Make a New Year’s resolution to show yourself compassion while you work on quieting the negative thoughts that plague all of us.
Some people are more prone to negativity than others, although evolution prompts all of us to learn more from bad experiences than good ones. We are hard-wired to dwell on the bad as a way of helping us avoid danger and react quickly in a crisis. Children who have been teased or bullied or who experienced abuse or trauma are at risk of developing negative patterns of thinking. Genetics can also play a role in our predisposition to negative thinking styles.
But the more we focus on the bad stuff, the more accustomed our brains become to dwelling on the negative. It becomes a habit that can not only add to our stress and worry level but eventually can harm our health.
Here’s a perspective on whether negativity is getting in the way of your happiness: Ask yourself if your thoughts are helping to build you up or tear you down? If you are ready to break the cycle, take comfort in experts who say you can learn ways to tame negative thinking cycles.
Start by acknowledging and accepting your negative cycle. Take notice of your thoughts without trying to change or alter them right away. Acknowledgment alone can help relieve stress and the urge to react with negativity. Simple acceptance of negative thoughts can help reduce their importance. Don’t pass critical judgment on yourself as you do this. If you are hard on yourself for worrying, you will fuel the negativity habit.
Next, confront and challenge the negative thought. Did failing to get a promotion at the office create doubt in your own mind about your professional competence? Why would one setback diminish your past achievements or reflect poorly on your skills? Put a list of your accomplishments on paper and count up your successes.
Did your lover leave you for another? That doesn’t mean that you will never find love again. Ask the people who love you, family and friends, to tell you all the ways you are a wonderful and lovable person.
Try this strategy. If your friend had suffered a setback, what advice would you give? Now give yourself the same good advice and encouragement. Negative thinking can make you feel overwhelmed. When you are agitated and worried, take a deep breath. Your yoga instructor knows what she is talking about: controlled breathing can calm anxiety and slow your stress responses.
If the cycle of negativity is disrupting your life or work, think about seeking help. Cognitive therapy teaches practical ways to cope with unwanted and persistent negative thoughts. You may want to see a therapist who specializes in this approach. Those who suffer from clinical depression or intense anxiety may want to consult a mental health professional.
Read more: The Year of Conquering Negative Thinking