How To Get Out Of A Negative Thinking Spiral
When I think of negative thoughts, I think about Newton’s First Law of Motion: “A body in motion tends to stay in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.” That’s how negative thoughts work. They’ll just keep going and going unless something stands in their way. The one way they don’t exactly contend with Newton’s law is that they don’t remain at the same speed; they go faster and faster rapidly. Haven’t you noticed that? You start with one negative thought in ten minutes and before you know it, you’ve had back-to-back negative thoughts, every second, for a half hour. Those nasty little things pick up speed and they’re hard to put a stop to, but you can do it. And should, since you know how negative thought spirals have driven you to do some silly and even dangerous things. Here are ways to get out of negative thinking spirals.
Do one thing for your future
Sign up for that class you’ve been meaning to take that would give you an edge in your career. Finally, research different DIY websites so you can get your professional site up and running. Send ten emails to professional contacts you’ve been meaning to touch base with. It’s hard to focus on how things aren’t going your way if you’re actively working on making them go your way.
Meditation is sort of the heal-all solution. The whole point of meditation is not to engage in any of your thoughts—negative or positive—and just to let them float by. You acknowledge them, but you don’t let them affect you. At the very least, you can listen to a mantra so your brain is forced to take in information other than your negative thinking.
Go for a walk
Going for a walk gets your blood pumping and gets those endorphins going. It also exposes you to new stimuli, like a cute dog, a baby in a stroller, a chef hard at work in the window of a restaurant, an open mic happening in a coffee shop. Oh, look at that—you already forgot about those negative thoughts you were having.
Call that positive friend
You know that friend who is somehow always so positive? Give her a call. Tell her you could use some of her positivity; she is probably happy to share some. In fact, she lives for calls like these.
Call a lonely family member
Calling a lonely family member is an incredibly simple way to remind yourself what a positive force you can be for other people. Your grandmother in that retirement home or recently widowed great uncle will instantly perk up when they hear your voice.
Go out, find someone in need, and help
Go somewhere where you will likely find someone in need, and help. Offer a dollar, a bottle of water, a listening ear, sunscreen, an umbrella, or a snack. You’ll feel downright ridiculous for having been so negative when you remember there are people with much more pressing issues than yours.
Think of your accomplishments
You’ve been in this place before, you overcame it, and you’ll overcome it again. A great way to assure yourself of that is to think of your past dark places, and the accomplishments you managed to achieve after.
Think of someone less fortunate, who is often happy
If you think about it, you likely know someone whose life isn’t as objectively great as yours, who is always happy. The janitor at your office, the 60-year-old barista at the coffee shop making minimum wage…these people always greet you with a smile. So what the heck do you have to frown about?
Do jumping jacks
These take a lot out of you—so much that you don’t really have the energy or mental capacity for negative thoughts. And, they get those wonderful endorphins pumping.
Put on party music and dance
It’s hard to be upset when you’re blasting Lady Gaga, or Madonna (Or whatever your party music is) and dancing. Just force your body to move. Then, you’ll laugh at the contradictory nature of dancing and frowning.
Contradict each one
Acknowledge every negative thought that comes your way, and then say one thing that contradicts it. Don’t let those thoughts win. Say, for example, you think, “My friends make more money than I do.” Well, you could add to that, “I make enough money to pay my bills, and go on several nice vacations a year.”
Something about doing the physical act of smiling influences your thinking. When you activate those smile muscles, your face sends signals to your brain that state that you are happy.
Make a gratitude list
Sit down and make a list of things you’re grateful for. It’s truly impossible to keep those negative thoughts up when you’re focusing on listing the positive things in your life.
Go somewhere else
A change of scenery can do you a world of good. Go grab a coffee. Go to the farmer’s market. Walk through a park.
Don’t be hard on yourself
Don’t make negative thinking worse by getting upset with yourself for doing it. Everyone—even the most emotionally and mentally sound people—go through it. Take some pressure off yourself by admitting that it’s okay.