Negative thinking doesn’t define your character and has nothing to do with you as a person. Know what else? We ourselves control each negative though. But, we often let negative thoughts have a huge impact, and this is what causes damage.
The Buddha once said: “Your worst enemy cannot harm you as much as your own unguarded thoughts.”
Dr. Alice Boyes, a former clinical psychologist and author of The Anxiety Toolkit, describes cognitive restructuring as “a core part of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT),” which Dr. Boyes says “is one of the most effective psychological treatments.”
This article teaches some fundamentals of cognitive restricting. Check them out:
5 Ways to Reframe Negative Thoughts
- Observe the negative thought
Simply observe the negative though! In general, negative thoughts are a product of cognitive distortions, or irrational thought patterns. You don’t need medication or psychotherapy- you only need to observe the thought and then watch it dissipate.
- Question any rumination
Ruminations are patterns of overthinking, e.g., “I have this problem, which I can solve if I just keep thinking about it.” Most ruminations are filled with negative thinking and are completely pointless, unless you are trying to solve a problem.
Here is a suggested solution:
Create 2 columns on a sheet of paper and label the first column “Thought” and the second one “Solution.”
When the rumination appears, write down the time and then write anything of use in the second column.
At the end of the week or month, count the number of time the negative thought appeared.
- Determine the evidence
Determining the evidence behind the thought is yet another way of reframing it. For instance, if you’re always thinking “I never have enough money,” assessing the evidence is a good idea. Here is how to do it:
Create 2 columns. In the first one, write any proof that you “never have enough money,” e.g. bank account balance. In the second column, write any objective evidence demonstrating the contrary, e.g having food, clothing, and shelter.
So, what is conveyed through this exercise? Can you say with 100% honesty that you never have enough money? And, what is the next action if the answer is yes? Do you limit your spending an create a budget?
- Practice mindfulness
As explained by Christopher Bergland, a three-time champion of the Triple Ironman triathlon and scientist, mindfulness is “much more basic than most people realize.” He breaks this approach to mindfulness down to 3 simple steps: “Stop. Breathe. Think about your thinking. Everyone is recommended to use this technique during the day to stay optimistic, calm, and focused.
- Understand impermanence and neutrality
Negative thoughts are fleeting and temporary, as discussed in the very beginning. It is extremely important to remember this, no matter when negative thoughts cross your mind. As a matter of fact, you can create and recite a maxim, for instance, “This is a negative thought. I’ll observe but not engage, as it will quickly flee.”