We all have it happen from time to time. Those negative thoughts creep in and start to effect our mood.
The problem is that they can easily take over and when it does, it doesn’t just stop with a short lived mood but can be more pervasive and lead to depression or anxiety. I teach in my sessions that our thoughts influence our feelings which influence our actions. I often see clients who are self-critical, who have adopted beliefs that they are unworthy, undeserving, bad, etc. They naturally look at a situation and only see the ways that they have failed, instead of seeing all the good they have done. Everything that happens seems to reinforce these negative beliefs, and the more they feel that there is something wrong with them, the worse they feel, and then their actions tend to increase the likelihood that they continue behaviors that back up their belief (the self fulfilling prophecy). So what do you do if this has become you?
First you need to identify your thoughts when they are negative. This does require a level of awareness but it can easily be developed with some practice of paying attention to your thoughts. Once you have identified a negative thought, you can tell yourself to stop, and set the intention to let that thought go. Some people enjoy imagery and may imagine a stop sign as they tell themselves to stop, or imagine putting the thought in a hot air balloon and letting it float away. At the least you need to tell yourself “No, that’s not true” or “No, that’s not helpful” or something along those lines.
Next you can change that negative statement to a positive. I know that you may not always truly believe that positive right away and so if needed, you can soften it a bit, but still make sure that it is completely positive. So if your thought was originally “no one likes me, I don’t have any friends”, you may not feel comfortable changing it to something like “everyone likes me” but could do “the people I care about like me” or “I am liked by others”.
Once you have your new positive thought, it is important to find evidence to back it up. How do you know that your statement is true or has some validity? What examples or compliments from others can you think of that shows that the statement is true. So for our above examples of feeling like no one likes you, you can easily think about the people who do, no matter how many or few you believe there are.
To wrap it up, I believe it is important to think about what you can work on to make this statement even more true, or to prevent a similar trigger in the future. Make sure that it is constructive criticism though and not harsh and critical and that it helps to solve the original problem that triggered the negative thought. For instance, perhaps that negative thought about not having any friends was triggered by a situation of no one talking to you at a party (and you not talking to anyone either) and you realize that you need to give off a more open and welcoming vibe as well as approach others to initiate conversation.
I know this takes some mental energy but it is also so powerful as it trains your brain to think differently while helping you to really believe the more positive thought and still encourages you to do more to feel better about yourself and your situation. There are many strategies out there though to change thoughts, and so if this one doesn’t seem to fit for you, don’t give up! With some work, awareness, and energy you can get your thoughts back on track!
Have you tried these or similar techniques and find that you just get sucked in further? Then perhaps another technique may work better for you. Try reading this.