In a previous post, we explored an analogy of the process of negative thinking and how, once one negative thought presents itself a whole host of other negative thoughts can follow. In this post we talk about how to manage negative thinking to reduce its impact on how you feel and what you do.
Stop thinking! (In unhelpful ways)
One of the simplest things to do is stop thinking! Yes, I know you're probably going to say "But we're always thinking; how can we just stop??"
We're talking about us stopping our unhelpful thinking. If you have a worry, then focusing on that worry will only make it bigger and generate more worrying thoughts. At this point we may also start to make assumptions about the thing we're worrying about.
To put it more simply, a lot of us spend a lot of time thinking in unhelpful ways.
Start thinking! (In helpful ways)
The place to start is that everyone thinks. It's what our minds do, but how we think is what will influence how we feel and what we do. So here's some ideas for how to manage negative thinking in ways which work for our benefit.
1. Examine your negative thinking patterns
It might be helpful to try and recognise your negative thinking patterns. Start to look out for when you're turning a small worry into a bigger one. If you can start to see the tipping point you'll become more aware of your thought processes and stop them before they spiral. You can find out more about negative thinking patterns here.
2. Look for possible solutions
Imagine you're in debt, and through no fault of your own you find you're no longer able to make the repayments. Your thoughts may focus on the consequences of owing so much money and being unable to pay it back.
Instead of looking to find a solution you may go into panic mode, hiding unopened debt demands, not answering phone calls, and peeking through the curtains every time there's a knock at the door. When you avoid the situation that's causing the worry, your level of anxiety will be highly likely to increase.
So, to reduce your worry you need to take action. You could do things like contacting the Citizen's Advice Bureau and your lenders to explain your situation. You may be able to get your repayments reduced, which will lessen your worries about falling deeper into debt. The worry of the debt hasn't gone away, but you've reduced it by thinking of potential solutions and acting on them.
3. Stop creating your own anxiety
An example of this might be that you always delay completing academic essays/work projects until the last minute, which leaves you feeling anxious and stressed.
Effectively, you're creating your own anxiety and the only person that can change that is you! The key then, is to reduce this stress and anxiety. A simple solution would be to do chunks of your work throughout the week if you can't face doing it all in one go. This way you'll find your work completed before the deadline, often with time to review it, plus you'll more than likely have lower levels of stress and anxiety.
4. Accept what you can't change
Sometimes there's nothing we can do to lessen or reduce a worry, so we need to try and accept it. Normally, these worries are completely out of our control and thinking about them will provide no answers.
Someone we know told us that their partner had gone for tests at the hospital regarding their health. Their thoughts had already turned to the worse case scenario and they were making all sorts of assumptions about the outcome. Whilst their fears may very well come true, equally they may not. The bottom line is that worrying about such a situation will not change it, so accepting the situation as it is in the 'here and now', although difficult, is sometimes all we can do.
5. Use distraction techniques
One of the easiest ways to stop yourself from getting into negative thinking is to distract yourself from it and focus on activities which take you away from your negative thoughts.
You can use any activity you want as a distraction technique (as long as it's legal and not harming anyone else, of course!). As long as it works for you, that's the important thing.
To get you started we have a FREE eBook for you to download!
As you can see negative thinking has the power not only to make us feel anxious, but it can prevent us from taking action to try and reduce our worry.
Equally, there may be times when there really is nothing we can do and that calls for a level of acceptance, although we appreciate that this is easier said than done.
Have you got any other suggestions for how to manage negative thinking? Let us know in the comments 🙂