We all have them…but how do you release negative thoughts? Do you ever feel like you can only see things in a negative light? Do you wish you could be happier and freer?
Especially in today’s environment, where people’s lives become more stressful as the days go on, negativity can become a habit. One little harmful thought that goes ignored can spark an entire change of mentality. Sometimes, you don’t even notice it until it’s too late. So, if you want to make sure you never get in that situation, you need to learn to release negative thoughts.
Why Should People Release Negative Thoughts?
In a single day, people can have up to 70,000 thoughts, researchers say. Because of the sheer number of things that cross your mind, inevitably, you will experience some unwanted things. You can’t control all those thousands of thoughts, so some are bound to go rogue.
One reason unwanted thoughts might creep into your mind is that your negative beliefs stem from positive intentions. Most people don’t like to be burdened by negativity, so they don’t realize that they’re engaging in negative thinking. But the truth is, in some scenarios, your brain might want to make you be a pessimist to protect you. If you’re thinking about applying for a challenging position, your brain might make you believe you are not qualified, so you don’t apply at all. It feels that if you don t apply at all, you can’t be rejected. Thus you can’t get hurt. So, negative thoughts are intended as a barrier between you and failure.
Many people are even born and raised in an environment full of pessimism spread by toxic people. Because of that environment, they develop a negative bias. This means some people care more about adverse events rather than positive ones. They dwell on criticisms or insults rather than being able to balance out the good and the bad. Past traumas can also make people prone to negativity. The more you were hurt, the more significant the impact of future adverse events will be.
If you are prone to negativity, that means positive events will be less important to you. You will not register praise as you should. Instead, you’ll more likely brush it off and refocus on criticisms. And that’s not the worst thing negative thoughts can do to a person. Because of the mind-body connection, your thoughts can affect how your health. Negative thoughts cause stress and feelings of anxiety, which can lead to long-term struggles with anxiety disorders.
Negative thoughts can stop your brain from producing endorphins and other chemicals that keep your health in balance. The stress associated with negativity can make the body release hormones that speed up your heart rate and breathing, thus increasing blood pressure. In the long term, this can lead to heart issues, such as a higher risk of a heart attack. Alongside those issues, negativity weakens your immune system, can lead to stomach issues and increases the risk of insomnia.
3 Ways to Release Negative Thoughts
To avoid all the issues associated with this type of thinking, you need to learn to release negative thoughts and enjoy life.
1. Become Aware Of Toxic Thoughts
On the surface, this might seem like straightforward advice that requires little effort to implement. In reality, many people struggle with harmful and toxic thoughts precisely because they aren’t aware of them. After so many years of normalizing negative thinking, many people struggle with identifying how such a thought looks like.
In general, negative thinking patterns can be grouped into a few categories:
- Jumping to conclusions
- “Should” statements
- Emotional reasoning
All these types of thoughts have one thing in common: they are irrational. They often stem from misconceptions about how you should evaluate and judge specific situations. Or, they are the result of certain stereotypes or thought patterns you learned when you were young. Because of this, it’s hard to identify that there’s something wrong with them.
When you think, “should I go for that job I’ve always wanted” at first sight, there’s nothing that seems toxic. But that thinking can quickly lead to self-doubt. Ultimately, you could end up rejecting the possibility that something good can come out of pursuing that dream.
For all other toxic thought patterns listed previously, the pragmatic outcomes are similar. Overgeneralisation, jumping to conclusions, and labeling can stop you from trying something good because you base your thinking on misconceptions. Catastrophising will only make you irrationally afraid. Blame will make you be too hard on yourself. And emotional reasoning, like saying you don’t like something because it’s unnatural, leads to bad decisions.
Whenever you find yourself thinking something that conforms to these thought patterns, write them down. This way, you won’t be able to brush them off, and you won’t forget them. This habit will force you to be aware of how many toxic thoughts you are allowing every day. Once you write them down, try to understand how they can affect you. If you find yourself labeling people, try to know where that is coming from. Try to understand what stereotypes or fears you have that fuel those labels.
