Negative thoughts and feelings have a way of popping up when you least expect it creating distractions from the positive side of life. It’s really easy to slide into a mire of negativity and dwell on all the dark parts of our life and much more challenging digging your way out to the light.
It becomes a habit. Most of us have been to the gym to improve our cardio, lose weight or gain strength. You’ll have observed that the more you do your activity the easier it becomes and the more likelihood of results.
Well learning to let go of negative thoughts and feelings follows the same principle – practice, practice, practice. You have to retrain your thoughts.
Have you ever noticed how when you’re under pressure or feeling stressed in other ways it’s because there’s so much going on and you start to feel out of control? Our mind attempts to find solutions however with no mental space to think because of all the stresses (both external and internal) nothing positive actually happens.
It’s a bit like being in a car stuck in mud. The more you press the accelerator in desperation to eject yourself from the mud the more you dig a deeper trench from the spinning of the wheels. Sometimes you just have to STOP and check out the landscape. It may seem counterproductive but you’ll soon see the benefits.
Here’s some steps you can take to quieten the mind, mute the negative thoughts (they’ll still be there, but just not as loud and significant) and to feel better about yourself.
1. Change your Thinking
Easy for me to say but most of us spend our time thinking about later, tomorrow, the future and maybe even dwelling on the past.
But what about right now?
Many stresses that evoke negative thoughts are because we’re rethinking something that should have gone differently or obsessing about something that hasn’t even happened yet.
As humans, we are amazing story tellers. We love to create scenarios of situations unlived and then live in those scenarios as if they’re real – BEFORE THEY’VE EVEN HAPPENED!!
How crazy is that!!??
So my first step for you to let go of negative thoughts would be to live in this moment….and then this moment….and then THIS moment. When you become aware of each moment, you expose the negative thoughts and when something is exposed, you see it for what it truly is. It's JUST a thought and it's you who attaches to it.
Now you can start the transformation journey.
How? Look at something calming or that makes you smile. Maybe it’s a picture or an object or something in front of you like a plant/flower. As you breathe, soften your gaze and keep looking at it. Don’t try, don’t expect. Just be. Notice the mind starting to calm and let go effortlessly.
Try this anytime you feel stressed and need to let go of negative thoughts. You really are worth the time.
2. Stay Connected
It’s really easy to cut yourself off from the rest of the world when ‘the darkness’ kicks in. We should realise though that by hibernating in our own heads and away from society, we create a fertile breeding ground for negative thoughts.
Why? Well they don’t have anyone to contradict them except you and you most probably believe what they are. Also we start to train our minds into a certain way of thinking based on cause and effect – we think about something/someone, an emotion arises and each time that thought happens we ingrain a deeper habit of our negative response. Not healthy.
So, my second step closer towards letting go of negative thoughts is to remain in this world and connected. Truly engage in conversations where you listen, enquire, share. This will draw you out of your own head and into your current physical space and moment. Also, if you are alone, as silly as it may sound, speaking out loud can really bring you back to the Now. Trying saying’ “I am here” when you notice thoughts creeping in or change your state by standing up if sitting down or going outside if inside.
3. Be Kind to You.
Having negative thoughts about yourself will drag you deeper into an unhealthy place. If you’re self-absorbed, how can you participate fully in life? Practice being in the moment by participating in all-absorbing activities. Walking, cooking, dancing, running.
There’s a moment when you become aware of what you’re doing in the present moment and that’s the moment to savour and remember for re-creation. Step away from self-criticism and know that this moment of awareness without negative thoughts can increase to lengths of moments of inner peace and freedom of thought.... with practice.
4. Get to know your Mind
When you stop being aware of your thoughts, habitual thinking will kick in. A bit like weeds in the garden. It might be that for months you don’t notice them so they multiply and then one day they really stand out. And so you buy some weed killer and eradicate them.
Thoughts are the same. If we take our eye off them, they’ll find a place in the mind to rise often when you least expect it and then it becomes a habit. What started as a random thought whilst washing dishes, now becomes and habitual one.
So my fourth step towards reducing negative thoughts is to become aware of them because only with awareness can we transform. Build a relationship with your mind by including moments of stillness within your day where you sit and listen to your thoughts. Observe what you think about without attachment – learn to let your thoughts go.
And then notice how your thoughts control you. Two things tend to happen. There is a process of thinking or feeling and then a theme or topic to focus on. The latter is not essential for the mind however when it does happen it’s usually because there is pain, fear or a need for protection.
A Useful Affirmation
I often see it when I’m teaching yoga. As a student enters a challenging pose for their body, they’ll feel discomfort. They’ll then find a distraction, for example reach for their bottled water or fix their clothing or become hypnotised by their negative thoughts and feel paralysed so do nothing.
Or it might be that you have a recurring theme of anger, fear, anxiety that you keep playing over and over in your mind based on a past or future occurrence. Until you become aware that you are doing it you’ll continue to do it. Once you’re aware, you’ll need to place an air of disinterest on those thoughts in order for the mind to eventually let go. Only when the desire to let go is stronger than the desire to hold on can this happen…and again this takes practice.
Practice being disinterested in your negative thoughts.
Also, as you get to know your mind, fight your thoughts less. If I tell you not to think of a pink elephant, chances are you will. So when negative thoughts enter your mind let them come, face them head on. Become aware of them, observe how they make you feel, don’t be give them power by being afraid of them. Show disinterest in them – almost like the bully who needs attention to survive. Whatever you discover now detach from it. You are not your thoughts, in fact you’re more than your thoughts. Watch them float away.
A useful affirmation to remind you that you’re in control of your thoughts is, “I am responsible for my own happiness. My thoughts don't control me.”
Repeat this audibly or silently as a mantra daily and observe the subtle influences it will have over your thinking and responses.
If your thoughts are due to sadness, connect with your feelings and respond to them. If it’s due to anxiety because of something yet to happen unsolved, then think of solutions.
In my next journal, I'll share with you some Emergency Tools that will bring you back to a safe and positive place when negative thoughts kick in.
Thank you for reading and feel free to leave a comment if you were touched, moved or inspired by what you read.