The way you think dictates your life, your world, and how you handle different situations. It can dramatically affect your mental health, so having a negative mindset can damage your psyche.
But changing an ingrained mindset, no matter how bad it is, can be challenging. Here are 5 effective ways to change a negative mindset and replace it with a positive one to help you out.
1. Identify Triggers of Negative Thought Patterns
As with all things, you cannot change a negative mindset if you don’t confront it head-on and reflect upon its causes. Finding the worst of your negativity triggers is often the first big step in overcoming those thoughts and shifting towards more productive and positive thinking.
Identifying a trigger usually involves being aware of the events that are leading to the instigation of negativity. To help foster this awareness, when you notice a negative thought pattern, start practicing the act of understanding its roots. Here are some questions you can ask yourself to get started:
· What Was It That Happened?
Ask yourself what happened that led up to your negative explosion. Try and think about all the little details. Triggers can be surprisingly subtle and difficult to catch!
· Where Did This Happen?
Sometimes, the environment can be the cause for the triggering of something negative. Maybe it was too crowded, too loud, or somewhere you were uncomfortable. Maybe it reminded you of other negative events. Think about it!
· Who Was With Me When This Happened?
Sometimes, people can play a role in their reactions. Being around people who are experiencing negative thoughts can make you more prone to similar patterns, and agitated or aggressive people may further trigger these reactions in you.
· When Did This Begin To Happen?
Can you pinpoint the exact moment your emotions became more heightened? Can you see a trend of negative thoughts forming during certain periods of the day or even week?
· What Happened Right After That?
Think about what happened next. Did that further your negative thoughts or help them? What do the results of the events and your thoughts mean for the reality of the situation?
2. Pay Attention To Your Negativity and Patterns
You already know that you must confront negative patterns, but you can’t really do that if you’re not paying enough attention to them. Self-awareness is the key to understanding a negative mindset and learning to change it to a positive one. Here are some tips for paying attention to yourself in productive ways:
· Pay Attention To Reactions of Emotional Intensity
Emotional reactions to events are not inherently wrong or unhealthy. However, noticing them, understanding them, and being aware of their intensity is crucial to understanding a negative mindset and swapping it to the positive. For example, when someone rejects you, you ask out, do you feel a little hurt and need a few hours to recover? Or do you spend a week moping about at home? As another example, when someone cuts in your lane on the road, do you briefly shake your head at their dangerous actions, or do you start shouting expletives? Take note of how intense your emotional reactions are, and you’ll be able to find reactions that indicate a more serious negative root issue getting in the way of your positive thinking.
· Pay Attention To Automatic Thoughts
Automatic thoughts are mostly uncontrollable, and they occur naturally, as an immediate response to personal interpretations of input and circumstances. These thoughts are usually shaped by ingrained beliefs, past experiences, and worries. For example, when you receive a message marked “urgent” from an employer, you might immediately begin to fear that you’re in trouble, even though you haven’t opened the message yet! Or when someone is dressed nicely, you might instantly think about how bad you look in comparison, even though that’s an unproductive thought. Learning to catch and notice these automatic thoughts helps you dig at their roots, so you can change them as you go.
· Keep A Thought Journal
If you have trouble with being aware of your thoughts and patterns, try logging them in a journal. You can opt to write down notable thoughts when they occur or record them all at the end of the day by brainstorming your day’s events. This is a commonly used trick in many therapy and treatment plans for mental health issues related to negativity and anxiety. If you record your negative thoughts, you’ll see your negative mindset and will be able to take steps to move towards a more positive one.
3. Add Positive Habits To Your Routine
Changing a negative mindset often means making bigger adjustments to your overall life. Often, the habits you form could be responsible for enabling or furthering the worst of your negativity. Here are some positive habits that you can try incorporating into your regular life to shift your thinking and encourage a healthier mind slowly:
· Create A Good Morning Routine
If you get a bad start to the day, you’re not going to feel good about yourself. That’s why the incorporation of a healthy morning routine can be crucial to developing a more positive way of thinking. It’s up to you how you make your morning routine better. Still, simple factors like ensuring a healthy breakfast, getting some time for exercise, or using positive affirmations can help make you feel better from the get-go before you even leave your house.
