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Change Your Mind: A Guide to Challenging Negative Thinking

ChatOwl Mental Health, Wellness

Reading Time: 4 minutes

“Don’t be pushed around by the fears in your mind. Be led by the dreams in your heart.” 

― Roy T. Bennett

We all have that inner voice that tells us both who we are and what we are capable of. And unfortunately, for some of us, that inner voice tends to be highly critical and sometimes very pessimistic.

It is difficult to find peace and happiness in life when you are always thinking of the worst-case scenario or telling yourself you don’t deserve good things. The law of attraction states that you get what you attract. So if you are always looking to the dark side, assuming the worst, and waiting for the other shoe to drop, it is likely all that you see around you. 

Science tells us that positive thinking can not only help to reduce anxiety and depression; it can lead to improved well being, both physically and mentally. But positive thinking is not something that comes naturally to some, nor is it easy to override the negative.

The good news is that thinking positively can be achieved if you refocus, become more mindful of your thoughts and actions, and try to look at the silver lining instead of the empty glass.

What Constitutes Negative Thinking?

Everyone has natural worries that are both realistic and necessary. If something in your life upsets you, feeling sad about it is normal. And worrying about those things that can cause us harm, like financial worries or relationship problems, from time to time, is entirely natural. But if your feelings of pessimism are pervasive, regular, and chronic, then negative thoughts and patterns can lead to anxiety and depression. 

If you tend to spend a whole lot of time needlessly worrying about things that probably will not happen, always expecting the worst, and generally view the world in a negative light, there are ways to change your negative thinking patterns.

What Causes Negative Thinking?

At times, negative thinking patterns can be a symptom of something more global, like Generalized Anxiety Disorder or Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder. And it is can also be a symptom of depression. In general, however, no matter what is driving them, people engage in negative thinking for three main reasons.

Fear and Insecurity About the Future

Sometimes because we fear what the future has to hold. That fear can sometimes lead to unrealistic anticipation of disaster and failure. This “catastrophizing” is both a time and mental energy waster.

The key to limiting negative thoughts about the future is to recognize that there are only so many that you can control and a host of others that you can’t. Try to focus on things that are within your ability to change and stop worrying about those things that you can do nothing about.

Anxiety about what is happening in the present

It is natural to be anxious about things that are happening to and around you. Some people worry about how others perceive them, whether they are performing well at work, or worry if their child is sick. Negative thinkers often tend to see the worst-case scenario as the only scenario and to be very fatalistic about their present situation.

Just like the fear of the future, underneath negative thinking about the present, is the fear of not being in control. Finding a routine and being organized might help to reduce your negative thoughts, but if they are ingrained, then it might take a little more practice.

Shame about what happened in the past

Some people worry about things that they did last week or even years in their past. Everyone has done or said something that they are ashamed of, but people who tend to think negatively dwell on those embarrassing situations and failures.

For those who can’t seem to step out of the past, it takes the ability to accept that it happened, forgiving themselves, and thinking about the lessons learned. That way, they can gain power by recognizing how to stop it from happening again. 

Challenge Negative Thoughts to Rid Yourself of Them!

Hand flip wooden cube with word "change" to "chance", Personal development and career growth or change yourself concept

The best way to rid yourself of negative thinking is to challenge your thoughts. Intercepting the inner voice before it can sink in and take hold is the only way to free yourself. When you begin to have negative feelings, counter it immediately, and persistently. And soon, positive thinking will become the new lens you see life through. 

 When you feel negative thoughts creep in, practice these exercises by either mentally taking note, or physically writing it down to read and reread until positivity becomes a new way of life.

  • Step One: Is the thought you are having true? Ask yourself whether there is a basis for your negative thought
  • Step Two: Are your thoughts making you feel powerful, or are they minimizing your ability to take action?
  • Step Three: Can you find some positivity to put a spin on your negative thoughts? Look at the situation to find the “silver lining” or lesson you can learn
  • Step Four: How would life look differently if you didn’t dwell on your negative thought? How would thinking more positively free you?
  • Step Five: Is the negative thinking getting in the way of overcoming or addressing the issue head-on? Is your negativity parlaying you from taking positive action to change?

The more that you seek to extinguish negative thoughts, the more positivity will become second nature. And when you think positively, you gain the power to change those things in life that you can. And you also gain the ability to stop worrying about the things that you can’t change. Not having complete control over your life be scary.

But becoming powerless and staying stuck by negative thoughts and thinking patterns is even more so because it robs you of the peace and joy in life that you can be experiencing. If you commit to banish negative thoughts and find a more optimist way of seeing the world, you will be amazed at how quickly peace and happiness will fill the void you feel right now. 

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