Negative thinking is a habit. And, just like any other habit, it can all too quickly take over. For many years, I got caught in a vicious cycle of negativity. Combined with depression, it became almost impossible to see things clearly. Every challenge began to feel like a mountain. Every bump in the road began to feel like yet another failure on my part.
All too quickly, I was in a continual loop of negative thinking and life started to feel even more overwhelming than it was before. The trouble with negative thoughts is that they lead to more negative thoughts. Soon, it becomes difficult to stop thinking negatively. Instead, everything starts to feel too much and that is a very dangerous place to be, emotionally and mentally. That is why it is so important to learn how to break the cycle before it overwhelms you completely.
Breaking the Cycle of Negative Thinking
You could think of negative thinking like poison or drugs. Having a few negative thoughts is not likely to do a huge amount of damage. When you start to have negative thoughts all the time, however, you can do far more damage. Negative thinking can interfere with relationships, prevent you from reaching your dreams, affect your concentration, increase stress and anxiety, increase depression, and even increase your cortisol production.
It is totally possible to get addicted to thought patterns, too. With every thought and emotion we have, the brain creates connections that are called neural pathways. When we think positively and feel calm, the brain releases hormones that further help us feel this way, such as serotonin. When we feel angry, scared, frustrated, sad or apathetic, the brain releases hormones that make us feel even worse. Cortisone and other stress hormones only end up making it harder to cope.
How do you break that cycle of negative thinking? Here are some steps to get you back to a healthier way of thinking.
- Understand why you are thinking negatively. Whether you see a therapist or you try something like a brain dump or any other strategy for gaining awareness, understanding the basis of your thoughts is key to changing your thoughts.
- Learn about neural pathways and how the brain works. What helped me change my thought patterns was reading about neural pathways. It is really interesting to learn how the brain deals with thoughts. It also helps to step back a bit and look at things objectively.
- Consider mindfulness exercises and healing. Mindfulness is a fantastic resource on so many levels. To stop negative thinking, mindfulness is especially beneficial. Learning how to consciously manage your thoughts gives you the power to change your thoughts. It also helps to deal with things in a more manageable way.
- Try meditation and other strategies. Meditation is another powerful tool that can help you realign your thoughts. Guided meditation is perfect if you are new to meditating. There are many guided meditation videos on YouTube. You could also try an app such as Insight Timer.
- Be gentle with yourself. Changing any cycle does not happen overnight. Being hard on yourself will only make the process more difficult. Give yourself time to re-route your thoughts, reward yourself for small changes and give yourself the patience you deserve.
It may not happen instantly. With time and a bit of effort, you can stop your negative thinking cycle and replace it with a healthy, more positive mindset.