Bad thoughts sometimes turn into obsessive ones: they interfere with sleep, reason, working actively, and leading a normal life. They grow from fears and anxieties, difficult situations and difficult events, negative assessments, and failures. Most often, experience overwhelm after experiencing stress or against the background of emotional burnout. It is important to accept that fears, irritability, and other emotions that are considered negative are and will be in our lives. You can’t take and stop worrying, and remove bad thoughts with a click, too, but you can recognize, analyze and take them under control, and for starters, figure out.
Where do Negative thoughts come from?
Our ancestors lived in the wild, where they were in danger. Those who reacted faster to dangerous situations lived longer. So evolution has sharpened our brains into survival mode, and anxiety still serves as a defense mechanism. The Tigers are no longer waiting in the bushes, but fear keeps us from walking in troubled areas and makes us fasten our seat belts in the car. Fantasies about “what terrible can happen” protect, but at the same time reduce the quality of life if they become uncontrollable.
Alison Ledzhevud, Ph.D., speaking at a TED conference about negative thinking, emphasized that bad thoughts are echoes of negative experiences – someone else’s or ours. Memory retains memories of failures longer than successes. Someone’s or one’s own negative experience gives rise to self-doubt and fear of making a mistake, which in turn limits the possibilities of development. The good news is that you can get rid of bad thoughts.
Seven helpers in the fight against negative thoughts
The pace of our life, the number and intensity of events taking place in the world are such that bad thoughts disturb us from time to time. Some come and go like waves, and some get stuck in the mind and devour our resources. It is not in our power to ban “incoming” bad thoughts, but there are many options for dealing with them. Let’s look at the most effective.
Do not hide or block negative thoughts, but look for their cause
If they have shaped into fear or a traumatic memory, learn to perceive it as something that exists on its own, comes from outside, and is not connected to you. During the divorce, my obsessive thought was: “He now has another woman.” The thought did not develop and did not give me anything new, it just came and went, tormenting me. This carousel happened before bed, so I mentally prepared: “When I go to bed, this obsessive thought will come again,” and in time I let go.
It is important to find the cause of negative thoughts. Let’s say you’re afraid to drive, which could be related to an accident you’ve seen or been involved in. Fear of close relationships is often born out of the experience of a painful breakup. Worries about health and fear of getting infected may be the result of an oversaturated information field in which we live. Having found the reason, think about where your area of responsibility is, and what you can do to protect yourself.
Put all thoughts on paper
Paper works great as a sewer for the negative. I love the Morning Pages practice that Julia Cameron suggested. You wake up and write three A4 pages by hand – whatever comes to mind. Sometimes they contain descriptions of the past day, sometimes they contain dreams and plans, and sometimes there is sheer negativity, complaints, walking in circles, anger, or stupidity. And that is great! According to Julia, this nonsense prevents us from creating, and I will add, from living in general. Worries about the future and painful memories swirl in thoughts and spoil the mood. Get it all on paper. You can do it not only in the morning but when a wave of negativity hits you, sit down and write everything that sounds in your head. Then you can burn, tear or throw away the sheets, this will help to switch attention and overcome bad thoughts.
Improve concentration through exercise
The best way to calm the mind is meditation. One of her basic techniques is focused attention. When we train the mind, it is better to focus on something. Concentration on the breath is more often recommended, but you can choose a visual image, a phrase, a word, or something external. The object to which attention is directed serves as an anchor – we return to it when we realize that the mind has begun to wander.
Concentration exercises are available anytime, anywhere. Options:
- Focus on your breath, inhaling and exhaling slowly, making sure that the last one is longer than the inhalation.
- Keep your attention on your heartbeat with your hand on your chest.
- Draw a dot on the sheet, mark the time, and look at it for a minute.
When thoughts begin to wander again, notice this and return attention to the breath, heartbeat, or dot on the sheet.
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When we meditate, we are not trying to escape the world or drive away bad thoughts. We learn to recognize the moment when we are captured by thoughts, gently move away from them and return to a state of calm and focused attention. It’s not easy, but worth the effort. If you practice meditation regularly, bad thoughts will become for you something like cars driving along the highway, which you calmly watch, as they go by.
Sport helps to cope with bad thoughts. During physical exertion, a large amount of oxygen saturates the blood, and endorphins are produced in the body, causing a feeling of euphoria. That is why after dancing, swimming, jogging, yoga, and other activities, the mood improves, and bad thoughts recede.
Create the right environment
Who do you constantly communicate with, and who do you follow on social networks? We are susceptible to other people’s emotions, and we can “infect” with negativity without noticing it ourselves. People who are constantly dissatisfied with life, see the bad in everything and constantly complain – not the best environment. It is better to maintain relationships with those who are optimistic and grateful for what they have.
Bad thoughts force you to focus solely on them, especially clinging to those who have neither hobbies nor big goals. Dream, think over a plan to achieve what you want, act – and do not leave bad thoughts a chance to take over the air.
Ask for help
If it’s hard to be alone with anxious thoughts, share them with family, friends, or someone you trust. Can’t manage on your own? Contact a specialist – psychologists know how to listen, do not give assessments and advice, and help to understand what is happening, moving at their own pace towards a better life.
Sometimes people think that an emotional jolt like a big fight or an extreme experience will help drive away or forget bad thoughts. Instead of shaking the psyche with new stimuli, it’s better to give yourself peace, rest and gain strength – then the brain will have the resource to defeat the influx of bad thoughts, and you already have many tips on how to do this.
Q. What are negative thoughts?
Negative thoughts are pessimistic or self-critical patterns of thinking that can lower your mood, confidence, and overall well-being. They often involve repetitive or distorted thinking patterns that focus on the worst-case scenarios or personal flaws.
Q. Why do we have negative thoughts?
Negative thoughts can arise from various sources, including past experiences, self-doubt, fear, anxiety, or external stressors. They can also be influenced by our upbringing, societal pressures, or negative beliefs we hold about ourselves.
Q. How can negative thoughts affect us?
Negative thoughts can have a significant impact on our mental and emotional well-being. They can contribute to feelings of sadness, anxiety, and low self-esteem, and can hinder our ability to enjoy life or reach our full potential.
- How can I stop negative thoughts? Here are some strategies to help you stop negative thoughts:
- Practice mindfulness and awareness of your thoughts.
- Challenge and reframe negative thoughts with positive or realistic alternatives.
- Engage in positive self-talk and affirmations.
- Focus on gratitude and the positive aspects of your life.
- Engage in activities that bring you joy and fulfillment.
- Seek support from friends, family, or a mental health professional if needed.
Q. Can meditation or relaxation techniques help with negative thoughts?
Yes, meditation and relaxation techniques can be helpful in managing negative thoughts. They can promote a sense of calmness, increase self-awareness, and provide a space for observing and letting go of negative thought patterns.
Q. Are there any self-help books or resources available?
Yes, there are numerous self-help books and resources that provide guidance on overcoming negative thoughts. Some popular ones include “The Power of Now” by Eckhart Tolle, “Feeling Good” by David D. Burns, and “The Happiness Trap” by Russ Harris.
Q. When should I consider seeking professional help?
If negative thoughts significantly impact your daily life, persist for an extended period, or are accompanied by other symptoms such as severe anxiety, depression, or suicidal thoughts, it’s crucial to seek help from a mental health professional. They can provide you with appropriate guidance and support.