Negative thinking can be terribly intrusive on your day. Negative thoughts can set up camp in your brain and crowd out any other positive thoughts, sometimes leaving you feeling low and depleted.
If you’re a negative thinker you may find yourself:
- Clinging to criticism and letting it fester.
- Unable to accept positive or constructive comments because you don’t believe them.
- Catastrophising – when a small thing happens and it tumbles and escalates in your brain until you’re worrying about the worst-case scenario.
- Being terribly hard on yourself.
- Worrying about the tiniest of things – for most of your day.
- Comparing yourself unfavourably with others.
- Believing that things are all bad or all good – with no grey area in between.
- Imagining that other people are judging you.
- Feeling petrified of making a mistake.
- Believing at heart that you’re just not good enough.
If you feel that seeing the bad in everything is your default setting, then experts say you have to think positive thoughts to counteract the negative – and do this on repeat until the brain can feel more positive. It’s all about ‘rewiring’ your brain so what you do habitually leans more strongly towards the positive than the negative.
Here are some everyday techniques that we recommend to our counselling and psychotherapy clients when they come to us to help challenge their negative thinking.
Accept a compliment
Say ‘thank you’ when someone says something complimentary to you. Don’t counter the compliment with ‘Yes, but…’ as it undermines the nice thing and directs you straight back to the negative.
Write down a positive for every negative
Write down your negative thought or belief on one side of a piece of paper. On the other side of the paper write down a positive thought that challenges the negative one – even if you don’t really believe it. Over time, the positive thoughts will begin to have more power as the negative thoughts weaken.
Box your negative thoughts
Similar to the above: write down your negative thoughts on a little piece of paper and put it in a box or a jar or a drawer. Then don’t think about them any more. The box can hold the negative thought so you don’t have to.
Change every ‘should’ into a ‘could’
The word ‘should’ is such a bully. It implies that there is a strict rule or standard out there that you’re continually failing to reach. It says you’re wrong and someone/everyone else is right. If you change ‘should’ to ‘could’ then it gives you some choices and some autonomy over your life.
Give your negative voice a character
Think of your negative thoughts as being part of a character living in your head who sometimes runs rampage across your psyche. This character has power when you believe the negative things it says. You need to starve that character of what it needs to have power. Imagine it caged or gagged or diminished somehow. It probably thinks it’s there to protect you from making mistakes, but it’s stopping you from living freely as well.
Come into your body and out of your head
If your worry mind is taking over, give yourself a break by exercising or doing something physical (gardening, painting, knitting, whatever’s your thing). You can’t worry at the same time as being absorbed in something you love.
Keep a gratitude journal
Every night, write down five things you’re grateful for. This helps to accentuate the positive and limit the negative in life. You may discover you have plenty of blessings that you hadn’t paid attention to.
Remember that it’s little and often that can help change your negative thinking. You won’t have a transformation overnight.
If you’re worried that your negative thoughts are becoming too difficult to handle, a therapist will be able to support you in feeling more positive about life. To book an appointment with one of our counsellors, psychotherapists or psychologists, call 020 8673 4545 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. We have sessions available seven days a week at our Clapham and Tooting centres.