5 Ways to Stop Negative Thoughts

By Meladi Brewer / February 13, 2021
5 ways to stop negative thoughts

Negativity welling up inside of you or feeling like the world around you is always kicking you down can quickly become toxic and hold you back from living the life you want. It all starts with a thought or feeling. Maybe someone spoke a sentence or two, or maybe you are worried or thinking “what is the point”. Maybe you are into feeling sorry for yourself as you walk around in a mental funk. All of these thoughts and feelings hold you back and make it feel like your own personal rain cloud is following you around everywhere you go. 

When something’s bothering you, you know that getting your mind off of it is easier said than done. In fact, research shows that when people are instructed not to think about a specific topic, it makes it even harder to get that topic out of their minds. Rehashing negative thoughts over and over in your head, also known as rumination, can be unpleasant and counterproductive—and in some cases, it can even lead to chronic depression.

Here are 5 ways to stop negative thoughts for a happier and healthier lifestyle. 

What Caused Negative Thinking?

Negative thinking is mainly caused by fear. Very few people enjoy facing their fears, as fear tends to paralyze us and prevents us from pursuing our goals in life because we attempt to avoid negative outcomes. The biggest fear tends to be the fear of the unknown and tends to play it safe. By doing so, it leads to a pessimistic point-of-view. 

Having this negative mindset prevents us from reaching our full potential. Long-term this leads to greater dissatisfaction and regret than adopting an optimistic point-of-view and taking the risk of pursuing a more positive mindset. Become aware of what scares you and prevent it from negatively impacting your mind. 

What causes negative thinking is subjective and is going to vary person to person. 

Positive Thinking

Positive thinking plays an important role in positive psychology, the study of what makes people happy and fulfilled. Whether you have a positive or negative outlook on life can be answered simply by your response to the commonly asked question “is the glass half empty or half full?” Positive thinking has been found to help aid in stress management and increase overall health and wellbeing. 

What is Positive Thinking?

Positive thinking refers to approaching life’s challenges with a positive outlook. This does not mean seeing the world by ignoring or glossing over the negative aspects and ignoring the bad things; instead, it involves making the most out of potentially bad situations. Try to see the best in other people and view yourself and your abilities in a positive light. 

“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” -Abraham Lincoln

People with optimistic mindsets tend to give themselves credit when good things happen, but typically blame outside forces for bad outcomes. They tend to see negative events as temporary. On the contrary, those with a pessimistic demeanor often blame themselves when bad things happen, and fail to give themselves credit for success. Blaming yourself for events outside of your control and taking on the weight of the situation can have a negative impact on you physically and mentally. 

  • Health Benefits of Positive thinkingBetter stress management and coping skills
  • Enhanced psychological health
  • Greater resistance to the common cold
  • Increases physical well-being
  • Longer life span
  • Lower rates of depression
  • Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease-related death 

The Johns Hopkins Medicine states positive thinking is linked to various amounts of health benefits, and one study found positive thinking could reduce frailty during old age. A theory about why positive thinking has so many benefits is people who have a positive mindset tend to be less affected by stress. Another theory is people who tend to think positively tend to live healthier lives in general; they exercise, follow nutritious diets, and avoid anything unhealthy. Positive thinking is about looking at a situation from a positive point of view. You focus on the happier parts of a situation in order to help move past it and carry on without dwelling. Focusing on the negatives of a situation for too long can end up feeling like a burden and weight holding you down causing negativity to radiate through your body. It will affect your mind and eventually your overall health. 

If you find yourself having a setback and find life looking bleak with negative thoughts being the frontrunner in your life views, take a step back and counteract your thoughts by asking better questions in order to feel better and grow in the situation.

Ask yourself these questions:

  • What is one good thing about this situation?
  • What is one thing I can do differently the next time in order to have a better outcome?
  • What is one thing I can learn from this?
  • How would my best friend support and help me in this situation?

Taking a step back allows you to refocus your attention off the dreaded events you do not have control over and focus on what you can change. Not every situation you are going to go through in life is ever going to be ideal. There will be hardships and trials, but training your brain to tune into the aspects of every situation you are able to control will enable positive thinking and allow a healthier lifestyle. Dwelling on the past and events you cannot change will act like a disease starting in your brain and coursing its way through your body. Focus on the present and grow from it for the future. You are living in the now in order to regain control and move on to happier times. 

 

People Do Not Care What What You Do

It is easy for negative thoughts to take over when you believe and worry about what people may say or think. Getting stuck in your own head is going to drag you underwater and make you feel like the world is spinning out of your control. Half the time, people do not care about what you are doing, so ask yourself why do you believe they are talking about you and where do those thoughts stem from? The only way something someone says is going to affect you is if you believe there is some truth to their statement. It is important to reflect on why they have an impact on your health and figure out a way not to take things personally. 

