The most positive minds are still going to have negative thoughts every now and then.
We are not in complete control of our thoughts, some will pop up from time to time that we don’t invite into our heads. The big difference is how we respond to this negative thinking when it happens.
Here are practical tips to help you let go of negative thinking and not let it turn into a vicious cycle.
Understand that you are not your thoughts
No single thought makes you who you are. Our field of awareness is constantly changing from one thought to the next. Many of those thoughts are just temporary experiences that won’t last forever.
Try to imagine your mind as a sky, and your thoughts as clouds passing by. Just as new clouds are always floating through the sky, different thoughts are always floating through your mind.
And like the clouds, our thoughts are never static. They come into view, they change shape, the leave our view. One thought after the next, one cloud after the next.
When you begin to view your thoughts in this way, you don’t attach to them or overreact. You recognize their impermanence and you are more able to let go of them in the moment.
Ask yourself, “What are my negative thoughts telling me?”
In many ways, our minds have evolved to think so that we can better understand our world and adapt to it.
If a negative thought is continuously playing in your head, it could be your mind trying to tell you something (although not always in the best and most polite way possible).
For example, thinking “I’m an idiot” may be your mind telling you that you need to focus more in class, study more, or try harder. Or thinking “I’m a terrible person” may be your mind telling you that you need to try to be more respectful and kinder toward your family, friends, and coworkers.
In many negative thoughts you can find a pearl of wisdom, but you have to be able to interpret the root of what is causing your negative thinking, and not just take it at face value.
Sometimes our minds are purposely negative as a way to draw our attention to certain things in our lives that we may be ignoring. Like all criticism, whether it comes from yourself or others, don’t take it personally.
Play with the pitch/volume/tone of your inner voice
When a negative thought is repeated enough, it can become a habit that is difficult to snap out of. One way you can effectively reverse this negative thinking is by changing the pitch, volume, or tone of your inner voice.
Often by changing characteristics of our inner voice, we also change our emotional reaction toward what is being expressed.
For example, a voice that is higher in pitch or lower in volume tends to be less authoritative and less influential. So if you take a negative thought and make it lower in volume (as if a mouse was speaking), it doesn’t seem as powerful anymore.
By exaggerating your inner voice, you can even make your negative thinking fun and humorous. It’s hard to take “You’re stupid” seriously when it’s in the voice of Daffy Duck or Mike Tyson.
Try experimenting with different voices when you hear a negative thought pop into your head. Find examples of really silly or submissive voices, and repeat your negative thoughts in those so they have less of an impact on you.
Just sit, observe, and wait
As mentioned before, all of our thoughts eventually subside with time and patience. So if you’ve tried these techniques and they don’t work for you, just hang in there and remember “this too shall pass.”
Try just sitting and becoming an observer of your thoughts – without judging them as “good,” “bad,” “positive,” or “negative.”
Instead, just step back and watch them as if you were watching a movie; because like a movie, your thinking by itself can’t harm you. It’s only how you respond to your thinking that really matters.
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