Even if you’re not a pessimistic person, you can find yourself feeling overwhelmingly negative at times. It’s alright if you’re not positive all the time, but there should be some sort of healthy balance. If you’ve noticed the scales tipping toward the negative zone more than usual, it might be a good idea to take action.
Falling into the trap of negative thinking is easy to do, but it’s hard to get out. Luckily, with some practice and a little effort, you can turn your thoughts around. Keep reading for four tips to help conquer negativity and promote a healthier mind.
1. Consider Treatment
First of all, it’s important to consider seeking treatment if you’ve been struggling for a while. Getting help is a crucial step in your mental health journey that you shouldn’t be ashamed of. In fact, you should be proud of yourself for using your resources and getting assistance. Therapy and medication are two of the most common treatments that work well for many people battling anxiety or depression.
Mental health medications can give you an extra boost of happiness and clarity. These work by increasing the brain’s absorption of certain hormones, like dopamine and serotonin, which help uplift your mood. Commonly-prescribed medications include Wellbutrin, Zoloft, and Lexapro.
Therapy is another great resource to use in your mental health journey. Talking with a licensed therapist can help you identify problems and plan actionable solutions to conquer them. Sometimes simply getting your worries off your chest can be a relief, and therapists are there to listen. Their advice is medically-backed as well, so you’ll know you can trust them and that they’re looking out for you.
2. Learn to Identify Negative Thinking Traps
Negative thoughts can creep up on you sometimes, without you realizing until you’re in a spiral of worry and anxiety. However, you’re more capable of taking charge of your mind than you think. The first step to conquering your thoughts is figuring out how to identify these negative thinking traps. Then, you can take proper action accordingly.
So what exactly are negative thinking traps? Essentially, these are unhealthy and pessimistic thoughts that serve as a “gateway” to more bad thoughts. Many types have been categorized so you can more easily realize when you’re about to be caught by one. For example, the “discounting the positive” trap involves robbing yourself of feeling accomplished. Any time something good happens, you’ll reduce it to the notion of sheer luck rather than your own hard work. Letting yourself think this way will hurt your confidence, leaving you feeling inadequate.
Another pessimistic thinking trap is referred to as “fortune telling,” which happens when you constantly expect things to go wrong. Some people like to argue that thinking this way will leave you pleasantly surprised when things go right. However, this isn’t a healthy way to view your life. You’ll only end up dreading everything, and you’re more likely to ruin your experiences with this negative attitude.
The “all-or-nothing” trap happens when you don’t allow flexibility or a gray area in life. Events have to go one way or another, with no in-between. This usually is a good result and a bad result, and nothing can just be alright or so-so. Therefore, if something turns out less exciting than you wanted, you’ll immediately discredit it as bad. But life is full of ups, downs, and in-betweens, so this mindset will only cause you unnecessary grief.
These are just a few negative thinking traps to name, but they all break down to a common element — pessimism. If you allow yourself to continue with these thoughts, you’ll only ever feel disappointed or glum about life. And over time, your mood can get worse and you’ll feel more upset than ever. Knowing these traps and being able to identify them in the moment can start your journey toward mental wellness.
3. Practice Mindfulness
Now that you can identify these traps, what can you do? Start with practicing a concept called mindfulness, which is hyperfocusing on being aware of your thoughts and feelings. This can be done while meditating or throughout the day whenever you want to get in tune with your emotions.
The main point of being mindful is to be more connected with your thinking. This way, you’ll be able to let yourself acknowledge what you’re feeling instead of brushing off your emotions. This helps you process your feelings during difficult times. You’ll also be able to more easily identify when you’re starting to head toward a negative thinking trap.
One of the best situations to practice mindfulness is when you’re going through a stressful circumstance. Allow yourself to take a moment to breathe, close your eyes, and identify your emotions. Are you being pessimistic? If so, it’s time to avoid the trap before you get stuck, and turn your thoughts around.
4. Turn Negative Thoughts into Encouraging Thoughts
Everyone falls victim to these negative thinking traps, but how you react makes all the difference. Once you’ve learned to identify these traps and recognize them in the moment through mindfulness, you’re ready for the next step. This involves turning your negative thinking around to a more positive and realistic attitude.
For example, perhaps you’ve just caught yourself making a negative prediction about an upcoming event. Maybe you’re telling yourself you won’t get the job or your party will be a disaster. Instead of assuming the worst, analyze these thoughts and really consider how realistic they sound. What’s the probability of all those elements going wrong? In reality, the chances aren’t that high, so there’s no need to beat yourself up about what you can’t control.
Now that you’ve taken that negative thought captive, turn it into a more positive thought. You could tell yourself, “I might not get the job, but that means it wasn’t meant to be.” Remind yourself that you’ll be alright, and that not everything has to go according to plan.
Give Yourself Some Grace
Changing the pattern of your thinking isn’t the easiest thing in the world. You’re going to have slip-ups, and that’s alright. Everyone is on this journey called life, and it’s not meant to be sunshine and roses all the time. That said, it’s not supposed to be doom and gloom all the time, either. So make sure you hold your thoughts accountable, and turn them around. After some practice, you’ll find yourself leaning less into the bad habit of negative thinking.