Negative thinking is a habit that’s hard to break. It can shape your world view, and affect how you experience your life. Negative thinking can also be contagious! The good news is all this is also true of positive thinking. You can stop negative thoughts and practice positive thinking, creating a happier and healthier life for yourself. At least it worked for me!
Complaining often results in a cycle of negative thinking. You may feel justified in your complaints but more often than not complaining, especially repeating complaints, trains your brain to focus on the negative.
A few months ago I found myself complaining repeatedly and I stuck a note on my monitor that said, “Just for today, don’t complain.” Every time I saw the note it would keep me from complaining in that moment. After a few days looking at that note and not complaining, I found my outlook towards my co-workers, my job and my work-life had greatly improved. The complaints that seemed so significant a few days before no longer felt so important or urgent. Not complaining improved my outlook and gave me the patience to allow some of my original concerns to be resolved.
Balance negative thoughts with positive thoughts.
It takes a lot of practice to banish negative thinking from your mind but you can start by balancing your negative thoughts with positive thoughts. When you find yourself thinking a negative thought, think about something positive. This technique can be effective for keeping a balanced perspective when you’re in a negative thinking rut.
Whenever I find myself thinking a negative thought, I consciously think a positive thought. It can be about the topic of the negative thought or a different topic entirely. It doesn’t matter how insignificant, such as, “I love cheese” or “it’s Friday and I’m going out for Happy Hour after work.”
Remind yourself that feelings aren’t facts.
Feelings are powerful tools that can guide your choices and motivate your behavior. Sometimes negative feelings from past experiences can overwhelm you, causing you to feel as though you’re repeating or reliving a past experience or believing that you will experience the same negative outcome in a present day situation. You may think if it happened before, it’s going to happen again, however this isn’t always true.
I may feel a negative emotion about a person, myself or someone else, or my situation, but that doesn’t always mean that emotion is true. My negative emotions are usually coming from the memory of struggle in the past and fear of future struggle. Sometimes simply acknowledging the feelings while recognizing they aren’t necessarily true in this situation helps overcome negativity.
Write a gratitude list.
Writing a gratitude list, especially when done daily, is a great way to acknowledge and truly experience the things that make you smile, make you laugh, feelings of safety and comfort and so much more!
Make a list of all the things in your day that are pleasing. If this exercise is difficult for you, try taking a look around your current environment and really noticing what’s there. What colors stimulate you in your immediate surroundings? What delicious food have you enjoyed today? Do you have a home, transportation, a steady paycheck? Focus on the good things in your life.
I write a gratitude list almost every day and it has helped train my brain to think more positively. On days when I find I’m struggling, writing a gratitude list helps me gain perspective. This perspective is important because often concerns that feel important and urgent in the moment aren’t actually important and urgent long term. I can ask myself, “how important is it?”
Surround yourself with positive people.
If you spend time with people who are negative and complain and gossip it’s much harder to break out of a pattern of negativity in your life. Limit your time with complainers and seek out friendship and collaboration with people who are interested in living a happy life.
Seeking the company of positive-minded people has helped me be more positive. Not only is a positive attitude contagious, people who make a choice to think happy remind me I have a choice to think happy, too.
Be gentle and caring with yourself.
When under stress it’s important to consciously care for your basic needs and well being. Get enough sleep, eat when you’re hungry, take a bath, take a walk, ask for a hug. Be kind to yourself.
My daily self-care routines have taught me how important it is to take care of myself. When I’m well-rested, hydrated and eating well, I am better able to deal with stressful situations and I’m far less likely to turn to negative patterns in times of stress.
Just for today, love yourself enough to let go of the struggle over something that is out of your hands. Most days that’s pretty much everything!