It’s an all too familiar cycle. You experience anxiety. Following closely behind it are waves of negative thoughts. Soon, your positive impulses are drowned out by distorted forms of thinking like:
What’s wrong with me? You blame yourself for everything that goes wrong.
Black and white thinking. There are no in-between or gray areas.
Creative filtering. All you choose to see is the negative side.
Worst case scenario. Expecting only the worst possible outcome.
Mindsets like this cause negative thoughts to multiply. This, in turn, only increases your feelings of anxiety. What can you do to end this messy cycle?
If you can bring your thoughts to the present, you can better recognize the patterns running in your mind. Staying in the moment creates space for you to see things more clearly. You are not your thoughts and your thoughts aren’t always accurate. Negative thoughts do not have to remain a predominant fixture in your mind. Putting yourself down is not something you inherited. You may have been negatively influenced by someone in your life, for example:
While this realization may cause you some pain, it can also be a source of hope. Negative thoughts can be changed.
5 Ways to Quiet Your Anxious Negative Thoughts
A powerful step is to be aware enough to catch the first negative thought as it forms. Again, this is where mindfulness is so helpful. Being aware of that first thought allows you to examine it before your anxiety grows. Remember, if you are thinking too far ahead, you can experience anxiety. If you don’t do this, it could be 30 minutes later before you realize what’s going on inside your head. Keep calm. Distance yourself from the negative thoughts. Catch yourself before things escalate.
Gratitude initiates positivity and happiness. This reality has been shown time and time again in studies. Negative experiences lead to negative thoughts. But even in the worst of times, you can find small victories to appreciate. In fact, you might want to keep a gratitude journal just for this purpose. If the negative vibe has gained momentum, refer to your journal. Remind yourself of what is good in your life.
Along the lines of practicing gratitude, this tip is more like “seeking gratitude.” There are many ways to look at any situation. Can you find methods to disprove your negative thoughts? Can you discover a silver lining? Sometimes it helps to remind yourself that others have overcome similar challenges. How did they do it? Learn from them. Allow them to inspire you. Success leaves clues.
Remember when you were a kid and someone said something negative to you? There’s a good chance you’d repeat it back to them in a silly voice! It worked then and it can work now. Here are two silly ways to respond to your negative thoughts:
Try a silly voice. Negative thoughts spoken aloud in a cartoon character voice tend to lose some of their sting.
Sing them! Pick a goofy song and sing your thoughts to that tune.
Silliness aside, there are times when anxiety and negative thoughts are more than you can handle alone. Working one-on-one with a therapist is a proven path towards change. Discover patterns. Create strategies. Work as a team.
As stated above, you were not born to have negative thoughts. No matter how they started (and it probably wasn’t your fault), you do have the option to change them now. You have the power to give voice to your positive stories.