Five ways to stop negative thoughts
To avoid depression and anxiety
When something upsets you, you know that it is easier to put your mood down than to do something else. In fact, research shows that when people are asked not to think about a certain topic, it makes it more difficult to get that topic out of their minds. But rephrasing negative thoughts over and over in your head, also known as rumination, can be unhelpful and counterproductive – and in some cases, they can cause chronic depression.
Jay Winch, MD, author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt, and Other Everyday Psychological Injury, says:
« It’s like a needle in a muscle when it gets deeper and deeper, the needle has a hard time getting out of the muscle. »
What’s more, rumination can make you angrier, as the problem is magnified in your mind.
Fortunately, there are some techniques that can help you stop dwelling on negative thoughts and refocus your mind on something positive, Winch says. It only takes a little distraction and a healthy dose of willpower.
Go shopping in your mind.
One of the tricks Winch recommends is for you to visualize yourself in a store. He says:
« Try to imagine all the items on one shelf in the store, and the order they are in. »
Don’t do too much food shopping, and think of something else that requires focus: Arranging books on your bookshelf, or arranging songs in an album or playlist you love to listen to, for example. And you don’t have to do it for long – maybe 30 seconds or a minute, but the key is being disciplined about it and doing it every time the negative thought comes back – even if that means doing it 20 times an hour.
« It may seem temporary, but if you reinforce these patterns enough, they can improve your mood and your decision-making abilities, and you can actually train your brain to go in a different direction when these thoughts arise. »
Maintain positive company
If you can’t get your disturbing feelings out of your mind, it may have something to do with your social circle. In a 2013 study, Notre Dame researchers found that it was common for college students to pick up on stress-like behaviors from their roommates. Researchers say that rumination often involves anxiety and thinking out loud, a habit that can easily have effects on others. Always avoid negative people when you can, or at least be aware of habits that may affect you.
Physically throw out those negative thoughts.
It might sound crazy, but cleaning your head from an annoying thought can be easy by writing it on a piece of paper – and throwing it in the trash, according to a 2012 Ohio State University study. People who wrote negative things about themselves and then threw them away had a selfie More positive after a few minutes, compared to those who kept the papers with them. Don’t want to waste paper? You can do this exercise on the computer, by dragging a text document to the « Trash », and that works as well.
Drink a cup of hot tea.
Negative thoughts can occur for many different reasons – but if you focus your thoughts on feeling lonely, you may get some relief by literally warming up. Yale University researchers discovered in 2012 that people remember fewer negative feelings about the experience of being alone when they were holding a hot drink. (They also found that lonely people tend to take longer hot baths.) The researchers say replacing physical warmth with emotional warmth can be a quick fix, but don’t let it replace real human interaction in the long run.
Rearrange yourself, and shape your situation.
« If your desire to ruminate is very strong, distracting yourself will not be easy. »
So before trying, it might be necessary to reassess or reassess the situation in your head. For example, if you get stuck at the airport for hours because of a flight cancellation, don’t think about what you missed and instead see it as an opportunity to get the work done, or call. With your parents and an old friend’s call. Once you have successfully reframed your position, it may be easy to distract yourself with a visualization exercise (such as Winch’s « shopping list »), a crossword puzzle or book, or a quick walk.
Five ways to stop negative thoughts
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