Overcoming Anxiety: 6 Powerful Techniques To Stop Spiraling Negative Thoughts from Taking Control
Your Thoughts Aren’t Your Reality.
We seem to believe that our thoughts are a reality. Therefore, we believe everything our mind says, including that we’re a failure, incapable, unlovable…
In fact, studies show that the average person talks to himself about 50,000 times a day, 80% of which are negative.
You don’t have to fight your negative thoughts, if anything, the more you’ll fight them the more they’ll persist.
Instead, see the thought for what it really is – words passing through your head.
Today you’re going to learn 6 powerful techniques that will help you overcome negative thinking.
Let’s get started!
#1. Distance Yourself From Your Thoughts.
When your mind says that ‘life sucks!’ acknowledge that thought by simply saying ‘I’m having the thought that life sucks.’
The phrase, ‘I’m having the thought that…’ gives you distance from the actual thought, and helps you step back and observe it.
This makes you more conscious about the process of thinking. You see the thought for what it is – a string of words. They may or may not be true.
As a result, you’re less likely to take your thoughts literally.
#2. Ask Yourself “Is This Thought Helpful?”
It doesn’t matter whether or not the thought is negative. What matters is whether or not it’s helpful and worth paying attention to.
If you made a mistake at work and your mind is telling you “You’re incompetent,” This isn’t a helpful thought. It doesn’t tell you what to do to improve and is only putting you down.
What you need to do here is focus on improving your skills or asking for help.
If, however, you think that having the thought that ‘you’re incompetent’ isn’t demoralizing, and is in fact prompting you to learn and fix your mistakes, then, by all means, make use of it.
But almost always, negative thoughts, especially self-critical ones, don’t motivate people to take effective action.
For instance, people with weight problems will usually react to these thoughts by eating more in a futile attempt to feel better.
#3. Name Your Stories.
Our minds are constantly retelling negative stories, such as the ‘loser’ story, or the ‘I can’t do it’ story, or the ‘I’m fat’ story.
The aim here isn’t to fight the story but to simply acknowledge it.
When you identify your mind’s favourite stories and give them names, you become less likely to get caught up in them.
By saying “Here comes the old ‘I’m a failure’ story.” You’re acknowledging the story without challenging it and without giving it much attention either.
Simply let it come and go as it pleases, while you focus your energy on whatever you’re doing at the moment.
#4. Thank Your Mind.
This is a simple technique to detach yourself from your negative thoughts.
When your mind tells you something negative, simply thank it.
You can silently say to yourself “Thank you, Mind! How informative!”
When saying this, you don’t do it sarcastically or aggressively.
You do it with humour and with a genuine appreciation for your mind’s amazing ability to generate a never-ending stream of thoughts.
#5. Don’t Take It Seriously.
When a recurrent negative thought or self-judgment is bothering you, choose an animated cartoon character or an actor with a humorous voice and hear it in his voice.
Doing this makes it less likely for you to take the thought seriously.
You might even find yourself grinning or chuckling to the thought.
#6. Focus On Something Else.
Negative thoughts shouldn’t be a problem in their own right.
It’s only when you believe them, react as if they were the truth, and give them your full attention, that they become problematic.
In fact, our minds are constantly reminding us of bad things from the past, warning us of bad things to come in the future, and updating us on what’s wrong with us.
There’s no way to switch these thoughts off. Once in a while, it might cheer you up and give a brilliant idea, but not too often.
But like a radio that is playing in the background, you can choose not to pay attention to these thoughts and instead focus on what you’re doing at the moment.
Keep in mind that when detaching yourself from your negative thoughts, the aim isn’t to get rid of these unpleasant thoughts, but rather to see them for what they are – just words. They might go away, or not.
So don’t expect the techniques explained above to make you feel good instantly, that’s a by-product.
In fact the main goal of these techniques is to focus your attention on more important things.
Moreover, these techniques are skills that you get better at with practice and persistence.
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