How To Stop Thinking Negatively

Negative thoughts... They’re the ultimate poison. And at some point or another, we’ve all had a sip.

Heck, maybe you even regularly throw down with a "negative thoughts keg-stand".

It’s vital for us to stop as soon as possible. Because that kind of mindset is obviously self-destructive.

So here’s a few simple ways to stop being such a Debbie Downer.


I. No More Extremes 

For starters, you need to understand that life isn’t all about the left and right, success and failure, or black and white. Viewing things in extremes incites the appearance of negative thoughts.

For instance:

  • Rather than not doing as well as I’d like on my test, I’m going to "fail completely!"
  • Instead of my new business is taking a while to find momentum, it’s going to "crash and burn, leaving me ruined!"
  • Rather than being nervous about a speech, I’m going to "die out there; they’re all going to hate me!"

This type of thinking blots out the many shades of grey that comprise life. So you need to stop looking at the future as this giant looming cloud full of failure and catastrophe. Of course, sometimes catastrophe does strike. Occasionally. But don’t get so caught up in the agony of those moments that you lose perspective of a very important fact. Which is that life is never a series of black and white events.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying you should overcome this negativity by simply "turning on" the positive. Instead, I encourage you to seek out the shades of grey. And what I mean by that is to manage your expectations, keeping them at bay from extremes.

For example. say you’re concerned over a relationship. There are two extreme ways to look at your situation that will guarantee negativity. "It’s going down the crapper" or "Nothing could possibly go wrong".

So instead of that mess, shoot for, "We’re bound to have our ups and downs--like any relationship--but we’ll find a way to work through them."

See how easy that is? But there’s a problem. If you’re a naturally negative person, you’ll need to inculcate this approach into your very being until it becomes second nature. Practice makes perfect. So whenever negativity rears its ugly head, write down the thoughts. And write down an extreme negative statement. Then, write three realistic "middle of the pack" alternatives (nothing extreme). This approach helps keep emotions in check and allows for clarity of thought.


II. Make Positives a Big Flippin’ Deal

The problem with negativity is that it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy, blinding you from the very real successes and positives that are smack-dead in your face. Once you’re set on being that kind of hopeless person, confirmation bias sets in, and you’ll always perceive the worst in every situation. Magnifying setbacks and minimizing successes leads to de-motivation and misery.

Negative thinking stops people seeing the positive when it does happen. It’s as if there’s a screen filtering out positives and just letting in stuff that confirms the ’negative bias’. Magnifying setbacks and minimizing successes leads to de-motivation and misery.

Had a setback? Stop feeling sorry for yourself! We’ve all been there. So the sooner you realize that setbacks are temporary the better off you’ll be. Always look for the positive in every situation--no matter how tough.


III. Mind Your Circles 

One very strong emotional influencer is your social circle. Yup. How you feel can depend on who you’re rolling with. In a 2013 study, Notre Dame researchers found that it’s common for college students to pick up rumination-like behaviors from their roommates. Researchers say, rumination often involves worrying and thinking aloud, so it’s a habit that can be easily mirrored by other people. Avoid perpetually negative people when you can, or at least be aware of what habits might be rubbing off on you.


IV. Warm Your Poor Heart

Ok. I don’t mean literally. So put the knife down and step away from the microwave. Now heat me up some food. Kidding. Anyway, negative thoughts can occur for many different reasons. What if one of them is loneliness? Then I suggest you warm up. Yale researchers discovered in 2012 that people recalled fewer negative feelings about a past lonely experience when they were holding a hot pack. (They also found that lonely people tend to take longer hot showers.) Researchers say, substituting physical warmth for emotional warmth can be a quick fix. But that doesn’t mean you should replace that with genuine human interaction. That won’t help you long-term.

I hope these simple steps help you get back to feeling better.

We’ve all struggled with negativity. Some more than others.

So perk up.

You have many more reasons to smile than you do to frown.

And the first step is realizing that.