When we find ourselves in a cycle of negative thinking, it can often become very difficult to break out of it.
“Rumination” is one of the most common symptoms in depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. It’s a focused attention on the problems, distresses, and suffering in one’s life – a constant replaying of negative thoughts, feelings, and experiences.
For example, you can likely think of a time when you had a really bad day – and just as you were about to go to bed, your mind started replaying your negative experiences over and over again. Next thing you know, hours have passed by and your mind is still going. You start thinking to yourself, “When will it end? Why can’t I just fall asleep?”
This is a perfect example of what “rumination” often looks like. Once it hits us, it feels like our mind has been hijacked into a negative state and we have no choice but to sit and wait for it to run its course. We feel completely helpless.
Because rumination and negative thinking can be such a vicious cycle, it’s important to have a strategy for how to combat this negative thinking when we find ourselves in these types of mental states.
One strategy that I will share in this article is how to use the “Alphabet Game” to derail your negative thinking.
Play the “Alphabet Game” to Derail Negative Thoughts
For those who don’t know, the “Alphabet Game” is a common game usually played during long car rides to help pass the time.
The main goal is to work your way from A → Z by identifying road signs that contain words with each letter. So if you find a sign saying “Apple Street,” then you can move on to letter B. And then if you find a sign saying, “Bridge Ahead,” you can move to letter C, and so on.
In this article, I will share a modified version of the “Alphabet Game” that is specifically focused on shifting your thinking into a more positive direction.
The basic idea is to find something in your life that you appreciate for each letter of the alphabet.
For each letter, you can choose anything that you are grateful for: a person, a place, an object, a memory, a hobby, a band, a book, a movie, a food, or whatever.
Here’s a quick rundown of what my “Alphabet Game” would look like:
- A – Apple pie
- B – Baseball
- C – Coffee
- D – Driving
- E – Electronic music
- F – Friends
- G – Golf
You can choose whatever you want for your own list – and it can be something specific or general, depending on what’s easiest for you to think of. The key is to identify things in your life that make it better and give your life happiness and pleasure.
The “Alphabet Game” is really simple and easy in theory, but it can be a very effective way to shift your focus to more positive things and derail your negative thinking.
Sometimes it can get challenging to figure out what to choose for a letter, so your mind gets busy trying to solve the puzzle. You actively reflect on the different things you like and appreciate in this world, and if they fit each letter.
Our minds are constant problem-solvers. This is one reason why rumination can become such a never-ending cycle. With the “Alphabet Game,” we give our minds something new to focus on and try to solve.
So the next time you find yourself in a cycle of negative thinking, try to remember the “Alphabet Game” and use it as a way to occupy your mind with more positive thoughts.
Recollecting the Positive
In general, the ability to reflect on the positive things in your life can be a great antidote for improving your mental health and happiness.
This is something that has been backed by a lot of research in psychology. For example, one study shows how reflecting on “positive memories” can be a great way to boost positive emotions and reduce stress. And another study shows how creating a “gratitude list” can also improve mental health and overall well-being.
Our minds often have a “negativity bias” because we tend to focus on problems in our lives so that we can find solutions and fix them. This is why it is so important to take the time to reflect on the positive as well, because it doesn’t often come as naturally to us.
Here’s a video I made about “Recollecting the Positive”:
This video is from my new YouTube Channel – feel free to subscribe to stay updated on new videos about psychology and self improvement.
The lessons in this video are consistent with why something like the “Alphabet Game” can be helpful for changing your thinking.
Of course, I don’t think the “Alphabet Game” can magically change your life or cure mental illness, but it is a valuable tool to add to your Mental Toolbox and keep in mind for the future.
So if you find yourself lying awake at night because you can’t stop your negative thinking, consider trying the “Alphabet Game” and see if it can help put your mind in a more positive and relaxed state.
Stay updated on new articles and resources in psychology and self improvement: