Many of us walk around with a pretty annoying script playing in our heads. It tells us things like, "I suck at everything," or "My mom was right about me." While it's OK to occasionally have a healthy dose of self-doubt, more often then not you should snap yourself out of toxic thoughts. ASAP.
That's because toxic thoughts are negative. And when negativity runs rampant, it can start affecting all aspects of your life. As Philip Viana noted on Lifehack.org, "It becomes a cycle where negative thoughts reinforce negative emotions, which in turn produces negative actions. If the cycle is not broken, and left to run uninterrupted, it inevitably has a detrimental physical and mental effect on the person experiencing the spin. In addition, if these cycles spin often enough, they can lead to clinical depression and anxiety."
Of course, stopping toxic thoughts is way easier said than done. Sometimes they are the products of bad things that happened when you were a kid, and have since been stuck in your mind for ages. Other times, they are due to low self-esteem, and we all know how difficult that can be to fix. It's up to you to get to the root of the problem. But for now, you can make life way easier by snapping yourself out of the negativity. Here's how to do it.
1. Stop Thinking In Black And White
Life is definitely not black and white. We all know there are gray areas to everything. And yet, when it comes to the thoughts in our heads, it can seem like the world is a pretty strict place full of "always" and "nevers."
Luckily, this type of thinking is pretty easy to spot. As Sarah Elizabeth Richards noted on DailyBurn.com, "Watch out for thoughts containing the words 'always' or 'never.' They’re usually distorted and don’t give you an accurate view of what’s happening in your life. Classic examples: 'I will never succeed' or 'I always mess up my workouts.' Absolutes, such as 'if I can’t do it all, none of it is worth doing' or 'I just ate a cupcake and now my diet is destroyed,' are dangerous, too."
2. Don't Let People Get To You
Look for a pattern between your negative thoughts and what happened just before. Was your boss reprimanding you right before you got caught in a cycle of "I can't do anything right"? If so, assess the situation, and see if that was an appropriate response on your part.
If you're used to toxic thoughts, you might be in the habit of totally crumbling under other people's judgements. But if you take a second and break these moments down, you might be able to see that your boss is simply cranky in the afternoon, and there's no reason you should take anything she says to heart. Recognize that people often take out their problems on others, so try not to take everything personally. (And also consider surrounding yourself with nicer, more positive people.)
3. Ask Yourself "What Good Is This Doing Me?"
When your thoughts are running away with you, take a second to ask yourself "what good is this doing me?" You only get so many hours in a day, and so many days in your life. Do you really want to spend them in a swirl of self-doubt, self-hatred, and negative?
Nah, probably not. So choose to only have thoughts that push you in the right direction. Put a positive spin on the bad, and look for ways to learn from any situation. As Sheila Viers pointed out on HuffingtonPost.com, "When we look for the good in any situation, and appreciate that it is helping us in some way to become stronger, smarter, or better equipped, it no longer has the negative feelings attached to it. Every seemingly bad situation has the power to make our life better if we allow it, and letting it is the key."
4. Get A Positive Thought Stuck In Your Head
Isn't it amazing how negative thoughts can get stuck on your head as if on repeat, but that rarely happens with anything positive? I mean, why's it so much easier to walk around telling ourselves we are ugly, or dumb, or boring? Shouldn't it be just as easy to walk around saying we are beautiful, smart, and oh so very exciting?
Try saying those things to yourself instead, especially when negative thoughts are trying to take over. Choose a little mantra, and repeat that over to yourself. Make sure it's positive, and reflects things about yourself that you truly love. Get that stuck in your head on repeat, and hopefully it'll take the place of anything toxic.
5. Clear Your Mind With Breathing
Many times toxic thoughts come in moments of anxiety. You know the ones — when you're about to give a presentation, or head out for a date, or meet up with a family member you don't get along with so well. These are the moments that fill us with dread, and turn on that broken record of toxicity.
When this happens, take a moment and clear your mind. As Nicole Dandrea noted on MindBodyGreen.com, "It’s easy to get caught up in our heads when we’re feeling blue. Try deep breathing by simply inhaling and exhaling for a count of five. Inhale for 1-2-3-4-5 and exhale for 1-2-3-4-5. Slowly. Getting some head-space can help to get rid of negative thoughts and leave space for happy thoughts."
6. Make Sure You're Living In The Present
When a toxic thought takes over your brain, it's often due to something that happened years ago, or something you suspect might happen in the future. Rarely does it have anything to do with what's actually happening in the present.
That's why staying in the moment can help short circuit the thought process. According to an article on OutOfStress.com, "Negative thoughts arise because of our preoccupation with the past and the future ... They have no reality beyond the images running through our mind. The past cannot be relived and the future never comes. Only the present moment has a reality to it."
7. Figure Out What Triggers You
I'm sure some days are worse than others, so take a mental note of what's going on when you start to feel extra bad about yourself. As Richards noted, "It’s important to identify what makes you sink into a shame spiral. One of the most popular methods of squashing negative thinking is called cognitive behavioral therapy, which is based on the idea that thoughts influence feelings, which then influence behavior. The goal is to recognize your unhelpful thought patterns, so you can challenge them and create a new habit."
It's all about staying aware, and figuring out new ways to think. Once you can replace toxic thoughts with positive ones — or at least more realistic ones — you'll be much less likely to spiral into negativity land.
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