There is no stronger prison than your own mind. Our life is built on habits, and our mind is no different. Positive or negative, when thoughts become habitual, they have a major influence on our lives. You are a direct repercussion of your daily thoughts.
“As a man thinketh in is his heart, so is he” Proverbs 23:7.
Unfortunately, many of us start a habit of negative thinking at a young age. Eventually it can become excessive, wrapping its arms around us and weighing us down. Negative thinking is an addiction.
Your thoughts are not unlike the clothes that you wear. Some days you dress nicer than others, but generally your style remains the same. Imagine you’re rocking a fitted college long sleeve shirt, a nice pair of dark Levi’s jeans, some brand new Nike’s or Converse. You’re dressed casually, but confidently. You’re looking fresh, and you’re feeling it too.
Just like your thoughts, when your clothes reflect confidence, comfort, and character, then you look and feel confident, comfortable, and charismatic. When you dress like a bum, you feel like a bum.
Now imagine you just dropped by a friend’s barbeque in late September. You’re hanging out by the pool in your fresh new clothes, eating a hot dog, and chatting about your badass weekend at a Tony Robbins seminar. Your friend’s older brother rolls out. You two have a history, so as soon as he catches your eye, you turn your back to him.
He is wearing baggy sweat pants, flips flops (white socks underneath), and a high school wrestling t-shirt with holes in it. He approaches you from behind with a devious smirk on his face.
You try to get away, but before you can he grabs hold of you and tosses you into the swimming pool. Your friend rushes over, hands you a towel and grabs you a spare pair of clothes. He yells at his brother, “What’s wrong with you?”
His brother responds, “ Oh come on. I was just having a little fun. *Insert your name here,* doesn’t mind.”
Your friend apologizes for his idiot brother, and hands you a baggy t-shirt and some basketball shorts. Your clothes are ruined, and now you have to look like you just rolled out of bed for the rest of the night.
Negative thinking is not the baggy pair of clothes. It is not your friend’s brother. It is not your friend’s brother’s clothes. It is the swimming pool.
A little water doesn’t hurt you, but submerging yourself in it does. It weighs you down. It makes your clothes sag and your body limp. It makes you look sloppy, and you come out feeling slightly defeated and hopeless.
If you want to avoid negative thinking, all you have to do is avoid the swimming pool. It’s OK if you get splashed or a little wet. No one will notice. But if you fall in, it’s going to take a while for your clothes to dry off. In the meantime, you might have to wear something that doesn’t make you feel so great.
These 5 Tips should help you avoid your friend’s brother, stay out of the swimming pool, and stop negative thinking in its tracks.
You will hear this time and time again. The key to letting go of any reoccurring thought is to first recognize that all thoughts are, in fact, just that… thoughts. They are not you. You can do that through awareness. Practice being conscious of your thoughts, and choosing observe them, rather than follow them. It’s easy to get caught up in the downward spiral of negative thinking, but when you do, you’re neglecting so many amazing things that are happening around you. You’re still breathing, your heart is still pumping, your body is still digesting food and you’re completely unaware of it. While you’re lost in you own mind, your body and the rest of the world are going on, in perfect harmony, without you. Instead, focus on your breath. Anchor yourself in your breath, and learn to watch thoughts pass by without judgment.
- Give Instead of Receive.
Not many people recognize the relationship between selflessness and peace. When you prioritize giving instead of receiving, you’re no longer worried about yourself. I’m sure if you think back, most of your negative thoughts revolve around your own worth, your own health, your own reputation. Instead, focus on other people for once. If you concentrate your energy on helping others and making them feel good, there’s no place for negative self talk. When you’re more concerned for others than you are for yourself, you become free from the prison of your own mind.
- Get Out of Your Head and into Your Body
There is much to be said about yoga, fitness, and high adrenaline activities. In essence, these activities are a form of meditation. In addition to all the positive chemicals they release in your brain, they also get you into a flow state, where there is no room for thought. If you aren’t a particularly active person, this is a good reason to start. However, you can get out of your head and into your body without even leaving the couch. When you notice you are thinking a lot, take a moment to quiet down and listen to your heartbeat. Sit upright in your chair, and observe all the sensations you are experiencing. Examine for stiffness in your neck, tingling in your feat, or an itch on your back. Taking notice of bodily sensations is great way to quiet your mind. It is also a great primer for meditation.
- Monitor What You Put into Your body.
The body and the mind are intimately connected. The types of foods you eat can have an enormous effect on the thoughts you think. Eating processed, high sugar, chemical ridden, foods can deplete mood-boosting chemicals in your brain. Low carbohydrate diets, foods with high fructose corn syrup, and artificial sweeteners can affect your serotonin receptivity and lead to depression. Unknown food allergens, such as gluten or dairy, can affect digestive health, and thus influence your mood and behavior. If the chemicals in your brain aren’t right, your thoughts won’t be either. Who doesn’t feel great after a big bowl of organic blueberries, or a fresh brewed cup of black Peruvian coffee?
- Good Old Optimism.
It’s easy to get aggravated when something disrupts your plans. Traffic on the way home from work, a problem with your Netflix account, running into your ex while you’re on a date are all things that you can easily let ruin your day. However, it’s also just as easy to take these daily “hassles” and look at them in a positive light. If you hit traffic on your way home from work, pop in an Eckhart Tolle audio book and listen to it. Congrats now you just found more time for learning and presence. Your Netflix is on the fritz? Use it as an opportunity to turn off the tech and appreciate the moment; maybe you pick up a book you wanted to read or take a hot bath. If you run into your ex while your on date, well not going to lie, that kind of sucks, but look at it this way, at least it makes you look desirable. Any situation no matter how bad it may seem has a silver lining. With every obstacle there is an opportunity.
BONUS TRICK: If you are really struggling to let go of negative thoughts, try writing all your worries down on a piece of paper. As you write, charge the paper with all the negative energy bottled up inside you. When you are finished, take the paper, tear it up, and toss it into the trash. The mind responds well to symbolism and metaphors. This simple trick will give you immediate relief.
Follow these 5 tips (& bonus trick) and you will be well on your way to stopping negative thinking in its tracks.
Even still, every once in a while, a real-life version of your friend’s brother may unexpectedly toss you into the pool. There’s no way around it. However, you can be prepared.
Notice when a negative thought needs your attention, but be ready to change your thoughts as soon as you have dealt with it. Be more compassionate towards others, give your body the attention it needs, and always look for the silver lining. If a negative thought pops into your head (and it will) don’t get caught up in it. Let it pass by. Avoid the pool, and you will avoid the negative thought loop.
This is a breeze. I know you have it in you.
Best of luck.
Edit: This post on negative thinking was so popular I decided to make a video as well! Watch and Subscribe for new videos every few days below:
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