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Stuck in Negative Thinking? Get Unstuck With These Tips

  • Category: Prevention
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Joann Olson, MSW, LICSW
Stuck in Negative Thinking? Get Unstuck With These Tips

Ever find yourself stuck in cycles of repetitive ruminative thoughts that have a negative emotional tone? Do you have periods where you feel down, negative, or in what seems to be a constant bad mood? How often do you find yourself ruminating on mistakes made in the past, creating negativity?

Feelings of guilt and worthlessness may arise when you play over and over in your mind “bad” choices or “wrong” actions you feel you have made. Our minds can get stuck in a pattern of negative thinking, which can have a strong and sometimes devastating impact on all aspects of our lives. These ruminative cycles exacerbate feelings of sadness, shame or anger, and interfere with motivation to move forward.

People try many ways to ‘break out of their negative thought patterns through using distractions and diversions only to later find themselves stuck back in their negativity and struggling with an internal battle. With understanding and practice, though, you can change your thinking patterns to help you find inner peace and happiness.

Finding Inner Peace

It all starts with your thoughts… simple enough, right? Changing thought patterns that we have been stuck in for a long time is extremely difficult. Trying to just ‘think positive’ about a situation that is truly difficult doesn’t work. The fact is, people, can’t just “snap out of it;” however, there are ways to combat depressive, ruminative thinking.

Begin with learning to recognize repetitive, unproductive, negative thought patterns and identifying them as they occur. Pay attention to your thoughts and what is going on inside your mind at any given time. When not paying attention, the mind can be like a record playing the same habitual old tunes over and over in the pattern it is used to playing.

By bringing your conscious attention to your thinking patterns, you bring in a new dimension of awareness. You become mindful.

Notice that negative thoughts flow from two directions: the first is dwelling on the past and the second, worrying about the future.

Woman in the river meditating

To become fully conscious of your thinking processes, redirect your attention out of thought and into the here and now. Give the present moment your absolute undivided attention, whether you are in your home or at the office, noticing everything around you. Use your senses to their fullest, becoming more aware of the sounds, the scents, the sensation of the air on your skin or the seat beneath you. If you are eating, be aware of the flavors and textures of your food. Focus on a task, do one thing at a time and be in the present, fully experiencing it. It is nearly impossible to be both fully present at the moment and have negative thinking arising.

Change Your Thinking

By developing inner awareness, you can deliberately choose to change your thinking so it is constructive rather than destructive. Positive thoughts help you effectively face your day-to-day situations. The more you practice being in the present, the faster you’ll begin to redirect yourself and eliminate old habits of being preoccupied with negativity. You’ll be engulfed with a sense of peace.