Positive thinking is a very powerful tool to help you, your anxiety and mental health. Learn more now + get your FREE workbook!
The mind is a wondrous, complex, annoying thing. It can get your far in life, and it can also hinder you in life. Negative thinking (focusing on the bad/scary in life) is so common, yet you might not even realise you are doing it.
Today we’re going to discuss seven powerful ways to change the way you think. If you read my last post on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT), you’ll know I touched on it a little. You might also be interested in how to have a more positive outlook on life too (+ get your FREEBIE!).
You might surprise yourself with how easy you might find it. On the flip-side, you might struggle.
Whichever way, you’re at a good place right now. I’m going to show you how to do it.
Oh and don’t forget your FREE workbook!
First, though, here is a little background about me and why I rave about positive thinking. Just because I know you are dying to know (wink wink)!
Turn the clock back about 8 years and I was 20 (at the time of writing this). I had a good job, a boyfriend and family around me. But I was so very negative.
I used to think about all the bad things that could/should/might happen. I used to prepare myself for the very worst outcome at all times.
I was an absolute nervous wreck all of the time. It was horrible. I found it difficult to see the good in anything, which included myself. As you can imagine my self-esteem was very low as a result of this.
This nervousness spread to al aspects f my life and to this day I still have a huge fear of flying.
Does this sound familiar?
“So, Jess, why are we naturally negative?” I hear you shout at me through your screen.
Did you know that we are hard-wired as humans to focus on negative situations? Not only this, but did you know that we hold onto the negative situations more than positive ones? It all comes from our primitive nature during dangerous situations.
Although we have come far in relation to technology, modern day living and health, we still have something called a ‘fight or flight’ mode. This kicks in at any sign of danger (rational or not). This could be a stressful situation, person or emotion.
This means that those with anxiety tend to far more situations and outcomes than we normally would, leading to avoidance. Negative thoughts surround us and it becomes harder to focus on the positive.
Such negative feelings lead to certain ‘triggers’ (you might have heard about them).
Here is something to think about:
“The brain handles positive and negative information in different hemispheres,” said Professor Nass, who co-authored “The Man Who Lied to His Laptop: What Machines Teach Us About Human Relationships” (Penguin 2010). Negative emotions generally involve more thinking, and the information is processed more thoroughly than positive ones, he said. Thus, we tend to ruminate more about unpleasant events — and use stronger words to describe them — than happy ones. (The New York Times, 2012)
Personally, I find psychology fascinating. I love knowing how I work and to what extent I can control it. I’ve found great success in turning around negative thoughts into positive ones.
If I can, so can you.
Here are 7 really useful ways to turn your thoughts around. This is for anxiety sufferers or not. As you can see, we are all prone to them!
1. Consider why you are thinking negatively + what has caused it
Negative thoughts are everywhere. It’s hard not to run across something negative throughout the day. That’s why a really useful analysis of what is causing the negativity will help. As you’ve read above, the negative thoughts stick out much more than positive ones.
Becoming more aware of our negative thoughts gives you more ammo in the high against them. How often do you think negatively about yourself without even realising it? It’s probably a lot more than you realise.
I want you to try and become more aware of your thoughts, whether it’s negative or not. By doing this you’ll be able to hone in on the negative ones much easier than you would without doing this.
The more aware you are of these thoughts, the easier it’ll become to bat them away.
So whilst you’re becoming more aware of your thoughts, consider why and how they came about. For example, let’s say you HATE calling up companies.
Maybe you had a debt in the past and you are frightened to call companies now. Maybe you had a bad experience with one company that is tarnishing them all for you.
These are completely normal thoughts by the way. The point of this is to analyse where they came from. So if you hate calling up anyone, why is it? Would the same thing happen again? What if you ended up speaking to someone different? Would that help?
Keep your thoughts on the beginnings of this fear. The more you consider the ways now, the easier it will get.
