When we get bad news or encounter a setback, the very first thing that happens is negative thoughts cram into our minds. Let’s say an exam you took didn’t go as well as you had hoped. You will instantly start thinking about what will happen when you fail the exam and what the repercussions of failing would be. Though you’re aware that you won’t get the exam result for a while or that pondering over such negative thoughts will do you no good but this logic doesn’t stop the horrible thoughts from coming. If you learn strategies to help regulate negative thoughts you’ll be better able to deal with them, rather than just ignore them.
“It’s like a needle in a groove,” says Guy Winch, Ph.D., psychologist and author of Emotional First Aid: Practical Strategies for Treating Failure, Rejection, Guilt, and Other Everyday Psychological Injuries.” As the groove gets deeper and deeper, the needle has a harder time getting out of the groove.
The more you allow negative thoughts to mull around in your brain, the angrier and more upset you will get. This is why it’s essential to train our minds to push negative thoughts away and allow positivity to enter. Here are five ways to train your mind to not allow negative thoughts to stick around for too long.
Choose Your Company Wisely
You may not even realize it but the people who surround you and spend a lot of time with you end up influencing you. If your friends are prone to thinking negatively, always worrying and emphasizing on what “could go wrong” then it’s time to make some new friends. In 2013, researchers at Notre Dame University discovered that it’s common for college students to adopt rumination-like behaviors from their roommates. We often end up reflecting the attitudes of those we spend time with without even realizing it.
Play The Distraction Game
Under Covid-19 when anxiety levels were at an all-time high and uncertainty was rampant, one of the best ways to distract oneself was to shift the focus. Since social media and TV channels were only narrating the latest number of cases of Covid-19, the best distraction was to not watch TV or surf the internet. Many therapists recommended reading a good book or watching a comedy movie or picking up a hobby like knitting. The point was to distract the brain from staying focused on news of the global pandemic.
Burn Away Those Thoughts
I am sure you have seen girlfriends or boyfriends in movies burning all the letters of their jilted lover. Surprisingly, this dramatic gesture of writing something down and throwing it away or burning it actually works. Writing a thought down and throwing it in the trash is an effective means of pushing that negative thought out of your mind. This was proven in a study conducted in 2012 by Ohio State University. So if something is really bothering you, pen it down and trash it.
Find That Silver Lining
In negative situations, we usually just focus on the grey clouds and how horrible the entire episode is. For example, you had plans to eat out at your favorite restaurant, but you missed your dinner reservation because you arrived too late. Instead of focusing on how the situation was unfair and just sucked big time, you could look at how this was an opportunity to try out some street food. Go for a walk with the friend you were going to have dinner with. It could also be a good night to catch your favorite show on Netflix since you would probably get home earlier than expected. It’s all about training the mind to think differently.
There is research to indicate that putting on a kettle and brewing a cup of tea for yourself actually works. This is why hot soup works so well when someone is sick and in bed. Sometimes the best thing you can do to alleviate anxiety or stress is to take a long hot shower. Afterward, you can make yourself a hot chocolate. You can also get the same results by holding a hot water bottle close to your body. Physical warmth is a quick but short-lived fix to eradicating negative thoughts from your mind.