8 Easy-To-Follow Exercises to Stop Negative Thinking
Like biting your nails or emotional eating, negative thinking is a bad habit that creeps up on you. Negative thoughts become unwelcome guests that take up residency in your mind. Left unmanaged, they can easily take over and damage relationships, health, and your perception of the world.
What Causes Negative Thinking?
Negative thinking can occur from stress, worry, or upsetting events. But it’s natural to have some negative thoughts every now and then. Sometimes, we even think negatively to protect ourselves from life’s disappointments.
In contrast, thinking negatively can also be beneficial. For instance, if you’re considering something risky, you may ponder possible outcomes to help you think things through. But if this is done too often, the survival part of your brain (fight or flight) becomes overstimulated.
This repetitive behavior can cause your brain to get stuck, causing negative thinking to take center stage.
The Rise of Negativity
We live in a time where we project everything we do into the public domain. We spend countless hours combing social media. We only post our best accomplishments while constantly comparing ourselves with others.
Additionally, we have never-ending access to news sources worldwide. This is heightened by our extensive internet use. Sadly, we seldom have any downtime away from our buzzing phones.
This constant data overload can result in negative thoughts too.
Here’s the good news – there is hope. Let’s get into the first step to identifying negative thinking patterns to help break the cycle.
Identify Your Negative Thinking Patterns
The first step in breaking your negative thinking habit is to recognize the problem. If you find yourself struggling with:
- Compulsive overthinking or mind chatter
- Frequent worry and anxiousness
- Projecting your negativity onto others
Then chances are negative thoughts are playing a significant role in your life. Let’s talk about how this happens with a little help from Annie Hopper, the founder of the Dynamic Neural Retraining System.
The Science Behind Negative Thinking Patterns
The Dynamic Neural Retraining System is a holistic brain re-wiring program based on neuroplasticity, or the brain’s ability to change. Annie realized the limbic system can become stuck in a fight, flight, or freeze response1.
This can happen when you’re exposed to chronic stress or trauma, causing threat circuits in your brain to fire more rapidly. This means your brain can remain stuck on high alert (as if you’re in danger) even when the initial threat is no longer present.
Being in a constant fight or flight then encourages your body to have negative thoughts recur in your mind, as if on a loop. And that’s what causes essential systems in your body to fatigue and even cause illness.
To say it’s exhausting to our body, mind, and soul is an understatement. Keep reading to discover 8 super easy exercises to help you break this unhealthy habit.
The Effects of Negative Thinking and Your Health
A client once told me he was “sick to his stomach of things not going the way he wanted it to go” and “he was going to die from it.” As much as it broke my heart to hear this, I couldn’t agree with him more. Resentment and anger are the cornerstones of disease2.
He then lifted his shirt to show me his appendix scar, gallbladder scar, and the scar from where they removed part of his stomach due to an ulcer. You see, he came to me after being fed up with his struggle with ulcerative colitis. Do you think it was some sort of odd coincidence that his words and physical condition matched each other?
The truth is, when you want others to act, behave, and be something you’ve fabricated in your mind, you end up hurting yourself. Because our thoughts intentionally create what we become.
8 Steps to Break the Habit of Negative Thinking
If you think you may be struggling with negative thinking, I’m excited to share 8 easy-to-follow exercises for challenging negative thoughts:
1. Acknowledge your negative thoughts. Don’t try to sweep them under the rug where they’ll fester. Instead, recognize they’re there whenever they pop up and encourage yourself to challenge them.
2. Write down your negative thoughts. Get them out of your head and onto paper (or into a computer document). Once they’re out in the open, you can examine them more objectively. Writing down your negative thoughts is a type of journaling. Journaling is a powerful exercise that helps you reflect and examine how you’re feeling at your core. Consistency is key. By making journaling a consistent part of your routine (or whenever negative thoughts disrupt your day) you’re disrupting the habit of negative thinking.
3. Identify the evidence for and against your negative thoughts. Look at the evidence and decide if anything disputes your negative thinking. Once you’ve got your ideas down, it’s easier to see if your negative thoughts are even accurate. Generally, my clients discover their negative thoughts are simply beliefs they’ve had for a long-time that no longer serve them.
4. Challenge your negative thoughts with positive ones. It’s important to remember that you are not your thoughts. For each negative thought, come up with a counterargument in the form of a positive, rational thought. Examples:
If you’re thinking, “I’m such a failure,” remind yourself of all the times you’ve succeeded. Or if you’re thinking, “Nobody likes me,” remind yourself of the people who care about you.
5. Incorporate mindful meditation. Mindful meditation can help you become more aware of your thoughts so you can learn to let them go. The Insight Meditation Community of Washington3 holds online meditation groups you can join to establish a mindful meditation practice.
6. Practice gratitude. Gratitude can shift your focus from what’s wrong in your life to what’s right. Write down at least three things you’re grateful for each day and refer to them when you feel down. This helps you fill your mind with gratitude each day and maintain a more positive outlook on life.
7. Be kind to yourself. Talk to yourself as you would a friend (or child) going through a tough time – with compassion and understanding. With my private clients, I often see that they’re not kind enough to themselves. This is a large part of the problem. Be patient with yourself as you learn to reframe your thoughts.
8. Practice positive self-talk. It’s understandable to experience negative thoughts from time to time. Acknowledge negative feelings, then reframe your self-talk more positively. Example:
Instead of thinking, “I’m such a failure,” think about how far you’ve come and say something encouraging like “I’m doing my best.” Or rather than dwell on not being good enough, remind yourself that “Today is better than yesterday” or “I am enough.”
“What you must recognize is that when you do not share a thought system, you are weakening it. Those who believe in it, therefore, perceive this as an attack on them. This is because everyone identifies himself with his thought system, and every thought system centers on what you believe you are. If the center of the thought system is true, only truth extends from it. But if a lie is at its center, only deception proceeds from it.”
– A Course in Miracles
Discover An Inner Peace You Never Thought Possible
Imagine never having to deal with negative thoughts that steal your happiness again. Overcoming the habit of negative thinking allows you to welcome more harmony into your life. Having a support network like a professional coach or counselor can help as well. A professional can provide a fresh perspective to help you see things more positively.
With persistence and patience towards yourself, spotting negative patterns can become easier. As you begin to soar to new heights, revisit these 8 exercises that help you develop positive thoughts that challenge the negative ones.
The 21-Day Negativity Cure by Laurette DeJulian – Conquer Negative Thinking With the Power of Journaling
Often, we need more support to help recognize negative thoughts as they occur. That’s why I created The 21-Day Negativity Cure – a Habit-Busting Healing Journal for Self-Awareness and Obtaining Happiness. It’s a guided workbook that contains journal prompts and easy-to-follow exercises on how to stop negative thinking.
The 21-Day Negativity Cure journal is an easy way to stay consistent as you develop a self-awareness practice. With this powerful tool, you discover a new spiritual and emotional understanding of yourself. Go ahead and stop your negative thoughts and discover a feeling of inner peace you never thought possible.