Remember, grab the handy workbook to help you process your thoughts! Click the button below:
2. Consider if the thought is rational or not
For those with anxiety/another mental health issue, rationalising our negative thoughts can actually be a great tool. If you’re anything like me then quite often you can catastrophise any minor event/thought. This means that rather than thinking realistically, you assume the worst.
Then, you prepare yourself for the worst. That turns itself into anxiety and the physical symptoms start.
It was only until I started doing some CBT that I realised my thoughts weren’t rational. In fact they were far from it. That was big news for me considering I’d spent all of my life thinking I was normal! Sound familiar?
Sometimes though it’s much harder said than done. That’s why I’ve included a really helpful workbook with sheets to help you work through it!
I’d recommend grabbing them now if you haven’t already. Print them out so you can make notes on them. They’re much more useful that way.
Start by thinking about whether your train of thought is rational. Let’s use the same example about calling up a company. Yes, you had a bad experience before. Yes, it shook you up. Yes, you are now frightened to do it again.
But, what’s saying that it won’t happen again? Difficult conversations over the phone do happen but not as often as you might think. Right now you might be terrified of the ‘what if’ but there is nothing concrete saying it’ll be the same again.
This leads me nicely onto my next point.
3. Consider the evidence for and against it
This is something I learned during my CBT lesson. I was made to consider what actual evidence for and against the negative thought I had. It was very difficult to start off with. Right now you might be struggling to know what actual evidence you have for/against your negative thoughts.
That is another completely normal feeling too. All of my life I’ve spent being very negative. I didn’t know who to trust/whether to trust anyone at all.
That is a hard habit to break out of. You need to pretend you’re in a court, trying to put a case forward to the judge. Imagine it like this for your negative thoughts.
For example, you’re trying to call up this company again. You had a bad experience in the past. That is positive evidence to you that it might happen again. After all, if it’s already happened, it may happen again.
Now, consider what evidence you have that shows you’re possibly overthinking it. Yes, you have been scarred in the past, but it’s never happened since.
No one else you know has ever had an issue with this company. That says it was most likely a one-off. Are you calling them about something completely different this time? If so, again it’s unlikely it’ll happen again.
As a result of doing this exercise means that really, you have nothing to worry about. Your thoughts are based on one fact but the majority will be ‘what if’s’.
Make sure to use the workbook that comes with this post. It’ll help you along the way!
4. Are you overthinking?
Gosh, am I prone to this! I could probably win the world record for overthinking the tiniest things. Good job no one can actually hear me doing it! Most of the time I probably just look vacant. Everyone would think I’m mad if they heard the conversations I have with myself.
Overthinking is something that most likely comes naturally to anxiety sufferers. Your nature allows it. At least I know it does for me. I’m not asking you to change who you are, but overthinking is somewhere to start.
Negative thoughts are oftentimes caused by other thinking. You know if maybe you’ve noticed your colleague seeming off to you? That leads you onto wondering if it’s something you did.
That leads you onto thoughts of your actions going back two years and whether that somehow is causing it. That then leads you onto whether you upset them somehow, and so on. You get the picture!
The process of overthinking allows you to focus in on specific situations that may have occurred. As mentioned before you are going to remember the bad things rather than the good.
Spending time over thinking will not only cause more negative thoughts, it’ll fuel the cycle.
It’s time to break out of that.
Something that I try and do when I find myself overthinking about things is to focus on the here and now. This is caused being grounded. Bringing your attention back to what is physically around you right now moves your thoughts from the past.
It could really help you break free from negative thoughts.
Don’t forget to use the handy workbook I’ve included for this.
5. Are you catastrophising?
If you’ve never heard of this before, I don’t blame you! I only discovered this awesome word last week. Here is a really great definition of it:
Catastrophising is making a mountain out of a molehill. It is when you worry about a situation and imagine only the worse possible outcome. When you catastrophise, not only do you imagine a negative outcome may happen, you assume that the negative outcome is going to be a catastrophe (Health Central, 2013)
You basically assume the worst. Does it sound like you? It sounds like me 100%!
