Everyone has negative thoughts occasionally, but if you feel like your mind is constantly drifting toward the negative, then it can really affect not only your mental health, but your physical health.
Negative thinking can change your attitude, lower your motivation, and be disastrous to your self-esteem. It can result in depression, anxiety and even a greater chance for disease!
One great way to stop overthinking and have more positive thoughts is with mindfulness.
Why You Should Stop Negative Thought Patterns
You Aren’t Focusing on What is Important
One of the issues with negative thinking is that it can take your focus from other things you need your energy for.
If you are trying to spend time with your kids, but your mind keeps overthinking about every single thing that could potentially go wrong, you’re not going to be able to be totally present for them AND yourself. You’ll miss out on the joy of the moment.
It creates constant distraction, frustration and an inability to focus on important moments. After practicing mindfulness, you’re able to focus on the task at hand.
It Takes Precious Time
You may not realize it, but the practice of overthinking will take a lot of valuable time. We only have so much time on this earth, and it would be a shame if we spent a lot of it in negative thoughts.
Maybe you are analyzing situations or decisions far too much, thinking about every single thing that could possibly result from that decision, to the point that your time and energy continues to be wasted.
Being mindful is about appreciating the current moment, and not stressing about potential scenarios that might never happen.
It Causes Irrational, Unrealistic Thoughts
Unfortunately, overthinking often leads to considering scenarios that aren’t completely realistic or rational.
You are trying to decide if you should take a flight, which causes you to imagine all sorts of terrible things happening.
Sometimes, the decisions in your life are as simple as thinking in the moment. Is this flight something you want to do?
If you have taken the necessary safety precautions, then there is nothing else to think about but decide if you really want to go to your destination on a plane or not. It can be that simple.
Negative Thinking Can Affect Your Health
Negative thinking results in depression, anxiety, and stress, which can in turn worsen your immunity.
Being depressed or anxious is linked to catching more infections and experiencing the symptoms more strongly.
“For example, individuals can take up to a year to recover a healthy immune system following the death of their spouse, and long-term caregivers have suppressed immune systems compared with persons in the general population.” – PsychCentral
Stress can over-activate the immune system, resulting in an increased risk of autoimmune diseases.
Not to mention, stress is what causes the hormone cortisol comes out to play. You can read more about how an abundance of cortisol affects us here.
Mindfulness to Stop Negative Thoughts
You might not be able to get rid of all negative thoughts, but you can teach your brain how to respond when one pops into your head. Slowly you can break down the patterns of negative thinking through practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness has been defined as “a state in which one pays attention “on purpose, from moment to moment and non-judgmentally.” (Source)
One study supported the suggestion that mindfulness mindfulness reduces the extent to which ruminative (continuously think about the various aspects of situations that are upsetting) reactions tend to escalate into self-perpetuating and uncontrollable negative thinking cycles.
Let’s talk about how to start practicing mindfulness when you notice negative thoughts creep in.
Stop Thinking in Extremes
Extremes are when you think of something in the best or worst scenario.
Most things in life aren’t so black and white, so it is important that most of your thoughts are somewhere in the gray area.
Don’t think extreme lows, such as something being the ‘worst’ or ‘completely fail’ – try to think of the potential good and possible drawbacks of any situation or scenario, and suddenly you’ll be broken out of that negative thought pattern.
Surround Yourself With Positivity
The people you spend time with can have a larger impact on how you think and feel than you might imagine.
Even though mindfulness essentially only has to do with you and your own thought patterns, others can definitely influence its effectiveness. It is important that you try to surround yourself with as much positivity as you possibly can.
You may not want to get rid of negative people completely, but reduce how much time you spend with them. Spend more of your time with those that exude optimism and seem to have a positive perspective.
Let the Thoughts Go
This is a fun imagery exercise that is great for those nagging negative thoughts you just can’t seem to get rid of:
Think of the most negative thoughts that always seem to consume your mind and bring your mood down, and give them all a name. They can be anything you want, as long as you can remember and identify them.
Now close your eyes and picture the names you have come up with for the thoughts, then send them away. Turn them into balloons in your mind, and watch as those balloons fly away, never to return.
Observe Your Body
A characteristic of mindfulness is being fully present in the moment. There are some simple exercises that you can do to recenter your awareness on the here and now.
- Notice your breath. Don’t try to change it or manipulate it, just notice as it flows in and out of your body.
- Connect with your senses. What are you touching, smelling, hearing, seeing, tasting right now?
- Scan your body for sensations head to toe. What are you feeling inside your body?
As you practice noticing when negative thoughts begin, interrupt them with one of these exercises.
By consistently disrupting the patterns, you’ll retrain your brain to think positively and be all the healthier for it.
If you’ve struggled to stop negative thinking, can’t control your intrusive thoughts, and are suffering with depression and anxiety, please reach out to a professional.
You can click here to contact my office, and we can talk about whether or not we are a good fit. Either way, I’ll help you figure out your next step to healing.