We all experience negative thoughts – be they fleeting or circling patterns of misery, they are almost always uninvited and can affect everything from our close relationships to work life, depleting energy stores and exhausting our productivity.
The same destructive neural pathways are visited, patterns emerge and habits are formed. Often there appears to be no escape. We will accept the wave of negativity and some even learn to relish in it, feeling increasingly sorry for themselves and becoming more and more isolated from reality.
The good news is, with a little effort and discipline we can learn to break these patterns. Thoughts are just thoughts, they are not fact or reality. We have thousands upon thousands of them every day – random, creative, bizarre thoughts and just because we have them, doesn’t make them an accurate reflection of the way things are.
- Choose Sunny
Whatever the weather forecast for your inner world, unlike the outer world, we do have control over our minds. Our thoughts and moods can be influenced and we can choose to be more positive. As Viktor Frankl famously wrote in his memoir Man’s Search for Meaning ‘Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.’
So try to slow your thoughts, dissipate your mood and be mindful of your reactions to stimulus. Think calm, choose happy and take a moment each day to create the weather forecast you want.
- Focus on the Good Stuff
Every night before you go to sleep, list three good things about your day or current life. Remind yourself of them the morning after and start to look for more throughout your day. Repeat that night. Teaching ourselves to be more grateful for what we have, will help encourage a more positive outlook.
- Get to know your Inner Critic
Start to visualise the person behind that negative voice in your head. What do they look like and who are they? Next draw a picture of them and write down all the negative things they say ‘you’ll never get that far’ ‘of course you’re gonna have that extra biscuit fatty, who are you kidding?’.
Once you’ve identified your inner critic, you’ll start to notice when they rear their ugly head and can counteract their negativity with positive thoughts and self-affirmations. You can also start to challenge what he/she is saying and realise they are not real but a fictional character you alone have created.
- Practice Mindfulness Meditation
By practicing mindfulness meditation on a regular basis we can help boost our mood, encourage inner peace and improve psychological functions such as attention span, compassion and empathy. Meditation activates the Parasympathetic Nervous System, which withdraws our attention from stress and helps us to relax and bring awareness to the body. Meditation has been scientifically proven to help numerous psychological conditions such as anxiety, insomnia and eating disorders, so if you’ve still not tried it, why not give it a go?
Sit still, focus on your breathing and don’t let the mind wander. Be mindful of your body and thoughts. Do not dwell on any one thought or judge yourself when your mind is flooded with them. Simply notice what the mind is thinking and let it go. The more you practice, the easier it will become. See Mindfulness Meditation post for more information.