Halt Negative Thoughts by Accepting Them

Negative person

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Negative Thinking Begins to Dissolve with Acceptance

If you lose your job or your sweetheart leaves you for your best friend or you regain the 10 pounds you lost by nearly starving yourself for two months, you’ll most likely have negative thoughts flooding in. That’s expected. These are upsetting developments.

You’ll obsess about what’s wrong with you, why you’re not loved or appreciated, or why you can’t stick to healthier eating and more exercise.

Your negative thoughts may continue as the days and weeks go by, but at some point, you’ll have to send them on a U-turn to protect your mental and physical well-being.

“Constant negativity can get in the way of happiness, add to our stress and worry level, and ultimately damage our health,” said psychologist Judith Beck in a New York Times article, “The Year of Conquering Negative Thinking.

Children may develop negative thinking habits if they have been teased or bullied, or experienced trauma or abuse, said Beck, who is president of the Beck Institute for Cognitive Behavior Therapy in suburban Philadelphia.

Negative thinking may tend to occur more frequently in females, according to a 2013 study that found women ruminate more than men, said Beck.

The Danger of Dwelling on Negative Thoughts

Ruminating is like a record that’s stuck and keeps repeating the same lyrics. It’s retracing past mistakes, according to a blog by PsychCentral Associate Editor Margarita Tartakovsky. Research has shown that rumination may be associated with depression, anxiety, binge eating or binge drinking.

Rumination can slow down problem-solving. While soaking in negative thoughts about losing your job, you may block out possible solutions to a better work situation, such as ways to upgrade your skills.

Too much negative thinking can sometimes drive away family and friends who are a source of support and comfort. Old sayings remain in use because of the truth ingrained in them. Keep in mind the wise saying attributed to author Stanley Gordon West: “Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone.”

The Danger of Dwelling on Negative Thoughts

Ruminating is like a record that’s stuck and keeps repeating the same lyrics. It’s retracing past mistakes, according to a blog by PsychCentral Associate Editor Margarita Tartakovsky. Research has shown that rumination may be associated with depression, anxiety, binge eating or binge drinking.

Rumination can slow down problem-solving. While soaking in negative thoughts about losing your job, you may block out possible solutions to a better work situation, such as ways to upgrade your skills.

Too much negative thinking can sometimes drive away family and friends who are a source of support and comfort. Old sayings remain in use because of the truth ingrained in them. Keep in mind the wise saying attributed to author Stanley Gordon West: “Smile and the world smiles with you, cry and you cry alone.”

Accept Negative Thoughts to Reduce Their Power

It may seem counterintuitive, but the first step in halting negative thoughts is to accept them, said Beck.

“Whatever you do, don’t tell yourself, ‘I have to stop thinking about this’,” said the psychologist who founded the Beck Institute with her father, Aaron Beck, considered the creator of Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Generally, CBT works by helping a person become aware of inaccurate or negative thinking, so they can view challenging situations more clearly and respond to them in a more effective way.

The key is to recognize the negative thoughts and to realize, “I’m obsessing about my best friend having an affair with my boyfriend.” Then be mindful, not judging yourself, but just looking at the thought and accepting, “My partner doesn’t love me anymore.”

The next part is to identify the inaccurate negative thinking that follows, such as, “No one else will ever love me.” That’s probably not true.

Then focus on the fact that there are many people who love and care about you, like family and friends. You might reread letters or notes or even ask them what they like about you, so you can confirm your own circle of affection.

Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence, suggests asking yourself if you are accomplishing anything by dwelling on your negative thoughts.

Since they may be dragging you down instead of uplifting you, it’s time to take action. That might be engaging in activities you enjoy, like running or gardening.

If negative thoughts linger, it’s a good idea to talk with a mental health professional to learn ways to cope and minimize those distressing thoughts. Another positive action is to find an instructor who can help you learn mindfulness meditation, where the practice of focusing on your breath and slowing down your thoughts can help shake loose the negative thoughts and increase your positive outlook on life.

References

Alderman, Lesley, “The Year of Conquering Negative Thinking,” New York Times, Jan. 3, 2017

Miller, Richard, “Transform Negative Thoughts with Meditation,” Yoga Journal, Nov. 14, 2016

Tartakovsky, Margarita, “Why Ruminating is Unhealthy and How to Stop,” PsychCentral, Jan. 20,2011

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