I stopped making New Year’s resolutions a long time ago. Almost no one keeps their resolutions. Instead, I find it easier to set goals for the year ahead. They are easy to revise if they seem unrealistic. My goals this year include rereading all of Hemingway’s writings—I am about two-thirds toward my goal. The other is to eliminate negative thoughts from my brain and particularly from my speech. It really isn’t that difficult.
Dwelling on negative thoughts is like watering weeds.Norman Vincent Peale
It is normal to have negative thoughts, and they can be a protective mechanism to shield us from danger. However, what we do with that information is another story. Is the situation a real threat or are we viewing the world through a negative lens?
Managing Your Negative Thoughts
Negative thoughts can be unhealthy and cause anxiety, depression and stress. The first step is to admit that we are all guilty of having negative thoughts and comments. We pass a stranger on the street and comment on their appearance. I suggest that for the first week you don’t try and change your behavior but instead keep track of how many times you think or say something negative. Do you really need to comment on how badly you think someone is dressed? Think of a negative thought as something you can let pass. You don’t need to act or comment on them. You certainly don’t need to post a snarky comment on social media.
Ask yourself, “Do I?”
- Jump to conclusions.
- Catastrophize—always assume the worst in a situation.
- Think “should” statements? I should have done this or that.
- Personalize things—I must have done something wrong. It is probably my fault. Why don’t they like me?
- Minimize the positive.
Modifying Your Behavior
You started with the one-week inventory of negative thoughts. Now it is time to pick a few strategies from the list below and get to work on seeing the world through a more positive lens.
Steps to Eliminate Negative Thoughts:
- Take a moment. Don’t act immediately. Evaluate whether you really need to say something out loud or tell a person what you are thinking.
- Try to push your negative thoughts aside.
- Evaluate what the right next step is.
- Make an effort to find the things you like about a person or situation.
- Ask yourself if the thought is realistic or helpful.
- Challenge the thought before you speak.
- What would you tell someone having the same thought?
- Reframe the thought. If you are thinking, “No one likes me,” then reframe it as “I know three people who like me.”
- Catch people in the act of doing something right as opposed to what you think they are doing wrong.
I am always amazed by the number of negative comments I hear each day. Turning off the news and reducing your involvement on social media is a good first step to eliminate negative thoughts! Learn to be your own monitor and catch yourself in the act of saying something negative. Once you stop, you may be surprised how much better the world will look to you—and others.