With social media interactions replacing real interpersonal connections, most of us tend to fall into the trap of overthinking and unnecessary critical and judgmental thinking about our own selves as well as others.
The more information we consume, the more prone we become to comparing our lives with others, worrying too much, brooding over past events and focusing on what’s not right with us and the world. This habit drains a person of everything that’s important to live a happy life—positivity, energy, enthusiasm and inspiration.
If you’ve fallen prey to negative thinking and the stress and anxiety it causes, here are five steps you should take to break free and begin your life anew on a positive note.
Recognize and acknowledge negative thought patterns
Many people who harbour negative thoughts don’t realize that it has become a deep-rooted habit that’s affecting their day-to-day life until a lightbulb goes on one day or someone close points it out to them.
The first crucial step to overcome negative thinking is to acknowledge that you’ve fallen into the trap of seeing only the negative side of situations big and small. This simple act will help you recognize and confront negative thoughts as they occur and understand the extent of the problem.
Confront negative thoughts
The next step is to challenge your thinking patterns by evaluating each and every negative thought or feeling you get. Most negative thoughts are a distortion of reality and are far from accurate but our mind gets so conditioned that we believe that the negative situation or outcome we can feel or foresee is the only truth in a particular situation.
To break this pattern, consider if the negative thoughts are actually accurate or if there’s a different side to the situation that you’ve chosen to ignore. Once you challenge negative or untrue thoughts and ideas about yourself and others, you will be able to think about other potential outcomes or viewpoints for a given situation.
Breakaway from negative thinking
Only accepting and challenging negative thought patterns is not enough to break the habit. The next important step is to try and lessen the time you spend overthinking or brooding over the possibility of negative events and reduce the severity with which they affect you.
Gradually, you need to learn to break away from negative thinking. A good way to accomplish this to make rules about how much time you’ll spend with a thought that’s only giving you grief, stress and anxiety.
For instance, if you read a bad piece of news, it is bound to affect you and could even trigger depressive thoughts, but if you decide consciously and firmly that you will not allow yourself to brood over the thought for more than five minutes, you can gradually break the habit of compulsive negative thinking.
Be grateful for the good things in your life
Often, distorted thinking arises from a lack of gratitude for what we have, as our focus is on what’s not right in our lives. Studies have found that imbibing gratefulness in daily thinking—that is, simply being grateful every day is a big trigger for positive and happy thoughts.
When you shift your focus from what’s not going your way to what is admirable about your current situation, you will easily find things to be grateful for—however small they may be.
To make positive thinking and gratitude a habit, consider waking up with a thankful heart and mind every morning. For a lasting impact, consider writing down a gratitude note in a notebook before going to bed each night.
You may also explore a psychic experience such as tarot reading to make a deeper connection with your mind and soul and to understand what makes you tick at the spiritual level.
Identify and do away with your negativity triggers
It could be the daily newspaper, full of bad news that leaves you worrying about the health or safety of your loved ones. Or it could be a friend, colleague or relative who, every time they meet you, sap you of your energy with their demeanour or depressive/derisive talk.
It could be the music you’re listening to, books you’re reading or the movies you’re watching. Perhaps lonely weekends are driving your thought south?
To get rid of negative thinking for good, identify and remove people, things and experiences from your life that are making you unhappy and robbing you of your ability to be positive and optimistic about life.