Struggling to stop replaying the same negative thoughts?

17 April 2017 - mindful practices

“What you focus on expands.”

What do you think of when you don’t like someone or encounter failure or self-doubt? We often think of worst-case scenarios and get stuck in a negative thought loop. When that happens, possibilities narrow and relationships are affected. Mustering the courage to snap out of a negative thought loop can be difficult, so what are some tips to keep in mind?

Tip 1: Be aware of your thoughts.

The first step is to recognise that you are stuck in a negative thought loop. Once you do, you can begin to figure out why you’re stuck, and then take appropriate actions to shift your perspective. Jason Garner, author of And I Breathed, writes, “Instead of pushing our thoughts away, we might observe and ask—which are valuable right now? What matters to me? Which can I let go of?”

Tip 2: Dig into your mistakes.

“Whatever you fight, you strengthen, and what you resist, persists.” – Eckhart Tolle

Shame, anger and other self-defeating thoughts often emerge after a failure or mistake. Instead of pushing those difficult emotions away, we can examine why we’re feeling that way. Often, it is because our ego tells us that it’s embarrassing. Once we accept that, we can instead focus on our mistakes with humility and the intention to learn from them. Every mistake contains the ingredients for success.

Tip 3: Counteract with gratitude.

Making a conscious effort to list down what you have instead of what you don’t is a powerful way to counter negative thoughts. If you’re having trouble finding things to be grateful about, all you have to do is to refocus your attention. Are you in good health? Do you have someone who loves you? What matters most to you?

Tip 4: Practise empathy when you don’t feel like it.

“You can disagree with another person's opinions. You can disagree with their doctrines. You can't disagree with their experience.” – Krista Tippett

Stuck with someone you don’t like? Harping on your own perspective usually blows things out of proportion—you just become angrier. Consider things from the other person’s perspective instead. You may not agree with it, but it is possible to understand why they may feel a certain way. Strike up a conversation to find out more—it often makes all the difference. Listen without judging and remember that everyone has their own battles to fight.

Tip 5: Paint a bigger picture.

In any hopeless moment, lessen the intensity of your feelings by asking yourself this: Will this matter in a year’s time? The answer is often ‘no’. If it is a ‘yes’, remind yourself that life is a journey, not an outcome. The future rests more on the lessons we learn now than it does on our mistakes. Remind yourself about how far you’ve already come.

In his comforting speech about choice, British philosopher Alan Watts said, “Every path is the right path. Everything could have been anything else. And it would have just as much meaning.”

Tip 6: Surround yourself with the right people.

When you’re feeling down, don’t look for people who will agree with you. Reach out to the friends who will gently tell you what you need to hear, not what you want to.

Be mindful of your environment as we may be unknowingly influenced by it. Examine the things you read or listen to. Are they discouraging? Do they run counter to your beliefs?

How do you deal with negative thoughts? We'd love to hear about your experiences and tips at hello@mindful-company.com.

- The Mindful Company Team