instead of fries.
- You got to bed 15 minutes earlier 3 nights this week.
- You had a deep and meaningful conversation with a loved one.
When you focus on the “bright spots”, your brain learns to look for successes, versus focusing on the negatives. This isn’t about denying the existence of problems. It’s about counterbalancing our negativity bias—the human tendency to focus on the negative. Review your list each night. This step may take a few days to kick in, but I find it quite useful.
To Sum it up…Stop Negative Thinking Now
The mind is so powerful, it alone, controls our thoughts. It’s important to our stress management to minimize negative thinking because negative thoughts become obsessive and an exaggerated reality can be quickly built from negative thinking. To change your thought pattern, first, recognize what’s happening. Don’t judge yourself yet, just observe. Now put yourself in your happy place. This can be done through numerous actions which any include: breathing, mediation, dancing, exercise, or hanging with your pet. If you still can’t shake your negative thinking, start tracking your “bright spots”. Make a note of any “wins” you have throughout a day to switch your brain into focusing on the positive, versus the negative. Give these tips a try and let me know what helped you.