How to Eliminate Negative Thinking
Although difficult to attain, a calm mind allows you to be at peace and focus on what you are doing. If you are like most people, you know how difficult it is to keep those persistent negative thoughts out of your mind. Problems and challenges of life can keep the mind tangled in fear or worries. It makes life unpleasant and reduces your productivity, but there is good news. You have the ability to curb negative thinking and all it requires is will power and a little practice. Let’s first understand where these negative thoughts come from.
The origin of negative thinking
Your thoughts can be classified into two types: automatic thoughts and conscious thoughts. Automatic thoughts are not within your control and cannot be wished away. Conscious thoughts, on the other hand, are under your control and you can eliminate them if you choose to. How does all this tie up with negative thinking? Negative thinking is usually a mixture of both these types of thoughts. You have control over part of the process, which will help you get rid of negative thoughts. To understand this, you have to understand the relationship between thoughts and moods.
You might have noticed that when you are emotional, your mind is full of thoughts? This is true, irrespective of the emotion. The only difference is in the type of thoughts that you get. When you are happy, your mind will be full of happy thoughts. When you are anxious, your mind will be full of catastrophic thoughts. When you continue to be in the same emotional state for a long period of time, you can say that you are in a particular mood. For example, when you continue to be angry for a longer period of time, you are in an angry mood.
Although a mood is a product of thoughts, it is also a contributor of thoughts. This is how it works. It all starts with a trigger and some associated automatic thought. The automatic thought has no base in fact and is just a bait offered by your mind in order to put you into the corresponding emotional state. If you respond to the automatic thought with your own conscious thoughts, you have fallen for it hook, line and sinker. For example, a small problem triggers some automatic negative thought. You contribute to it with conscious fearful thoughts of your own. Soon, you are really worried, which in turn gives you more negative thoughts and it becomes a vicious cycle.
When you take the bait, your mind responds with more automatic thoughts and before you know it, a dialogue will start in your mind, which will eventually put you into the associated mood. It’s like a swing that gets disturbed by the wind. The wind just creates an initial movement. To sustain or amplify that movement, you have to keep pushing. This is what you do when you add your own conscious thoughts to baseless automatic thoughts.
The trigger could be something very simple, for example, an upcoming deadline, the sight of a pile of papers on your office desk, a cluttered house, an email from your boss or something that you can’t find. When you think of it, all these are common and unavoidable situations. That’s why worry is unavoidable.
Getting rid of negative thoughts
Responding to automatic thoughts is a natural human response and to keep your mind worry-free, you have to learn to avoid this trap. The only way is to acknowledge the automatic thoughts without responding to them or taking them seriously. What happens to a swing when you stop pushing? Eventually, it will slow down and come to a stop. That’s the right way to deal with negative thoughts.
The next time you find that negative dialogue taking root in your mind, pause for a moment. Take a deep breath, and just observe the thoughts going through your mind. Don’t resist them, argue with them or wish them away. Just observe them and watch them slowly die away. Once you have regained your calm, you can simply resume whatever you were doing. With practice, this just takes just a minute or two.
Meditation is an excellent way of getting rid of all thoughts. It can help you come off an emotional state and clear bad moods. Correcting wrong thought patterns will also help you get rid of negative thinking.
Correcting wrong thought patterns
Negative thinking is often a product of wrong thought patterns. Wrong thought patterns have their roots in baseless automatic thoughts. Here is an example.
You order a product from an ecommerce outlet and it arrives broken. You are disappointed and angry. Almost immediately, you get an automatic thought that the seller is trying to cheat you. Before you can consider this, another thought arrives that the store may blame you for it. You jump to the phone to call the store, but the number is busy. The next thought is that the store may also be trying to cheat you. You get very angry and send an angry email to customer care. After 15 minutes, someone calls up, apologizes and tells you that a replacement is on its way. You are relieved and those negative thoughts die down. Although you are still worried about the transaction, you feel a lot better. The replacement arrives the next day and it ends happily.
When you consider the example given above, most of the distress was caused not by the triggering event, but by your wrong thought patterns. You can correct these wrong thought patterns by taking a minute to calm down and replacing them with the correct thoughts. In the example given above, what is the reality? With all good ecommerce stores, you are covered against broken or faulty products. The store’s policy is to replace the item and there is nothing to worry just because something is lost or damaged. If it does turn out otherwise, it is a bridge that you can cross when it comes. You will know how to deal with it and there is nothing to be gained from worrying right away.
Other methods that help clear negative thinking
1. Take a break, go for a walk or go out and get some fresh air. Changing the environment often makes it easier to change thought patterns.
2. Remind yourself about things that are going right in your life. You will have a lot to be grateful for and the realization will help you understand that the problems are not really as significant as you think. This will help you get into a more positive frame of mind.
3. Avoid negative company because moods are contagious. If you hang around with people who are always complaining and cursing, you will eventually start thinking like them.
Negative thoughts often start automatically, but they need your help to sustain themselves. It’s your choice. You can either let them die or keep fanning the flames. When you understand the process, you will know exactly what to do. With practice, you will do the right things and succeed in putting an end to negative thinking.