Are you always thinking of your imperfections? Constantly thinking something will go wrong? That no one loves you? Are you losing your mind over criticism? Are you spending hours telling yourself how worthless you are and comparing your life to others? Are you missing out on opportunities due to your pessimistic thoughts? Is your life spiraling down due to this? Well, I too have been there. Since I was about nine years old all I could think about was bad things, and it eventually became a habit of mine. Each morning before school I would get killer cramps, diarrhea and sometimes even vomited before the school bus came to pick me up. My body reacted to my never ending negative thinking and I eventually developed Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). So, I am here to tell you my tips and tricks that I used to overcome this bad habit of mine.
Before, I would like to explain from a psychology point of view on how negative thinking affects you. When you think pessimistically all the time your brain slows down and decreases activity in the cerebellum. When the cerebellum slows down you will have difficulties solving problems (Susan Reynolds, 2011). Another area that becomes affected is the frontal lobe because it decides what is important according to what you pay most attention to (Susan Reynolds, 2011). Therefore, more neurons will be created to support your negativity. The thalamus also perceives your negative thinking. The problem is that the thalamus can’t differentiate negative thoughts from danger increasing your blood pressure and affecting your mood (power of positivity, 2015). When stress is produced from overthinking it can increase your chances to develop mental illnesses like depression, anxiety, and personality disorders. Not only that, but it can also affect our health such as:
- Digestive problems
- Weight gain
- Muscle & jaw tension
- Decreased sex drive
- Back pain
- Lowers immune system
- Affects blood sugar
But don’t worry, thankfully the brain has the capacity to rewire through training. This can be done by replacing negative thoughts with positive ones. This is easier said than done. It will take practice and lots of patience to control your pessimistic thinking. Here are my tips and tricks that I used:
- Notice your body language: Are you grinding your teeth? Are your muscles and shoulders tense? Do you have back and neck pain? Are your hands relaxed or in a fist? Are you frowning? This is important because your body can tell you a lot about your mental state. Relax your body and then you can calm your mind.
- Use Affirmations: Affirmations are statements that you tell yourself to motivate and influence your mind and body. I tell myself affirmations every day. You can look these up online or buy a daily affirmation book and read one per day, repeating it throughout the day, Examples of there are:
- I am filled with positive thoughts.
- I welcome positivity in my life.
- Today is a new day, new opportunity.
- I forgive myself for past mistakes.
- Mindfulness: Be conscious of your thoughts, witness it and give it a name or a physical appearance, then say “no” and let it go. This trick helped me immensely because I could identify it through observation. I noticed how it was making me feel and by giving it a name I was able to let it go.
- Know your triggers: Pay attention to what affects your thinking. Could it be a past situation? Could it be toxic people putting bad things in your mind? Is it a current situation? A bad relationship? I personally sat down and wrote everything that I believed to trigger my negativity and then did something about it. For example, I was surrounded by people who did no good to my thinking so I stayed away from them.
- Distract yourself: Watch a movie, play a video game, watch funny videos, go on a hike, do your favorite hobby or draw. Basically, anything that entertains you. I love Netflix, and to color while I listen to music. The purpose of this is to quiet time mind for a while till you relax and are able to handle your thinking better.
- Find a trustful person: It can be a friend, partner, parent, teacher or counsellor. Anyone who is willing to listen to you and give you their point of view. I personally have 3 trustful friends who I can tell them what’s on my mind and they will help me think more positively because they are seeing my situation from a different point of view.
- Exercise: You may hear this all the time, but honestly this has helped my thinking. Exercising, releases endorphins which are chemicals that energize you and it moderates your bad thoughts. I go for a walk and jog early in the morning. This helps boost my day with a positive mind.
- Daily journal: I have a journal where I write anything positive I did during the day. It doesn’t matter if you had a bad day just find one thing. For example, eating a healthy meal. The purpose of this is to train your mind to find positivity in the negative. Not only that, but when you are down, look at your journal and see how far you have come. I sometimes even draw in my journal to help bring good thoughts.
- Self-talk using a mirror: This one may be silly, but thanks to it I have the confidence to overcome stressful thoughts. I look at myself in the mirror and tell myself good thing like “I am beautiful” or “It will all be okay”. I find it powerful to look at myself in the eyes and have a good talk.
- Misreading: Stop misreading each situation. For example, if you called a friend, and they haven’t called back don’t draw conclusions. It could be that they are busy or simply not in the mood talk at that time. I learned this the bad way. In the majority of the time I created a situation that was distorted.
- Don’t apply your perspectives to someone else: This one is very important. Each one of us have different perspectives and ways of handling the situation. For example, if you think “why did they say that? That is something I wouldn’t say” you will only bring negativity into your thoughts.
Well, I hope these tips can help you just as much as it has helped me. Keep in mind that your thinking won’t change quickly. It will take time and discipline. If you feel that your mental health is getting worse due to negative thoughts, then maybe a counsellor or therapist can help you as well. Happy thinking ?
Animated Video On Negative Thinking:
Power of Positivity. (2015). This Is What Negative Thinking Does to Your Brain. Retrieved from: https://www.powerofpositivity.com/negative-thinking-affects-your-brain/
Susan Reynolds. (2011). Happy Brain, Happy Life. Retrieved from: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/prime-your-gray-cells/201108/happy-brain-happy-life