“Negative thoughts stick around because we believe them, not because we want them or choose them.” –Andrew J. Bernstein
The quest for happiness is one that most of us spend countless time and energy pursuing, hoping that on any given day we may discover the secret. In fact, our brain is wired to drive this pursuit. When we find something that provides us with a feeling of pleasurewithin your brain encouraging you to return for more. If we allow this reward system to direct our actions we will continue to invite experiences of happiness and pleasure into our life.
Another consideration that should not be overlooked in order to find true happiness is the necessity to remove negative thinking from our lives. In fact, negative thinking has been proven to have a negative impact on our overall health and well-being. In a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychology researchers focused on the impact that worrying has on the ability of the participants to perform a simple task. They concluded that 50% of the time participants were negatively impacted, their thoughts of worry and concern disrupting their ability to complete the requested task.
In order to remove negative thought patterns from our lives, we must first identify these habits. As these are often subconscious habits it can be difficult to notice when we are engaging in this type of thinking. Once we are aware we can employ positive techniques to interrupt the pattern of thinking that we have been engaging in, redirecting our thoughts towards a positive alternative.
Particularly common in the thought processes of people who feel as though they have been hurt by others in the past, cynical hostility refers to the habit of seeing everyone that we encounter as a threat. Rather than considering the potential positive interactions, you may have with people in your life you focus on the fact that you believe that they will ultimately cheat, deceive, disappoint and harm you in some way.
The only way to break free of this trap is to force yourself to step out of your comfort zone and open up to others, even if it is just trusting one individual a little bit as a baby step. When you do find that someone is breaking your trust or acting in a way that you consider to be questionable try to put yourself in their shoes. Could there be a reason for their actions that isn’t entirely negative?
2. Negative Rumination
When we allow ourselves to engage in this type of reflection we find ourselves trapped in a constant spiral of negative thinking. The more that we focus on these thoughts, the more we find our anxiety and depression heightened. We focus first on the initial negative experience, then as we begin to react in a less than positive manner we focus on our disappointment in how we are reacting further compounding the negativity of the situation.
Instead, we need to break the cycle. Take part in an activity to distract yourself from your thoughts such as going for a walk, spending time with a good friend or taking part in a hobby. It is important to note that you shouldn’t engage in activities such as drinking or recreational drug use that may compound the negativity.
3. Lack of Control
One of the most frightening feelings that many of us can experience is that of being completely out of control in our life. We look at the different situations that we are facing and rather than feeling empowered to make positive decisions and work towards a desired outcome we feel as though everything is out of our hands for any one of a number of reasons – fate, negative self-esteem or even feeling as though we are being controlled by someone else.
In order to break free from this type of thinking, we must take back control over our lives. Start small, proving to yourself that you can make the final decision on a number of smaller things in your life – like starting to go to the gym to work towards improving your physical fitness, or making a healthy choice in regard to your diet. As you become comfortable with these smaller choices begin to increase your reach with bigger and more important life choices, slowly proving to yourself that you, ultimately, have control over your own life.
While rumination focuses on situations that occurred in our past, overthinking refers to engaging in negative thoughts obsessing over the future. As we look forward in our life at events and changes that will be coming we start by innocently considering the circumstance, however, it is a fine line between being prepared and overthinking. For many of us, it isn’t long before we find ourselves obsessing over everything that may potentially go wrong. This goes beyond just taking preventative steps to avoid mistakes.
Thinking about your future isn’t a bad choice, in fact, it is recommended that you take the time to consider the potential risks as you make decisions for your future. You may need to limit the amount of time you allow yourself to focus your thinking on these decisions. Once you reach that time limit, turn to techniques like yoga and meditation to calm your mind and break free from the obsession.
5. Playing Victim
Regardless of how hard we try there will be times in our life that things don’t go according to plan. We are going to face snags and challenges. These can either be minor setbacks, or they can turn mark the beginning of a negative shift in our overall thinking. When we allow ourselves to partake in a mental pity party we give up any potential of walking away from this experience in a positive direction.
It is okay to experience some negative thoughts when things start to go wrong. Feelings of anger and sadness are important and need to be felt in order to let them go. However, to promote positive mental and emotional health you need to ensure that you don’t camp out on these feelings, releasing them and then focusing on moving forward in a positive direction overcoming your challenges and focusing on the light at the end of the tunnel.
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