If you are battling disorders like depression or bipolar disorder, it can seem like negative thoughts run wild every day. Although taking care of your thought process isn’t as easy as putting a bandaid over a cut on your finger, there are effective ways to treat your mental health. With effort, intention, and knowledge, you can learn to contain and organize the disruptive or unhelpful thoughts that stem from anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders.
Everyone responds differently to medication, therapy, and lifestyle changes; a healthy approach will look different for each person. If your goal is to gain a positive way of thinking, know that there are processes you can follow to help change your life. The purpose of recognizing and changing negative thoughts is to gain control over your mind and ultimately live a happier life.
Changing the Way You Think
Changing the way you think means you are making a conscious effort to stop a destructive thought pattern that you may have carried for as long as you can remember. Part of making this change is learning to reevaluate how you reflect on situations from the past, changing the way you view them. Your brain is quite similar to a muscle; it can be trained and will gain strength through repetition. If your brain has become used to thinking negative thoughts, it will take some time to unlearn those specific thought processes.
Working towards this mental shift will help you combat the anxiety and stress that may be holding you back. Once you unlearn a negative thought process, you can learn to recognize when you are about to have unpleasant thoughts and change your thought pattern before they take hold.
Speak to Yourself with Kindness
If you’re like most people, you use the voice in your head so often that it is easy to dismiss how you speak to yourself. Having negative thoughts goes beyond just imagining the worst possible outcome in a given situation. How you speak to yourself is an important part of how you see the world. Certain words spoken in the mind automatically apply pressure and produce anxiety.
A simple word like “should” can change the trajectory of your entire day. Instead of saying, “I should go to the gym,” say, “I will try my best to go to the gym. Here’s how I will make this happen!”. The second statement is more solution-based and avoids introducing obligation and anxiety.
Feeling like you should do, act, or feel a specific way adds the type of pressure that can push you to procrastinate—telling yourself that you “should” can cause you to avoid responsibility and add more anxiety to the equation. Pay attention to the things that cross your mind, and try to figure out a more positive way to speak to keep you motivated. If your goal is to be functional and productive, start by taking care of your mind. Negative thoughts can trick you into procrastinating and avoiding responsibility.
Track Your Thoughts
If you find yourself using “should” statements, reprogramming your thoughts might make a major difference in the way you feel. The first step is to track your thoughts. Start by asking yourself ‘who,’ ‘what,’ ‘where,’ and ‘when’ regarding difficult situations. This will enable you to describe each event that you experience while remaining factual instead of substituting your feelings for the truth.
This doesn’t mean you have to ignore your emotions. You can learn to describe your moods in just one word and rate how intense they feel on a scale of 1-10. For example, If you have to speak in public, you may feel a variety of emotions like nervousness, fear, or anxiety. If your anxiety is the most prevalent, you might rate it an 8 of 10, and the other two moods would fill your total up to 10. Use this method to gauge how much your thoughts are influenced by a specific mood.
Assess Your Emotions
During, before, and after your public speech or presentation, make a record of what you were thinking at the time. How are you speaking to yourself? Are you saying positive things? If not, write down the negative thoughts and evaluate why you thought them. Maybe the presentations you made in the past didn’t go well, or maybe you were under-prepared. Try to figure out the worst possible thing that happened during the presentation and ask yourself how you feel about it. This will help you know whether your negative thoughts are valid or are simply products of your imagination. This method can help you gain control over negative thinking.
Negative thought patterns can hold you back and prevent you from seeing your full potential. If you catch yourself thinking negative thoughts, you may notice recurring mental or emotional loops that have existed for some time and become ingrained habits. If you struggle with severe anxiety or depression, you may constantly battle negative thoughts that you may not be able to control as thoroughly as you’d like. To reverse these consistent negative thoughts, you will need to plan and strategize. Keep track of your thoughts and feelings in moments of turmoil to understand how your brain works. If you or a loved one are dealing with thoughts that seem out of control, know that you don’t have to fight on your own. Our exemplary staff at HealthyU can be the push you need by helping you develop skills and habits that will strengthen your mental health. We offer a wide range of treatments for children and adults. Contact us at (619) 542-9542 to get help today.