How to control your thoughts and be more positive
The mind is everything. What you think you become. Buddha
At a time when things appear to be going wrong, or we’re particularly stressed, we tend to take things more negatively than usual. It’s easy to be irrational and blame our circumstances, but it doesn’t make us feel any better. This week Happiness Weekly looks at how you can control your thoughts in a positive way.
1. Accept it – everyone has bad thoughts every now and then
Acknowledge that everyone has bad thoughts. Everyone has been kept awake from negative thinking, or kept in a state of fear because they can’t switch off. You are not alone! Speak to someone, generally you will find someone who can relate to the way you’re feeling.
2. Thank your thought for coming and send it on its way
Psychologists say (and I have heard this in an introductory session to Landmark Forum, though I never pursued it) – if you have a negative thought, you should listen to what it has to say, thank it for saying its piece (it’s there to protect you and keep you safe) and then send it on its way. It’s like an annoying child: if you listen to it, acknowledge it, and then send it on its way, the child is more likely to leave you alone quickly. Whereas if you ignore it, it will keep annoying you until you have taken action. Our thoughts are similar.
3. Swap the negative thought for a positive one
When you have a negative thought challenge yourself to come up with a positive thought about the exact same thing. For example, someone rudely crosses your path and knocks you without acknowledging you and you think “That person doesn’t like me” – you could think “Wow, they were in a hurry! I hope they get to where ever they are going quickly!” It sounds a bit like something AA Milne would write, but if you continue to think positively about things, other positive thoughts will follow. This isn’t as easy as it sounds – practise makes perfect with this one!
4. Distract yourself until you can talk to someone
When your thoughts get overpowering, you sometimes need an immediate distraction. Go on a brisk walk, keep a list of contacts of your most supportive friends and call through until you find someone that will meet up with you or spend some time doing something you enjoy. Sometimes we need to ignore our negative thoughts while they are hurting us and come back to them later. Generally this is where you need to distract yourself until you have someone you can share your thoughts with that will act as a sounding board and offer you calm, rational advice.
5. Consider the worst scenario
What would happen if your negative thought came true? It’s generally not as scary as it may have felt before you thought it through. Try to be rational as you consider your options. For example, if you stumble when public speaking – a dinosaur is not going to eat you. Someone may laugh, you may lose your place momentarily, but ultimately you will be able to carry on with your presentation or speech. Once you have considered the worst case scenario, accept it for what it is and prepare for it as best you can.
6. Write it out
Negative thoughts generally generate more negative thoughts, then another one, then another one and it’s like a racing track in your mind. It’s easy to panic and let it overwhelm us, but there are things you can do to slow down and start thinking rationally again. Write a letter to yourself as though you’re your best friend and telling yourself about this negative thought you have just had may also help. Generally writing is like meditating; it slows us down and helps us to connect with our rational thoughts. If you feel strange writing a letter to yourself, write it to your best friend – but read it as though your best friend wrote it to you. You could even reply with suggested solutions!
7. Before listening, consider what you want
Before taking a negative thought on board, consider exactly what you want. Start thinking about what you need to do to get what you want. Is this negative thought blocking you? Then you can send it on its way. The trick is to focus more on what you do want than what you don’t want, take control and encourage yourself to maintain a positive thought process.
8. Concentrate on positive affirmations
Tell yourself you can do it, you are positive, you will be great – you are your best cheerleader. Have confidence in yourself, no one can do it for you. Be mindful of all the good things you already have in your life. Follow your positive thoughts with positive actions. Choose to hang around positive, supportive people. Read success stories and things that inspire and motivate you.
I hope you have found these tips helpful. Your turn – how do you control your thoughts in a positive way?
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