Negative thinking is one of the biggest obstacles to self-improvement and creating real personal change.
That’s because our thoughts influence our actions, which then affects our habits and behaviours.
And the more your mind is filled with negative thoughts, the less energy and mental capacity you have for creating the positive changes you want in your life.
But there’s a silver lining to all this.
If you know how to deal with negative thoughts and clear them from your mind, you can minimise their impact in your life and avoid getting trapped in the destructive cycle of negative thinking.
The key, however, is finding and choosing techniques that work best for you.
Every person thinks and acts differently, so you’ll need to use techniques that you respond best to. Not every technique or approach works the same way for everyone, so you’ll want to experiment to learn what works for you.
Here are some techniques you can try:
Nip it in the bud
One negative thought can multiply into several very quickly. And before you know it, that group of negative thoughts has turned into a negative thinking pattern that can dominate your life. You can avoid falling into this rabbit hole by recognising a negative thought as it comes and cutting it off before it branches out to dozens of other negative thoughts. Don’t try to fight it, deny it, or push back against it – simply drop it as soon as you recognise it appearing.
Another approach is to analyse and challenge a negative thought as it comes. When a negative thought arises in your mind, try to stop and evaluate whether that thought is truly real and accurate. Be objective and honest in your evaluation. In many – if not most – cases, the negative idea or negative scenario that’s lingering in your mind isn’t as bad as you thought it was.
Change your body language
It may not seem obvious, but our body language can affect our state of mind – and vice versa. If your mind is filled with negative thoughts, then your body language will likely reflect it in the form of slouching, keeping your head down, or assuming a position that’s closed off. When you notice your mind filling with negative thoughts, try altering your body language with confident and open poses. This can help you feel more empowered to let negative thoughts slide instead of dwelling on them.
Set a time limit
Fighting negative thoughts and resisting is not only tiring, but also sometimes futile. In many cases, the more you fight it, the stronger it gets. One technique to counter this is to entertain and accept your negative thoughts for a set time. Let your negative thoughts come without resistance for a limited time – a few minutes perhaps. But once you reach that time limit, commit to dropping them and letting them go. This technique is useful because it allows you to acknowledge your negative thoughts – even welcome them – which often weakens their power in your mind. This can make it easier to set them aside as they come.
Write it down
It may seem surprising, but the physical act of writing down your negative thoughts on paper and throwing them in the rubbish bin can help you clear your mind of these thoughts. It turns out that treating your negative thoughts as physical objects – as things you can hold and throw away – creates a psychological effect that can help lessen their burden in your mind. So if you find yourself overwhelmed by your negative thoughts, try writing them down on a piece of paper and throwing them in the bin.
Don’t be afraid to get professional support.
If you’ve already tried different methods and still can’t loosen the grip of negative thoughts in your mind, don’t hesitate to seek professional counselling and support.
A counsellor or psychologist can help you understand your situation better, and they can provide the right tools and techniques for managing your negative thoughts productively.
Remember that having negative thoughts is completely normal – it’s part of being human. But letting these negative thoughts take over your life is not, and it’s something that you can do something about.
If you need any help managing your negative thoughts and preventing it from overwhelming you, feel free to book an appointment with one of our professional counsellors and psychologists to get the support you need. We provide professional counselling for anxiety, depression, stress, and the other common ways that negative thoughts often manifest themselves in people’s lives.
Lisa Kunde has ten years experience working as a psychologist with adults in both private and public hospital settings (oncology, palliative care, chronic pain, cardio-pulmonary, psychiatric and alcohol and other drugs units).