We all have times where we experience negative thoughts. This happens most often when we’re feeling stressed, worried or low. If left unchecked, negative thoughts can make us feel anxious and depressed, impact our self-esteem, and cause us to spiral into negativity where we find it difficult to experience joy in our lives. Over time it can also impact our health and wellbeing.
So, how do you manage negative thoughts? We’ve listed some strategies below.
Recognise negative thoughts
The first step is to recognise negative thoughts as they occur. Once you catch them, you can work on overcoming them.
Question your thoughts
The biggest issue with negative thoughts is that we can take them very seriously and buy into them, even when they are unhelpful or untrue. Next time you experience negative thoughts, here are some questions you can ask yourself to help you overcome them:
- Is the thought useful or helpful?
- Is it true?
- How do you feel when you believe the thought?
- How would you feel without the thought?
- What is the opposite of the thought? Give some examples.
Bring yourself back to the present
Our negative thoughts generally focus on things that happened in the past or worries about the future. We can disrupt them by bringing ourselves back into the present. One way to do this is to focus on your breathing. Another option is to tune into your senses – what you can hear, what you can smell or taste, whether you feel sunlight or a slight breeze on your skin.
We are much more likely to experience negative thoughts when our minds wander. Research from Harvard University has found most people’s minds wander for 47% of their day. Practicing mindfulness can help us to become present in our lives. You can practice mindfulness through meditation, deep breathing exercises and by being conscious in nature.