Negative thoughts cannot have power over us unless we give them power.
However, when one is depressed or having a rough time it is easy to allow negative thoughts to take over. Since negative thinking is strongly bound to our emotions, we have a hard time just letting them go.
Here are five simple ways we can let go of negative thoughts:
1. Be patient instead of reacting quickly.
If you don’t allow the thought to affect you, you won’t let it take you over. Thoughts are temporary and we can help whisk them along out of our heads by simply not reacting to their presence. If they are ignored, they go away.
2. Practice mindfulness.
Using mindfulness -which is defined by Psychology Today as “a state of active, open attention on the present”- will not only banish negative thoughts, it will help you live a happier, more peaceful life. Mindfulness is simply being very aware and in touch with what you’re doing. For me, right now, this means feeling each keystroke as I type these words, considering how I am going to conclude this thought, seeing the keys and the words forming on the screen, hearing the clicking sound the keys make.
Smelling the air -it smells vaguely of laundry detergent and cat food- and tasting the strong, bitter coffee I sip every once in awhile as I am writing. Being mindful of my work and what I am doing helps keep negative thoughts at bay, because negative thoughts just want to rush in and take over and quickly pull you down. It is very hard for them to do so if you’re being aware of your thoughts and actions.
3. Get rid of the hypotheticals.
It’s SO easy to get caught up in hypothetical thinking. Hypotheticals loom in our minds as terrifying possibilities. They don’t even exist yet. Why do we give them so much power? It’s easy for humans to ruminate and feel like we are really ahead of the game by pondering the hypotheticals and then solving them in our minds. Really, what we are doing when we do that is missing the present, which is what we can focus on to truly find peace and set our minds at ease. Leave the hypotheticals alone…they haven’t even happened yet. (And they probably won’t, most of the time.)
4. Quit overthinking.
Being mindful is helpful, while being over-analytical is not. Again, ruminating on negative thoughts is easy to do, but not particularly helpful for us. We humans have the ability to overthink a situation into panic and fury…over just a thought. Wow. So try to stop overthinking so much. It only encourages negative thoughts.
5. Watch your thoughts.
The way one resource puts it is like taking a seat in the back of your mind and just watching the negative thoughts go by. Another says it’s like the town sheriff calmly watching a big outlaw stroll out of town. Except the sheriff is you, and the outlaw is the negative thinking. However you can best imagine it, let those thoughts go right on by and out of your mind. This paired with mindfulness is especially helpful.