Our lives are built around patterns, some healthy, some not. Breaking bad habits takes self-awareness and discipline, which can result in frustration and feelings of defeat if they are not accomplished. But change is possible. Here are some tips on how to get the upper hand on unhealthy thoughts and behaviors.
Anyone who has ruminated on negative thoughts knows how hard it is to stop. Our tendency to dwell on the negative can prevent us from enjoying life and engaging with others. Breaking the cycle, however, is often easier said than done.
This is due to how our brain is wired. Our brains rely on detecting patterns to make sense of the world around us. These are based on our unique experiences and beliefs. As we encounter negative experiences, they may lead to negative thinking and self-talk.
It takes self-awareness and discipline to catch ourselves in negative thought patterns. But change is possible. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
Write it down
The action of writing can slow down free-range thinking and allow us to explore and reflect on what is actually causing our own thoughts.
Track negative thoughts
Quickly jot down negative thoughts throughout the day with the intention of reviewing them later. Set aside 10 minutes each day to read through what you’ve written. Identifying patterns of negative thoughts might help you understand which situations, people, or feelings create them.
Replace negative thoughts
Create a list with two columns. Write the negative thoughts on one side and more positive thoughts on the other. You can use this positive reframe as a way of replacing your negative thoughts in the future.
Treat yourself like a friend
What might we say to a friend who is engaging in negative thought patterns? Treating ourselves like we would a friend reminds us to give ourselves grace and understanding.
Practice gratitude – Take the time to acknowledge the things we appreciate. Remind yourself of everything you have. It’s helpful to select a certain time or setting each day where you choose to mentally create a gratitude list. This will help engage the habit of utilizing gratitude.
Limit negative influences
If reading the news or scrolling through social media causes a downward spiral, take a break! Commit to limiting or eliminating the sources that feed negative thoughts.
Prioritize eating well, getting quality sleep, and exercise.
Still your thoughts
Practice meditation, mindfulness, or yoga to focus on quieting your thoughts completely. Get out of your head and take a mental health break!