· Stop To Breathe
In this bustling, fast-paced world, you could use a little time to slow down and rest your mind, letting your worries slip away. Use reminders, alarms, and even scheduled blocks of time to remember to stop what you’re doing and take a breather. It doesn’t have to be for a long time – just five minutes will work wonders for your positive thinking and stress levels. As time goes on, try incorporating the breathing break whenever you feel your negative mindset rearing its ugly head.
· Try Mindfulness
Mindfulness refers to the act of living in the present. It means letting go of worries about the future and thoughts about the past and simply existing as you are. A lot of people attribute it to meditation, which you can certainly add to your routine. But mindfulness is about more than that. It means being aware of and appreciating your world. It means taking note of everyday things you usually take for granted, and it means learning to let bad things slide off your back so you can take things one step and a time when needed. It’s a great way to shift to a more positive mindset!
4. Hit Pause – Not Stop!
Sometimes, the quickest way to change negativity to positivity is by directly stopping that bad thought pattern in its tracks. The important part is learning to pause the pattern to change it, not stop and block the pattern permanently to the point where it is never followed through on. Here are some elaborations on this:
· Pause To Restructure
If you don’t hit pause when you first experience a negative thought or reaction, you won’t be able to catch it and take note of your initial impulse. If you feel that negativity bursting forth, stop and think first. This is especially true if you tend to give in to vices and unhealthy coping mechanisms when sad or if you lash out at those around you when angry. These strong emotional reactions can be prevented if you learn to pause before they take over you.
· Choose To Change
When you pause, you’re giving yourself a few seconds to make a choice. Do you want to handle your emotions explosively, or do you want to be proactive and wise? Do you want to allow your negative mindset to rule you, or do you want to teach yourself more positive ways of handling what you feel? This choice is up to you!
· Remember, Don’t Stop, Just Pause
There’s a difference between pausing to understand your emotions and stopping them altogether. Trying to stop a negative thought process, emotion, or reaction by simply repressing it will lower positive thinking in the long run. At no point has negative repression ever been beneficial to one’s mindset! If you want to swap bad thoughts for good thoughts, you have to allow yourself to confront your thoughts, not avoid or ignore them.
5. Create New Thoughts
The most crucial part about changing your mindset from negative to positive is the act of learning to create new thoughts. Your replacement process won’t work if you don’t have good thoughts to slide into the spots left behind. These can be simply positive thoughts that contradict the initial bad ones, or they can be careful corrections of your original thinking. Here are some examples of replacement thoughts:
· Example 1
Initial negative thought: I’m going to be in so much trouble if I mess up this project!
Positive replacement thought: I’m equipped with great skills for this project and can do a great job on it!
Alternative positive replacement thought: This project is quite a challenge; what a great opportunity to learn!
· Example 2
Initial negative thought: Wow, what a jerk, he almost drove right into me and killed me!
Positive replacement thought: That was quite scary, but I know I’m a good driver, and I could have handled things going south.
Alternative positive replacement thought: I’m thanking my lucky stars that the driver missed me just in time!
· Example 3
Initial negative thought: It’s going to be so tough when we move to a new city.
Positive replacement thought: It may be a challenge to adapt to a new city, but I know we’ll be able to address any issues as we go.
Alternative positive replacement thought: Moving to a new city opens up so many opportunities for us!
· Example 4
Initial negative thought: I can’t believe that person was so mean to me, what a terrible person.
Positive replacement thought: That person seems like they’re having a rough day. I hope they cheer up soon!
Alternative positive replacement thought: I don’t need to expend energy being angry about someone’s unfairness; I know I handled myself well!
A negative mindset can make the difference between success and failure. Your brain is such a powerful thing, and dedicating it to something positive allows you to manifest the very best out of life!