Negative thoughts are an interesting phenomenon: that is, the harder you try to get them out of your head, the more you think about them. They can keep you up at night, make you anxious during the day, put a big crimp in your everyday activities, and overall be a real challenge. Negative thoughts can stymy any advancement at work, affect your intimate relationships, and keep you in a rut.
In the book The Happiness Trap, Russ Harris notes that 80 percent of people’s thoughts contains some negative aspects. Therefore, having negative thoughts isn’t unusual, so you don’t have to feel bad. However, that doesn’t mean you want to harbour them. If you want to eliminate negative thoughts you need to be willing to try different approaches until you find one or more that works for you. Here are some suggestions that could be the ticket for your trip away from negative thinking.
Talk about it. Negative thoughts have a way of racing around in your head without allowing you to get a clear perspective on the situation. When you talk about your thoughts and emotions with a caring individual—a spouse, partner, friend, relative—you can view things in a new way. Sometimes just hearing yourself say the words can give you an “ah ha” moment.
Modify your body language. It’s easy to get into a negative body mode—slouching, hunched shoulders, crossed arms, frowning, leaning away from other people. Become aware of what your body is telling other people and modify it to be more positive. Sit up straight, uncross your arms,
lean toward people when they talk (but not too close!), and smile. A positive, engaged posture really can affect your mood.
Clear your mind. Negative thoughts have a way to taking over your brain; don’t let them. Take a minute or two to calm down, empty your mind of all thoughts, and just breathe. Feel free to do this as many times during the day as you need to—it’s a form of meditation that can greatly ease your mind of negative thoughts.
Leave your environment. Sometimes negative thoughts are nourished or seem to thrive in certain environments. Therefore, perhaps the best thing you can do is take a walk, get away from the place you are, and seek a positive place. Perhaps you can get to a park or wooded area; maybe a short hike, a visit to a museum, or a walk with your dog (or volunteer to walk shelter dogs) can take you away from negative thoughts.
Embrace gratitude. Take a few moments when you first get up, during the day, or before you go to bed and write down all the things for which you are grateful. Even when negative thoughts seem to take over your mind, it’s possible to push them away and embrace the things for which you are grateful. It can help to write them down so you can visualize them as well.
Turn the words around. Every time you have a negative thought, turn it around to a positive one. For example, if you think to yourself, “I’m having a real difficult time with my partner right now,” you can turn it around to say, “We are having some challenging times, but we are willing to discuss the issues and come to a resolution.” You might say to yourself, “I’m such a loser,” but turn it around to say “I am having thoughts about being a loser, but that doesn’t make me one.”
Interrupt your negative thoughts. The first step to eliminating negative thoughts is to be aware of them and then holding up your hand to make them stop. I realize thoughts can’t be stopped by putting up your hand, but the physical act of saying “no” to negative thoughts and interrupting them makes it more real for some individuals.
Use creative imagery. When negative thoughts begin to take over, invoke creative imagery and picture yourself somewhere else—some place that is tranquil, positive, comfortable, and welcoming. You can call upon visualization for a few moments or longer and use it several times a day if needed. You might visualize your anxiety and tension drifting away on a flower petal in a river or perhaps it flies away on the wings of a butterfly. Use whatever imagery works for you.
Written by Deborah Mitchell. Deborah Mitchell is passionate about personal health and the well-being of animals and the planet. She has authored, coauthored, and ghostwritten more than 40 books, contributes regularly to several websites, and shares information on physical, emotional, and spiritual health on her blog, deborahmitchellbooks.com.
Bloom S. 7 ways to clear your mind of negative thoughts. Pick Your Brain. Accessed September 6, 2017.
Centerstone. How to eliminate your ANTS (automatic negative thoughts). Accessed September 6, 2017.
Harris R. The Happiness Trap: How to Stop Struggling and Start Living. Accessed September 6, 2017.
Markway B. Stop fighting your negative thoughts. Psychology Today. 2013 May 7. Accessed September 7, 2017.