Do negative thoughts pop up at the most unexpected times? Or all the time? If it feels like you fight with your own brain to see the positive side of things, your perspective is accurate.
Teaching your brain not to default to negativity requires practice. It involves rewiring neural connections programmed into humankind thousands of years ago. These connections reinforce themselves by firing off thousands of negative thoughts a day.
Wouldn't you consider freedom from this stress and the anxiety and depression it triggers worth a little effort? Heck, yes!
A Fact with Wow Factor
Negative thinking is instinctive. Positive thinking is learned.
Stress Less Tip
Compared to their positive counterparts, you hold on longer to negative emotions. You also pay more attention and react more strongly to negative situations. You even assign more meaning to negative occurrences. A phenomenon known as negativity bias accounts for these tendencies.
Negative thoughts arise with little conscious effort because of a brain primed to find danger lurking everywhere. The threats you face today pale in comparison to those of your ancestors. Yet they still invoke the same level of urgency to fight or flee.
Persistent negativity makes you more susceptible to stress. Stress, in turn, feeds into negativity. Thankfully, cultivating optimism creates a buffer against stress.
How, you may ask, do you shift toward a more positive habit of thinking? The most effective strategies deploy mindfulness as a first step to activate awareness of your thought patterns. You won't change a negative thought if you don't catch it as it occurs.
Techniques like restructuring the underlying beliefs behind the thoughts, reframing your perspective, practicing daily affirmations, and employing emotion regulation skills help redirect negativity. A qualified therapist will help you develop the best cognitive restructuring and emotion regulation skills. Reframing and positive affirmations also require the right process to work well. These techniques take practice to produce change - even more before they feel easy and automatic.
Consider gratitude as another way to lift positive thoughts to top-of-mind awareness. To access an attitude of gratitude, look at life through a lens of all things good. You may also equate gratitude to blessings, thankfulness, gifts, goodness, appreciation, grace, or mercy. Make no mistake. Gratitude offers one of the easiest ways to alter negative thought patterns. It doesn't always fall into place without practice, though.
Always approach gratitude with sincerity. That's the secret to gratitude's ability to shield your mind from stress, anxiety, and depression. No faking it until you make it with this positivity strategy!
Negative thought cycles feed into themselves. One negative thought leads to two, then three, and so on. Breaking a negative train of thought gets harder the longer you allow it to persist. Fortunately, positive thoughts self-perpetuate, too. The more positive thoughts you stack up, the easier new ones come to you. Redirecting momentum from negative to positive thinking requires a healthy dose of determination.
Try gratitude lists to break away from negativity bias. Grab any old notebook and a pen or pencil. Then, set a timer for a few minutes, and write down ideas that form around the prompts that follow. Come back and add on to your lists at any time.
As mentioned earlier, trading negativity for gratitude takes time and practice. It may feel strange and difficult at first if you don't typically look at your world in a positive light. Use the milestones below to mark progress on your journey toward positivity:
Challenge your next negative thought with the thought, At least (positive aspect or twist on the moment). How often have others responded this way after you shared a negative experience? Did you feel annoyed by it? Yeah, because negativity bias controlled your perspective at the time.
Clinging to the misery of negativity will always remain an option. Entertain the choice to let it go, and you hold power over any negative thought. The action that follows should replace that thought with a better one.
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