We all know that constant negativity can get in the way of happiness, add to our stress and worry level, and ultimately damage our health. Some people are more prone to negative thinking than others.
So, here’s an uplifting New Year’s challenge for your mind and soul! Make this the year that you quiet all those negative thoughts swirling around your brain. Call up how you’ve risen to many challenges over the last year. You can take your experience and wisdom into 2021.
Rick Hanson, a psychologist and senior fellow at the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley said, “We were built to overlearn from negative experiences, but under learn from positive ones.” With practice, you can learn to disrupt and tame any negative thoughts.
Here are 4 steps that can help you quiet those thoughts and lean into positivity:
- When your negative thoughts appear, don’t tryto stop them.
If you find yourself obsessing about being rejected for a job opportunity or how to help a struggling family member, don’t tell yourself, “I have to stop thinking about this.” Instead, tell yourself that you are obsessing about the job opportunity or family member. When you acknowledge and accept your negative thoughts, you are on your way to taming them.
After you’ve accepted a negative thought, challenge it.
For example, take that rejection for a job interview. You might be worrying about your resume and how the interview might have turned out better, obsessing on what you could have done and beating yourself up. Ask yourself, “Why would one rejection mean that I’m not worthy of being hired?” Or, “There are more job opportunities out there. What has worked in the past when I’ve been hired that show my abilities?” Imagine that your friend is the one who received the rejection. What advice would you give him or her? Now think of how that advice might apply to you.
Move from inaction to action to counteract the negative thought.
Ask yourself if you are accomplishing anything by dwelling on your negative thoughts, then move into action! If you are worried about feeling helpless in supporting a struggling family member, check in with someone who can offer positive feedback. If you are feeling insecure about getting hired for a job, make a list of your strengths and accomplishments. You can ask a close friend or family member to write you a letter that expresses all the ways in which you are a good, kind person. Reread the letter daily.
Practice controlled breathing, which can help lower your stress response and calm anxious thoughts.
When your negative thoughts are making you feel agitated and overwhelmed, take a deep breath, and then another. Controlled breathing helps bring more oxygen to your brain and supports eliminating stress. Check out some resources on exactly how to do this.
If your thoughts are making you feel seriously distressed and interfering with your ability to work and relax, consider seeing a mental health professional. You might want to talk with a professional about the root cause of your negative thinking patterns and they can teach practical ways to cope with persistent and unwanted thoughts, which may be helpful.
Andrea’s new book is… Grit, Grace & Gravitas: The Three Keys to Transforming Leadership, Presence