Mindfulness

How to Stop Negative Thoughts from Controlling You

03/12/16 ·

Negative Thoughts & Emotions Control Us

It’s easy to let negative thoughts spiral out of control. Just a simple negative thought about your significant other, recent breakup, status at work, or financial situation can turn into hours of dread and despair. We can start to feel crazy when our bad thoughts get the best of us, especially when they start impacting our friends and family in our daily lives.

Recognize Negative Thoughts Early

The best time to stop negative thoughts is right when they begin. Nipping them in the bud before they spiral out of control is important. Try to be mindful of the following negative thought patterns:

1) All-or-Nothing Thinking: “I have to do things perfectly, because anything less than perfect is a failure.”
2) Disqualifying the Positives: “Life feels like one disappointment after another.”
3) Negative Self-Labeling: “I feel like a failure. I’m flawed. If people knew the real me, they wouldn’t like me.”
4) Catastrophizing: “If something is going to happen, it’ll probably be the worst case scenario.”
5) Mind Reading: “I can tell people don’t like me because of the way they behave.”
6) Should Statements: “People should be fair. If I’m nice to them, they should be nice back.”
7) Disqualifying the Present: “I’ll relax later. But first I have to rush to finish this.”
8) Dwelling on Pain: “If I dwell on why I’m unhappy and think about what went wrong, maybe I’ll feel better.” Alternately, “If I worry enough about my problem, maybe I will feel better.”

More likely than not your negative thoughts fall into one of the above patterns. Recognize your negative thoughts at face value, they are simply thoughts. By doing this you can bring yourself back to reality before diving deeper into the negative thought pattern which is only perpetuated by your negative emotions towards those thoughts. For example, take these two possible outcomes from the same scenario:

Scenario One: “Ever since I screwed up at work last week I can tell my boss has been acting differently towards me. He hasn’t come over to my desk this week like he normally does. He’s probably going to fire me. I can’t lose my job I need the money to pay rent and my car payment. How will I explain it to my friends and family? I can’t believe I’m going to be fired.”

Scenario Two: “Ever since I screwed up at work last week I can tell my boss has been acting differently towards me. I can’t read his mind though. Maybe he’s been really busy or preoccupied with something I don’t know about. I could always go talk to him about it if it’s bothering me more later.”

Scenario One lets the thoughts spiral out of control. Simply thinking your boss is acting strange led you to the “mind reading” negative thought pattern that he might be ready to fire you. This eventually led you to believe that you are being fired. Notice how quickly a random thought becomes a “truth.” Instead, recognize this negative thought pattern for what it is and ground your thoughts back into reality. Allow yourself to be less anxious and more realistic when these kinds of thoughts arise.

Sources: CTG.org