Once you write everything down, you become aware of your thoughts. Then, you can start working on the root issues that stop you from realizing negative thoughts.
2. Be Proactive in Working to Release Negative Thoughts
Being aware of what evil thoughts you have is a start, but it’s not enough to release those thoughts. You need to be proactive and pursue self-bettering techniques.
Take time to think about why those thoughts form. What core beliefs do you have that fuel negativity? Could there be something wrong with those beliefs? For example, if most of your negative thoughts are you blaming yourself, understand why. Is it because you think that you have to be perfect every second of the day? If so, try to work on letting go of perfectionism. Is it because you believe you have to do everything alone? If so, try to let people help you more. Try asking yourself these types of questions whenever you find yourself being a pessimist.
Instead of being self-critical, you should start being curious. If a situation is hard to deal with, try to learn how you can tackle it rather than catastrophizing the situation. The world is not going to crumble around you if you don’t have all the answers. You can ask others for their opinion, get help, take the time to learn how to become better. Always focus on the silver linings of the situations you go through. Instead of saying “this is too hard,” understand that if you pursue this, even if you fail, you can learn something. But if you let your negativity stop you from doing things, you’re going to stagnate.
If you struggle to make yourself act positively, try to practice mindfulness. Meditation and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy can be helpful tools to guide you. You can meditate to clear your head and focus on identifying the core issues you have to fix.
If you feel you need to reach out to a specialist, many of them will use CBT. This is a technique meant to rewire your brain to a new default attitude. One thing you might try if you start CBT is the “then what?” exercise. The premise of this exercise is simple: ask yourself, “then what?” after experiencing a negative thought. If you’re sure you shouldn’t try to pursue a promotion because you will fail, ask yourself, “what if you fail?”. The worst that could happen is you don’t get the promotion, and your life stays the same. But if you pursue that dream, you have the chance of reaching it. If you don’t try at all, you will never get what you want. This exercise can put everything into perspective and give you a more objective understanding of the situations you find yourself in.
If you feel defeated in tricky situations, try to see how you can change that. Instead of thinking you’re never going to find a job, know how to improve your resume. Don’t let negativity take over your actions. To release negative thoughts, you need to act positively.
3. Let Go Of Judgement
Judgment is one of the things that are hardest to get right. Yes, you can be constructive in your criticisms, but judgment alone stems from negativity. When you are judgmental, you are only throwing empty criticisms around without giving any constructive advice.
You probably know a lot of toxic people who judge everything around them. And you probably avoid those people. But you might be doing that too. Sometimes, it’s easier to find negative things to say about someone rather than accepting their strengths. People are hardwired to compare themselves to others. And when that comparison doesn’t favor them, they default to nit-picking rather than taking their inferiority in certain areas. Sometimes people judge others because they are different.
If you find yourself engaging in this toxic behavior, be aware this attitude keeps you in a negative bubble. What you can do to get out is to accept that being different isn’t inherently wrong. Someone looking different, having different opinions doesn’t make them inherently bad. Someone being better than you in one area doesn’t mean you don’t have your strengths. To release those negative thoughts, you need to change your core views. Try to focus on learning above everything else. If your work colleague can do something better than you, ask them how they did it instead of judging them.
Judging others, or yourself, will only make you mad, stressed, or sad. If you make it your goal to value people’s strengths, you become more open to learning, thus growing individually.
Final Thoughts On How To Release Negative Thoughts
Struggling to become more positive presents a challenge. It can affect all areas of your life, from health to work, relationships, and so on. The only way to release negative thoughts for good is to rewire your brain and work towards making positivity your default state of mind. Fortunately, there are ways to do this.
You can embark on this journey alone and follow the steps listed previously, or you can ask someone to help you. Don’t be too harsh on yourself; any progress is good. If you feel stuck, don’t be afraid to get professional help.