Here is a good example of catastrophising. Let’s say for example you are worried about making that phone call to an energy company. You think you have a debt and you’re worried about them asking you to pay it. You don’t have the money because your partner is out of work.
You assume that they are going to send you constant letters and call you until you pay. Eventually, you assume that they will come to your house and take your stuff away.
Finally, you think that your family and friends will find out and you’ll be embarrassed and shamed.
Overall thought I think we can both agree that this is very negative. Lucky for you I have some helpful tips for you!
The first step is to recognise that you are doing it. This can sometimes be the hardest part! As mentioned before you can often do it without even realising it.
Being more conscious of your own thoughts will aid this. If you feel like you don’t have time to do it, just remember that you only need a few minutes to do so.
But also remember that if you are like me, we aren’t alone. This is a really common way of thinking and I definitely attribute this to our way of thinking when it comes to flight or fight.
How to beat it?
When you get the chance, just spend a little time thinking about what you are thinking about right now. Sounds silly, right? But honestly, try it.
Once you have thought about your negative thought, the next step is to rationalise it. I’ve already covered how to rationalise your thoughts but this is a biggie when it comes to catastrophising.
Consider whether you are actually thinking the worst. It might be difficult to start off with. Will the worst happen as you imagined it? Will your friends and family find out? If it helps, write it all down.
Writing down these sorts of feelings can help you see whether you are being rational or not.
6. Slow down your thoughts
Another really good way of turning those negative thoughts into positive ones is to try and slow your thought speed down a bit.
How often do you find yourself flying through a number of different worries within quick succession? I, for one, find myself speeding through various worries at once. This not only fuels my anxiety but it makes negative thoughts more likely.
This is most likely a product of our society today. It can be hard to slow down!
If this sounds like you, here are some really useful tricks to try:
- When you notice yourself flying through different negative thoughts, think about whether there is any truth to it
- Consider will your negative thought actually come true
- Think about whether the thought is actually a negative thought or not (as often negative thoughts are disguised and are hard to recognise)
Analysing your thoughts is a really handy way of pushing away the negative ones. Once you’ve pushed them away, it allows you to make room for the more positive thoughts. Great, huh?
7. Focus more on the good things you have in life
How often do you actually sit down and acknowledge all the great things that you have already? Probably not as often as you should!
We’re influenced on a daily basis by adverts telling us what we need to buy or have. We’re pressured into buying things just because we don’t have them already. We’re told how we should look and what to use to help us get that look.
When did you last accept that what you have is enough? That maybe you don’t need objects to make you happy and positive?
I know that I don’t do this enough.
Having a more conscious focus on what you actually do have in life is a really useful way to get started. Not only will this help you have a more positive outlook on life, it’ll banish away the negative thoughts at the same time.
Spend a little time by yourself (or with other people, whatever suits you best) and acknowledge all the good things in your life right now.
If you’re struggling, here are some prompts for you:
- Do you have a pet that you adore? Maybe your family dog or cat?
- Have you got thoughtful and kind friends around you?
- Do you have a good job that supports you and your family? If you aren’t happy with your job at the moment, do you have choices that will allow you to change it?
- How about your home? Are you happy there? Does your home feel like home?
- Are you warm? Do you have clothes that keep you this way?
- Do you have a park near you? Are you able to walk there?
- What about the natural life around you? Do you love looking at the flowers growing in your garden? Do you enjoy being in your garden?
- Are you healthy and reasonably fit?
- Do you have time for your hobbies?
All of these little things in life account for the happy moments you experience. Whether you have anxiety, depression or another mental health issue, these little things can often be big things. Not only this, but it can be hard to see past all of the negative sometimes.
Don’t forget to use the workbook that comes with this post. It’ll help you work through everything that I’ve covered today.
So, there we have it. 7 really powerful ways to turn your negative thoughts into positive ones.
Something to remember – if you ever feel overwhelmed, remember that you can still sign up to my free 7-day eCourse now. Just pop your details in below to have it sent to your mailbox now.