During times of uncertainty, it is more important than ever to pay attention to your mental health. Being confined to your home can get exhausting and lead to negative thinking. Negative thinking patterns or cognitive distortions can worsen anxiety and depression, so it is important to work on identifying and curbing negative thoughts. Asking questions like “What are my triggers?” and “How can I reframe this thought to be more positive?” can help reduce negative thoughts—and improve your overall well being.
To learn more about recognizing and combating negative thoughts, here’s a list of common cognitive distortions and some tips on how to retrain your brain to be more positive:
COMMON SIGNS OF NEGATIVE THINKING
The first step in including healthier thinking in your daily routine is by realizing that some current thoughts may be unhealthy or even harmful. Tactics like assuming the worst in situations can lead to lowering your overall expectations, which can hurt self-esteem and self-worth.
As you read through the following list, reflect on which negative thought patterns you may be bringing into your daily life:
Magnifying: Taking a small situation and turning it into something worse in your head. If you exaggerate events or situations frequently, your stress levels will increase.
Personalization: You feel like the spotlight is always on you (even when it isn’t). Your brain tricks you into thinking that everything people say or do is because of you, leading to a stressful exaggeration of reality.
Emotional reasoning: Disregarding facts and evidence and making assumptions based on emotions. Over time, this can lead to a distorted sense of reality and self.
Overgeneralization: This type of thinking leads you to believe that since you had a previously bad experience, all other similar experiences will be just as bad (or even worse). Overgeneralization is assuming that your future cannot be better than your past, and gives people a lack of hope.
Black-and-white thinking: This polarized thinking is the idea that there is no middle ground in situations. Either something is perfect or absolutely terrible.
TIPS TO STAY MENTALLY POSITIVE
Now that you have determined the type of negative thoughts you’re having (don’t worry, we’ve all got ‘em sometimes!), the next step is to try different methods to steer away from them. From creating a personal mantra, to acts of kindness, there are many ways to retrain your brain to think more positively.
CREATE A PERSONAL AFFIRMATION STATEMENT
What motivates you? What words, phrases, or sayings make you feel at ease? Finding motivating mantras and repeating them to yourself can be helpful to dissuade negative thoughts. If you feel like your negative thoughts are about to creep through, try and repeat the phrase constantly until you feel better, and truly believe what you are saying.
IDENTIFY YOUR THOUGHTS
Staying mindful of how you feel in each moment is a practical approach to staying mentally positive. If you recognize, in the present, that you aren’t feeling great, your mind feels heard and you are able to move on from those negative thoughts faster.
UNDERSTAND WHAT TRIGGERS YOU
If you find yourself constantly dealing with similar negative thoughts, it might be time to understand what triggers that thinking. What do the events have in common that lead up to this feeling? Is there a way to avoid them? Asking yourself these questions can help you better understand the root of the problem, and begin to solve it.
KEEP A GRATITUDE JOURNAL
A gratitude journal is beneficial to document your thoughts and practice mindfulness. Listing down how you are feeling can be a stress reliever, and makes things feel more in control. Gratitude journaling can be a great method for moving on from cynicalism, and for focusing on the positive.
ACTS OF KINDNESS
It’s proven that doing things for others boosts your mood. Acts of service and kindness are ways to uplift your spirit and make a positive impact on your community. It also helps boost your self esteem and helps you to feel like you are making a difference.
CHANGE EXTERNAL FACTORS
Sometimes, a redesign is necessary. If your room is dark, gloomy, and makes you feel suffocated, it might be time for you to change your external environment. Adding a sprinkle of life with plants and a lighter color wall can be helpful for making you feel happier and freer.
ADD ROUTINE IN YOUR LIFE
A daily routine of things that need to get done as well as new hobbies can help give you something to look forward to when you wake up each morning. Staying busy with things that you enjoy doing can block out the negative thoughts. Not sure what to add to your routine? Thankfully, the internet has a wide range of free classes to help you learn new things, entertain yourself in new ways, and provide inspiration for more at-home activities to do.
Positive thinking is easier said than done, and negative thoughts (while unfortunate) are a totally normal part of life. However, when negative thoughts begin to take up too much of your time, it can lead to exhaustion. To help counteract this cycle, trying out these new routines can help break you out of a stressful/negative rut and maintain a more positive, healthy mindset.
The visual below points out common thinking patterns, and offers ways to retrain your brain to curb negative self-talk. Check it out to learn how to reset your thinking!
FOUR WELLNESS TIP
Review the common negative thought patterns and use the tips above to retrain your brain to think more positively in tough situations.
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Stephenson, M. (2020, April 26). 8 Ways to Maintain a Positive & Healthy Brain // Four Wellness Co. Retrieved July 15, 2020, from https://fourwellness.co/blog/8-ways-to-maintain-a-positive-and-healthy-brain
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