How do we deal with negative thoughts?
The question I’ve got here is, how do we control or change the negative thoughts that might be coming into our mind? It’s something that I can’t give a glib answer to because it’s a genuine problem at the moment.
“Post-pandemic, about 45% of people and adults are still suffering from some form of anxiety related to the pandemic.”
Now, there are a range of different things that could be worrying you, if you are struggling and it’s really beginning to impact on you, I would obviously encourage you to go and seek professional help. What we’re talking about here though is if you sometimes have a bit of a bad day where there’s some negativity and pessimism creeping in, there are ways that you can control it.
One of the ways of starting to do that for me is, if something happens, say I’m driving along and somebody cuts me up, I might have a negative reaction to that person and I might think of some rather colourful words to describe them and that can begin to hijack my mood, so one of the first things I would do is breathe.
It sounds really simple, but I’d take a couple of deep breaths and re-centre myself. If that person’s just cut me up because they’re slightly ignorant, or maybe they’re very arrogant, I still don’t want to let that affect me, because then they have now got control of my day.
And maybe they’re maybe having a bad day too and they’ve made a mistake cos they just want to get home, in which case, again, there’s no point getting worked up, we can give them the benefit of the doubt and cut them some slack.
“That’s a really quick easy thing, we can breathe, take a couple of deep breaths, and it helps us reset.”
How do we manage negative thoughts?
“The other thing that I like to do is find a way of thinking and looking at things differently. “
I know that if I go driving in a city centre that I’m not familiar with, I might get to a set of traffic lights and all of a sudden I’m in the left lane and I figure out I need to be in the right lane.
This is a point where I’m looking for a friendly driver to let me in as I’m indicating, and I might shrug my shoulders to indicate I’m lost and to sort of say I just want to get in there. Well the drivers might not respond in the way that I want them to because they might think I’m just trying to creep in and get ahead.
Now the funny thing is, when we’re lost in a city centre, we want people to be helpful. However, when we’re driving in an area we’re very used to and we know that when we get to a certain junction, people constantly undercut or wait till the last minute to nip in because they can’t be bothered queuing as we’ve done, we get very annoyed with them; but what if actually they’re one of those drivers who’s lost? When we think about things like that, at least for me, what it does is it gives me a little window where a disruptive, potentially negative thought might have been and forces me to think about it differently.
What if that person’s lost? And then I do a good turn and let them in and I think ‘I’ve just helped someone who’s lost’, and all of a sudden my mood feels a bit better. I can feel my shoulders relax and I can move on.
How do we process negative thoughts?
“The other thing to remember is when we get negative thoughts, a lot of the time it’s a protection mechanism. “
It’s actually our animal brain beginning to think, “Have you considered this?” looking for potential dangers, thinking up worst case scenarios. So what I’ll do is I’ll usually welcome the thought briefly, but I will then try to rationally process it.
If I believe that the more evolved, sensible processing is taking me in a different direction in terms of response, I’ll reallocate that thought. I’ll thank it for popping in, but I’ll try to let it go on its way and I’ll replace it immediately with something else I’m going to focus my attention on.
Now if it goes beyond that, start having at look in to things like mindfulness. There are plenty of apps out there. CBT is another method, cognitive behavioural therapy, and there are plenty of books. So, start to have a bit of exploration. I would even look at those things anyway because I think they’re just good as part of your overall daily life and wellbeing in an ever changing world.
I hope that’s helped. If you want more of these, come back and see some more MMC moments!