Even if you are not suffering from depression or anxiety, negative thoughts can and will invade our day. I consider myself an optimist, however it would be foolish of me to claim, that unexpected bills, the drama of relationships and parenting, and simply living in these turmoil political times do not affect me, my mood and my ability to focus on what is really important. If we are not careful, these negative thoughts can form a pattern and habit of thinking that makes it hard to stop.
Through trial and error, however, I have combined strategies on how to stop the automatic negative thinking process that works at the moment – without having to stop in your actions, sit down and meditate, or without having to resort to therapeutic techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.
Both of these principles work well in the long run, but they are not necessarily useful during a busy day, or while we are experiencing automatic negative thoughts in the present moment.
5 Principles on how to stop the automatic negative thinking process
The following principles can be used whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or are working through a task that fills you with dread.
- take a deep breath – preferably three deep breaths – become present
- be aware of what you are doing – focus
- observe how you are feeling – awareness
- ask yourself: is it in my circle of control? If no – let go, and move on. If yes – move perspective to curiosity and gratefulness – perspective
- see if there is anything I can be grateful for at that moment – gratitude
Step one is based on the principle of mindfulness. It stops the racing thoughts, without erasing them, but rather grounds you in the present moment. Breathing deeply refocuses into our body, calms our mind, and serves as a disconnect.
Step two takes us from mindless scattered actions and allows us to be deliberate. Just like our thoughts, many of our day to day activities are done without thought. This practice gives us a chance to work on our ability to be in the moment.
Step three connects us to our emotions, without judgment. The key is to observe them without judgment, without attaching a negative or positive label, and without the associated guilt that comes with this type of labeling. Awareness of our present emotions gives us the chance to control them in the next step.
Step four is a question that is based on a principle of Stoic philosophy: Knowing Your Circle of Control. Often, we are concerned, worried, and consumed by aspects of our lives that we not only unable to control but should not want to. It gives us a chance to discern and move our focus toward what we actually can control – our judgment and response to a situation, our thoughts, and our own actions. If we take this moment to let go of taking on the responsibilities for that which is outside of our control, we can now direct our attention toward what we can actually do about a situation or task. That, in turn, gives us a sense of power, allows us to approach each situation with curiosity, and gets us ready for the next principle.
Step five gives us the chance to see any potential lessons, blessings or positivity within the current situation. You may feel a sense of resistance when I talk about finding a potentially positive aspect of your current situation, while you are struggling in some form or another. However, I have found that in most cases and situations, lessons can be found, if one chooses to look, even if it is only learning how to focus.
Practicing these principles over a period of at least 30 Days decreases automatic negative thinking, and assists you to find a more productive outlook.
Video: Breaking Your Addiction To Negative Thinking by Eckhart Tolle
15 Powerful Quotes About Negativity and Negative Thinking
- “Stay away from people who gossip and spread rumors. They are choosing the path of emotional bullying and negativity.”
― Steve Maraboli
- “Life has too many disappointments to make room for negativity.”
― Daniel Willey
- “It is not what happens to you that matters; it is how you feel about it that does.”
― Shannon L. Alder
- “There’s so much negativity in the world and what you only need to hear is all the love.”
― Miley Cyrus
- “The beauty in the outer world can only be seen, when one stops focusing on the negativity in their inner world.”
― Anthony Liccione
- “Negative people talk and your dreams begin to wither off. But they begin to sprout in the fragrance of hope when they find new soil! Change your environment!”
― Israelmore Ayivor
- “You can either feed negative thoughts or you can starve the suckers.”
― Fawn Weaver
- “Life is too short to dwell in the negativity all the time.”
― Michelle M. Pillow
- “Lay down your cynicism, and believe in the transformational power of love.”
― Bryant McGill
- “Don’t spread negativity, that stuff is contagious and ruins us. The good news is, positivity can also be contagious and it lifts us.”
― Joshua Neik
- “Be wise. Banish the self-limiting words: “I don’t know how to …” “I can’t do that because …” “I never have any money …” Every negative phrase you utter in a day, is like poison to your soul. Your subconscious hears it and believes it. This limits you in ways you cannot even fathom.”
― Beth Ramsay
- “You will be surrounded by negativity but you shall overcome it with positivity.”
― Alcurtis Turner
- “Negativity is cannibalistic. The more you feed it, the bigger and stronger it grows.”
― Bobby Darnell
- “Negative thinking will not produce positive changes – ever.”
― Taite Adams
- “There is nothing more powerful against negativity than sustained compassion.”
― Odille Rault