Have you ever wished you could turn off your thinking for a while when you find your mind racing and jumping to all sorts of unpleasant conclusions?
Well stopping negative thoughts in its tracks is not as difficult as it may seem. It’s simply a matter of learning to manage your attention.
Most of the techniques I am going to reveal to you in this post are going to be incredibly simple and are ones which you can use almost anytime.
These are all essentially techniques for becoming conscious and present to the moment. When we are caught up in negativity, our mind tends to close down and get irrational, and it becomes difficult to perform optimally whatever we are doing.
Using these techniques can also be particularly helpful when you are :
Getting fearful, worrying or caught up in negative thinking
When you get up in the morning and can’t seem to stop thinking about the previous night/day
Applying these techniques will help you to dissipate the negative thoughts as well as help you slow down and clear your mind. So let’s get started.
Become conscious of your body
Your mind could be in a million places at once, but your body is always in the present moment.
However, we go through our days, rarely paying any attention to how we are feeling in our bodies because our thoughts and external environment tend to consume most of our attention.
To do this, withdraw your attention from the external world and your thoughts and focus all of your attention on how your body is feeling in the present moment.
Bring your attention into your legs and hands and feel the weight of your body resting on the chair if you are sitting down (you can close your eyes if you need to).
Taking slow and conscious footsteps is another way to bring yourself into the present and snap out of thinking. Concentrate all your attention on how the soles of your feet feel as you take each step.
Doing these simple exercises for a few minutes will help you to interrupt and stop the momentum of negative thoughts and help you get centred.
Shift your focus to what you are thankful for
When you catch yourself worrying and thinking negatives thoughts, a simple way to shift your thinking is to pause and ponder on the question,
"What are the things that I am thankful for today/this week?"
It could be anything from your family, friends, music, good food or simple conveniences that make your life easier, which you might usually take for granted.
The more you focus your attention on what you are grateful for, the less you will find yourself slipping into negative thinking.
Journaling is something that helps me to slow down and gather myself when I find my thoughts running all over the place.
When it comes to journaling, all you need to do is to grab a book and write about all the thoughts that are bothering you or unload everything that is on your mind onto paper.
I find that when I write my thoughts down on paper they seem to have less power and feel less intimidating than when they were solely present in my mind. Moreover doing this helps me to clear up my mind and focus better.
Perhaps you could even make a ritual out of it by writing down all your worries and concerns onto a paper, saying a small prayer, then burning the paper and releasing them to The Universe/God.
Listen to music that makes you feel good
I find music to be one of the easiest ways to lift my mood. I could be having a bad day and hearing an old familiar song is all it takes for me to remind myself to stop being too serious and remind myself of how good life can be.
Consciously making an effort to pay complete attention to the music can help to calm your mind and stop it from slipping into negative thinking. Having a playlist of songs to turn to when you are feeling down can come in handy.
Work with your breath
Most people don’t realise what a vital role breathing plays in their state of mind. All of us have the power to influence our state of mind by simply changing the way we breathe.
Different states of mind correspond to distinct breathing patterns. Studies show that when people feel anxious or afraid, they tend to take in quick and shallow breaths. This causes our heart rate and blood pressure to rise and make us feel stressed.
On the other hand, when people feel relaxed and calm they breathe slowly and deeply.
When you find yourself agitated and restless, a simple method you can use to calm yourself and stop worrying is to do the 4-7-8 technique.
Breathe for 4 counts retain for 7 and exhale for 8 counts. (with your mouth open) Doing this for 5-10 minutes can reduce your blood pressure, heart rate and put you in a more relaxed frame of mind. Do note, however, it isn’t advisable to do this right after a meal.
Another way to work with your breath when you find yourself caught up in negativity is to simply focus all your attention on your breathing.
Observe your belly naturally rise as you breathe in and fall as you breathe out. Place your attention there for a few minutes.
Don’t let the simplicity of these techniques deceive you of their effectiveness when applied. Eckhart Tolle says in the book “The Power of Now” that,
Unease, anxiety, tension, stress, worry - all forms of fear - are caused by too much future, and not enough presence. Guilt, regret, resentment, grievances, sadness, bitterness... are caused by too much past, and not enough presence.”
The techniques mentioned above can be very effective because they help to bring you into the present moment. Ultimately the key to snapping out of negative thinking lies in taking charge of your attention and preventing your mind from wandering off on autopilot.
Try them out and put it to the test the next time you find yourself in a negative mindset.
Is there something that helps you to stop negative thinking? I'd like to hear from you in the comments below.
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