Life can be s***.
It often feels like we’ve been conditioned to automatically think negative thoughts and knowing how to stop negative thinking isn’t something taught to us in school.
In a negative situation – or even a positive one – it seems as if our brains automatically predict the worst case scenario, no matter how irrational that might be. And it’s difficult to snap out of that mindset.
When you suffer from depression or anxiety, this negative mindset is even easier to fall into.
But negativity shouldn’t be the norm.
What causes negative thinking in the brain?
There are a few reasons our silly brains tends to think negatively.
- Mental illness/bad mental health – If you suffer from mental illness, you might find yourself being negative more often than not. For example, if you suffer from depression, it stands to reason that you’re going to struggle to see the bright side in just about any situation, right?
- Habits/thought patterns – Negative thinking can become a cycle that we get trapped in. We think negatively so, no matter what the outcome, we’re always going to see the negative side. Sure, some situations ARE negative and we shouldn’t run away from that, but constantly seeking out the bad side of EVERYTHING can affect how we act, treat other people, and treat ourselves. Negativity essentially becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy because we’re always going to look for the negative side. We become so used to it, it becomes a habit. A really hard habit to break.
- Experiences – Trauma leaves a mark on our mindset. After all, when something bad has happened once, it could happen again, right? At least that’s what many of us think. This is why processing trauma properly is so important.
- Brain chemistry – While dopamine is the neurotransmitter responsible for warm, fuzzy, rewarding feelings, cortisol is the hormone in charge of stress, your fight-or-flight response, and – you guessed it – negative thinking. Cortisol is there to protect you from getting hurt and will therefore prepare you for the most negative outcome, even thought said negative outcome is often highly unlikely.
8 tips on how to stop negative thinking
Here’s how to stop negative thinking and become a more positive person.
#1. How to stop negative thoughts in your head: Redirect negative thoughts
You need to be self-aware. This is key to switching up your mindset.
Whenever you find yourself thinking the worst or assuming there’s no positive outcome, recognise that you’re doing that.
I invite you to accept the thought for what it is and forgive yourself for feeling this way. There’s nothing wrong with you – there’s no need to be angry with yourself.
Recognise how irrational and unhelpful that thought process is.
Then, try to flip your view to a more positive one. One that’s far more likely to occur and much more rational.
It takes time and practise. You have to unlearn a lifetime of negative thinking.
But practise makes perfect.
When you think negatively, stop, take a breath, and consider what you’re thinking for a moment. Recognise why this is irrationally negative.
Thinking positively can actually positively affect the outcome of the situation you’re worrying about.
For example, if you start a business and automatically believe it will fail, you’re more likely to give up when the going gets tough (which is pretty much the first couple of years of launching your own business).
However, if you know that you will succeed if you put in the work, learn from your mistakes and persevere, you’re much, MUCH more likely to succeed because your mindset is in the right place.
You’re not going to give up, you’re going to push for what you want.
#2. Practise self-care
Looking after yourself and practising self-care is a key part of knowing how to stop negative thinking.
A lot of the time negative thoughts are brought on because we’re feeling s***ty in ourselves.
Keeping up with a regular self-care routine and taking care of your most basic needs, such as getting the right nutrition, exercise, hygiene, sleep, medication and therapy can go a long way to preventing negative thoughts from creeping in.
#3. Stop comparing yourself to others
“Comparison is the thief of joy”… and all that.
Comparing your journey, life, appearance and income to someone else’s is always going to be like fighting a losing a battle because there’s ALWAYS going to be someone excelling more than you in all those areas.
Realise that you’re your own person with your own journey and that’s amazing.
If you need to, take a break from social media, where everyone only shows you a highlight reel of their lives, and unfollow anyone who makes you feel like you’re less than them.
Learning self acceptance and, hopefully, eventually, self-love isn’t a magic wand for negative thinking.
However, it can help you redirect those negative thoughts much quicker.
#4. Be kind to others
Although I don’t really believe in karma as a spiritual theory, I do believe that when you put out kindness into the universe and give off good vibes, it attracts positive energy back to you.
Purely from the standpoint that if you’re kind, people are more likely to be kind to you and if you surround yourself with kind, positive people, good things are more likely to happen.
Being kind not only prevents you from hurting others, which you may later regret, but it also makes you feel good.
Be kind, compassionate and empathetic to others, even if this isn’t reciprocated.
#5. Stop overthinking + taking everything personally
Recognise that some things are outside of your control and that’s okay.
Not everything bad that happens is a personal attack on you.
People have their own lives, which you can’t control. Their actions aren’t your responsibility to fret over.
Stop overthinking the past and applying it to the present when it comes to the way other people treat you.
For example, if a friend isn’t replying to your texts right away, stop assuming that they suddenly hate you because an old friend ghosted you when you were in highschool. Rationalise that they’re probably busy with their OWN s**t, just like you are, and will get back to you when they can.
#6. Stick to positive habits + routine
Having a regular routine which incorporates positive habits, such as making your bed as soon as you get up, going to the gym in the morning, and practising self-care in the evening, can really help improve your mindset.
The more positive your mindset, the less likely you are to think negatively and, at the very least, the better equipped you are at handling negative thoughts.
#7. Get regular exercise
Exercise is not only amazing for your mental health, it can put you in a great frame of mind.
When you’re doing something positive to improve your health and life, your mindset sort of just… follows suit.
#8. Write negative thoughts down in a journal
A great way of getting rid of negative thoughts is to write them down in a journal.
This allows you to metaphorically remove them from your mind and get them down on paper so that you can work through them rationally.
This is hugely therapeutic and also gives you a chance to not only rationalise negative thoughts, but to focus on positive, grateful thoughts as well.
It encourages you to practise gratitude, set goals, write down affirmations, and expand on journal prompts (that are included for free), in order to promote positive thinking and a healthier mindset.