The truth is people do not have much time or energy to talk about what you do. The realization others have lives they live as well and are only seeking solutions to their own needs will help enable a sense of relief. We live in a sensitive, selfish world. Others put their own needs before yours 9 out of 10 times especially if you are a stranger. Do not get caught up in your own made-up realities of what others perceive you as. Being confident in who you are and the actions you pursue will help ensure positive thinking. 

One thing you can do when a negative thought tries to take over is question it. Asking yourself if you should take it seriously because a lot of factors such as being tired, hungry, or overworked can make you irritable and subtitle negative thinking. Questioning your negative thoughts will help you realize just because one small thing ended up being wrong does not mean you did poorly overall. One negative thing does not mean things will stay poor for a long period of time. Not if you choose optimism and take small steps forward. Asking the question will give a reality check and ground you to a level-headed perspective again because negativity only spreads if you give it the power to take control. Do not make a mountain out of a molehill. 

Replace the Negativity in Your Surroundings 

What you let into your mind will have a big impact. It may seem like common sense to say get rid of negativity in your life in order to be happier, but it is easier said than done especially when the negativity in your life possibly stems from family or close friends. Reflect on the top three sources of negativity in your life, and what can be done to spend less time with those sources. You do not have to think long term but take it more on a week to week basis until it is easier to write out. 

If you cannot find ways to slowly eliminate any of the sources right now, take a smaller step and focus on dealing with just one. Take the time you freed up with the limited negative source and do something that sparks joy and happiness for you. 

Letting it out and talking it over can help keep the negative thoughts to a minimum by not bottling it all up. By bottling it up, you allow your system to build pressure until eventually the bottle shatters and is left in pieces on the floor. Emotions and feelings are meant to be felt instead of cages. By suppressing your thoughts and emotions, you are becoming the toxic entity in your own life causing your brain to overthink and wear out, so talk the situation and your thoughts over with someone close to you. 

Venting for a few minutes can often help you see the situation in a new light. The other person can also include a perspective opposite of yours and perhaps an action-plan to be utilized in order to both relieve and recharge your mental and physical health. When you tap into negative thoughts your mood begins to sink quicker than the titanic. Put your attention back into the moment and start making it a habit to spend more time in the moment. Do this by focusing on your breathing and take in the world around you. The warm sun as it hits your face, the rustle of the leaves blowing in a gentle breeze, or even the rise and the fall or your chest with each breath are great ways to put yourself into the moment when you feel yourself drifting away into a negative thought. Ground yourself back into the reality of what is happening now. 

 

Do Not Let Fear Drag You Down

It is natural to feel the impulse to run when you get scared. However, taking a closer look at the fear can put the greatness of its power into perspective. Taking a vague fear and making it scarier than it needs to be will increase negative thoughts and prevent you from living the life you are meant to. What is the worst thing that could happen in the situation? 

Ground the fear and look at it. Oftentimes it is realized the worst that could happen is not really terrible. By evaluating the fear within the situation it will lessen the likelihood of the worst case scenario from happening. Bring clarity to the situation and what you can do, so the fear does not become bigger than it news to be. 

Be Grateful for the Little Things

When we get into a negative mindset it becomes easy to forget to forget about what matters most in life. It is extremely hard to be positive especially about the little things. Normal parts of our lives are taken for granted a little too often. Put your attention on a couple things and feel grateful for them during the negative times. 

Pay attention to:

  • Three steady meals a day
  • A roof over your head during the cold nights and rainy, windy days
  • You can have as much clean water as you would like
  • Kind and helpful family and friends

Tune into the little accomplishments and feel gratitude for the little successes. This will help spark a more optimistic and positive mindset. A pessimistic or negative start makes it hard to turn life around, but a positive start makes it a lot easier to keep going with the emotion until bedtime. A simple reminder of things to be grateful for or a quote to read right away in the morning could help inspire you. 

Recap

Changing the way you perceive the world around you is a helpful step in ending the negative thoughts. Perception is key. 

Instead of… Try…
I should go to the gym everyday. I will try my best to go to the gym every day.

Here’s how…

I should eat healthier. I can eat healthier by doing these things…
I should stop thinking negatively. I see I am having anxious thoughts right now. What is a more credible thought?
I should be able to talk to my boss without anxiety.  I wish I was not so afraid to stand up for myself, but I accept I am working on the situation. 

Focusing on what we are able to control and do by creating goals and changing our perspectives allows a freeing sense of positivity. Listen to your thoughts and understand what they are telling you. All there is to remember is there is no right way to go about life, and mistakes mean you are learning and growing. Hoan in on your thought patterns and understand your mindset in order to end your negative thoughts. Challenge yourself to make small steps instead of forcing positive thoughts. It is going to take time to gain full control, but it is not impossible. 

Reframe your situation and look at what you can control. Even if everyone around you is complaining, it does not mean you have to react. You can control your thoughts and actions; however, if you feel it taking a hold of your mental health, it is best to remove yourself from the situation. Removing the negative sources in your life will open the door for a healthier, positive life with more opportunities. Seize the moments and work on yourself. It will be challenging but worth it in the end.

 

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About the author

Meladi Brewer

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