One of the most challenging parts of shifting to a more positive mindset is dealing with
your negative thoughts. The point isn’t to never have another negative thought again,
since that is impossible, and also known as toxic positivity.
However, when your negative thoughts become a burden on your mindset, and result in
negative thought spirals that cause stress and anxiety, that is when you know it is time
to work on reframing them.
You are simply going to take negative thoughts, be realistic about where they are
coming from, and start shifting them to more positive thoughts when possible.
Types of Negative Thoughts
Before working on challenging and reframing your negative thoughts, it helps to
understand what types of negative thoughts you might be experiencing. It is not just
thinking badly about yourself or being stressed, though those can definitely be part of it.
There are actually many ways to think negatively that you might not have considered to
be in this category.
This might include:
Having black and white thinking
This type of thinking is also known as “all or
nothing” thinking, where you feel something is either right or wrong, and there is no in
between. But everything has a gray area, and that gray area is often where you can find
gratitude and peace.
Always assuming the worst-case scenario
This is a common way people allow
their negative, pessimistic mindset to take over. If you tend to look at the worst-case
scenario first, assuming nothing good ever happens, then you really need to work on
Playing the blame game
This can include blaming yourself, blaming other people,
and blaming circumstances for how you feel. When in fact you are in full control over
your thoughts and your emotions, even if the unexpected happens.
Making everything into a catastrophe
Some people with a negative mindset tend to
exaggerate every small bad thing that happens and turn it into a monumental failure.
This is known as catastrophizing, and is another way of imagining the worst possible
Talking about what should have happened
The word “should” is rarely, if ever,
helpful. It has a negative connotation because it creates rules, and leaves room for
regret and blame. Especially when used in past tense, you should know that you can’t
change the past, so what you “should” have done is irrelevant.
The STOP technique is often used on people who struggle with anxiety and panic
attacks, where they say STOP or NO out loud when they feel their anxiousness
building. It can also be used when you are experiencing negative thoughts.
As soon as a negative thought enters your mind, and you know it is one that is going to
lead to a stress spiral, just say STOP. If you can’t say it out loud, scream it inside your
head to yourself. It signals that those thoughts are not allowed and you will not entertain
them any further.
Reduce the Likelihood of Negative Thoughts
While you can’t predict every bad thing that will happen, you can pay attention to what
impacts your mindset and where many of your negative thoughts come from. If a lot of
thought patterns start not from random circumstances, but common triggers, then you
know where to start.
This could be certain people in your life who are toxic and bring you down, your own
insecurities related to comparing yourself to other people on social media, or even
certain genres or books or movies that tend to put you into a negative state of mind. The
more aware you are of your own triggers, the easier it will be to avoid them and start
reducing how many negative thoughts you experience.
Be Honest With Yourself
To reframe a negative thought, you need to be aware of what it is and where it came
from. This is where you have to be brutally honest with yourself and extremely realistic
about how bad things actually are. Many times, you are just catastrophizing something,
and imagining the worst possible scenario, and one that is often the rarest of
possibilities. If you have anxiety, you are already aware of how your mind can play tricks
on you, so this should not be new to you.
Start getting into the practice of journaling your negative thoughts, then writing down
where they came from. Whether it is your own insecurity, something you saw or heard,
something another person told you, past failures, anything you can think of. You will
soon notice patterns and be able to stop a negative thought in its tracks because you
know it is coming from a place of worry and anxiety, not a place of practicality.