Have you ever been paralyzed with fear while thinking the worst is yet to happen?
One day, you were all cheerful and merry when you suddenly had one negative thought. It doesn’t even need to be a big deal –it could be something you said behind someone’s back or hearing the news someone got into an accident.
Before you know it, you just can’t shake off the feeling that you are in extreme danger. The fear becomes so real you feel your heart racing and it seems to be the end of the world.
Negative thoughts become monsters under the bed. Sometimes those monsters grow so big they eat you whole.
I’ve had my fair share of struggling with negative thoughts. It may be challenging, but there’s actually a way out of that vicious cycle.
Do you struggle with negative thoughts often? Here are 7 tips that worked for me and which might work for you too.
7 Scientifically Proven Tips to Keep Negative Thoughts Away
1. Learn to Banish Bad Thoughts Through Socratic Questioning
Most of us are better at giving advice to our friends than in actually applying our counsel to ourselves. Ironic but true.
When you feel overwhelmed by the negativity in your head, Socrates’ way could be what you need. The father of Western Philosophy’s Socratic questioning was proven to be effective in reducing symptoms of depression.
What does this therapeutic method involve?
First off, you need to think that your thoughts are actually a friend’s concern and not yours. Since you are intimately familiar with the issue, what advice could you possibly give your pal?
By contemplating your thoughts as a friend, you may have a more realistic way of viewing the situation. While this may be hard to do at first, doing this exercise frees you up from a lot of worries.
2. Move Your Body, Groove to an Aerobic Exercise Routine
When you are breaking a sweat while doing aerobic exercise, it’s easier to keep negativity at bay. Working out is among the best methods to distract you from having dysfunctional thoughts.
A study conducted on depressed students supported the theory linking exercise to reduced depression.
Aside from helping you shake away destructive thoughts, exercise has tons of health benefits too.
For all you know, daily exercise might just be what you need to steer clear of your pessimism.
3. Get Up and Walk Through the Door
While ruminating, I heard some noise outside and had to check what happened on the other side of the door. To my surprise, getting back on track of my destructive thinking was harder to do afterward.
It turns out psychologists have also associated doorways with purging thoughts –any thought, to be exact.
In one experiment conducted in a virtual environment by the University of Notre Dame, participants found it harder to remember the objects they were carrying after passing through a doorway.
The same study was repeated in a laboratory. The conclusion from these studies was the same –walking through the doorway makes you more forgetful than traveling the same distance in one room.
Next time you are struggling with a negative thought, get up and try walking through some doorways.
4. Counting Your Blessings is Not Just a Good Way to Fall Asleep
When was the last time you made a mental list of all the things you are grateful for?
If it was so long you couldn’t recall, it might be why you are attracting negative thoughts. Your gratitude for all the awesome things that happened to you has a huge impact on your mental state.
Research on gratefulness was conducted by two psychologists, University of California’s Dr. Robert A. Emmons and University of Miami’s Dr. Michael E. McCullough.
The findings from the research revealed those who expressed gratitude regularly were more optimistic and had to visit their physicians less than those who wrote about the things that aggravated them.
When you are getting caught in a negative thought process, injecting some gratitude could just be what you need. Don’t just be thankful when you are depressed, make it a habit.
There are many ways to express how grateful you are. Here’s some you can try:
Say “thank you” more often
Write letters of gratitude
List all your blessings mentally and in a journal
Make time for praying or meditation
5. Don’t Suppress Your Emotions
Suppression is never an effective tool in preventing you from ruminating and obsessing on cynical thoughts.
Negative thoughts can catch you unaware. But forcing yourself to forget thinking about negative thoughts can backfire –you might end up thinking the same thing more with greater intensity each time.
Research also revealed that people who block negative thoughts regularly stress more than the average person.
What should you do instead of blocking negativity in your life?
Instead of trying to forget, accept your emotions. To help you relax, take deep breaths.
If you ever feel overwhelmed, pour your feelings out by confiding to a friend or writing on a journal.
If you decide to write it down, you can tear up the page to millions of pieces once you finish. Doing this can make you’re a lot better since you have vented out your negative feelings.
6. Stay Away from Negative Company
Negativity is contagious. If you are always in the company of people who obsess about trifles, you are more likely to suffer from constant attacks of negativity.
The University of Notre Dame published an interesting study highlighting the effect of a person’s social environment.
Based on their research involving first-year students, those who hung around people with adaptive cognitive styles found it easier to get used to life on campus.
While the sample was limited, there is one clear message here –you need to be wary of the people you surround yourself with.
If you hang out with people who encourage negativity all the time, it’s time to break ties with those people. Positive people are better for improving your own mental state.
7. Do an Activity Which Requires Brain Power
Negative thoughts attack you when you are the most comfortable.
Once the brain’s habit center kicks into gear, you are using less mental energy to finish a task. This is also a time when you are most vulnerable.
When you detect those negative thoughts creeping in, you need to take action right away and switch to a challenging task. It doesn’t matter which task you perform as long as it is something that will require your full concentration.
It is important to switch to this new task right away since it becomes harder to throw your thoughts out of the window once they have grabbed ahold of you. Negative thoughts come in trickles first but the longer you fight them off, the more obsessive the thoughts become.
Negative thoughts may seem to be destructive especially when you start obsessing. But they are there for a reason.
These thoughts you hate having can sharpen your survival instincts. Of course, you need to strike the right balance of negative and positive thoughts, to function properly.
Negative thoughts strike you irrespective of gender or status. When you are with someone, some relationship advice might help you out during those bouts of sadness.
Remember, having zero negative thoughts is impossible. This doesn’t mean there’s no workaround, there’s always something you can do.
Kick negativity out of your system before it becomes a habit. If you’re out of ideas on how to do it on your own, try any or all of these seven techniques.