Thursday, March 23, 2017

Three Ways To Combat Negative Thinking

I've struggled a lot with being a pessimist by nature. When I'm not careful to control for it, I turn into Debbie Downer and rain on everyone's parade. I used to think that I was just that way and expected people around me to accept it, but then I met someone just like me. Being friends with this person was an emotional drain and sucked joy out of my life every time I talked to them. A perfect day could be ruined by a ten-minute conversation. When I realized how much we were alike, I resolved to change so I wouldn't be that kind of drain on anyone else's emotional resources.

Obviously, changing these kinds of thought patterns is easier said than done. I struggled a lot to change at first. But over time, I developed the three strategies listed below that help me be a more positive person. Keep in mind I'm not any kind of mental health professional; these are just the strategies that I personally find helpful in my day to day life.

Practice Gratitude

What made the single biggest difference for me was learning to practice gratitude at all times. When I start to go into a negative thought spiral and begin descending into a bad mood, I force myself to take a deep breath and start mentally listing things I'm genuinely grateful for until I feel better. Even when I'm having what feels like the worst day in the history of days, I can always find a few small things to appreciate if I try hard enough.

I have plenty of food in the house. I have a roof over my head. I had a really great breakfast this morning. I have a pot of coffee in the kitchen. My room smells nice. I'm wearing my favorite pants today. My kids are healthy. I'm ahead of my work schedule this week.

After a minute or two of practicing gratitude, I almost always find myself in a better mood (even if it's still not a great one). On top of this, I also keep a 'gratitude journal' where I list three things I'm grateful for or looking forward to every single day.

One of the benefits of these two habits is that I've naturally become a more grateful person. When good things happen, I notice. I appreciate small, simple things more and sweat the small negative ones a lot less.

Brainstorm Solutions To The Things You're Stressed About

I have a bad habit of stressing out about something going on in my life, then going into a worry-spiral about it. It's counterproductive and makes my stress levels much higher. To combat this, I've started writing my worries down and then making a list of things I can do to improve the situations.

Here's an example of the process.

My worry: my financial situation. I have no emergency savings to speak of, and if I have any kind of emergency I'll most likely need to take out a loan to cover it.

A list of actions I can take to improve this situation, just off the top of my head:
  • I can devote more time to searching for freelance writing clients and apply to every opening I'm qualified for
  • I can get back on a content mill website and churn out a few things for pocket cash while I'm looking for clients, and save the extra I make
  • I can sell a few things on eBay that I don't have a use for anymore
  • I can commit to a month of not spending beyond necessities and put back what would have normally been spent
After coming up with this list, I already feel a lot better. I can work on implementing these actions to fix a situation I'm stressed about. Every time I start to stress out about my savings again, I can refer back to this list and remind myself that I have solutions to the problem and work on implementing them.

Practice Acceptance

Sometimes, there are things completely out of my control stressing me out. No amount of brainstorming can fix the situation, because I have no influence over the outcome whatsoever.

In these instances, I've implemented a mantra of sorts to cut off my worry-spiral:

Que sera sera. Whatever will be, will be.

Whenever I start to feel anxious about something I can't control, I cut those thoughts off at the root by taking a deep breath and saying this mantra to myself. It sounds silly, but it works wonders. Over time, it will become easier and more natural to accept that some things are beyond your control and you will deal with the outcome when it happens.

Hopefully, one or more of the above tips can help you combat negative thinking.

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