How To Deal With Negative Thoughts
As a kid, Tigger was one of my favorite characters from A.A. Milne’s series, Winnie the Pooh. His happiness got all over everyone as he bounced his way through life. His counterpart, Eeyore, was the donkey whose sadness could be just as infectious.
For most of my life I have leaned toward the Tigger attitude. I have enjoyed laughter and humor. I have always been an optimist, perhaps to a fault. The cup has always been half full at least in my eyes. Pessimism has never been on my radar. However after walking through a long and arduous season of difficulty, I found myself continuing to battle negative emotions. Unlike Tigger, I had lost my bounce and could not get it back. What happened? Why were negative emotions haunting me still?
About this time I read You Can Be Happy No Matter What (Richard Carlson). He wrote, “Every negative (and positive) feeling is a direct result of thought.” Our minds are constantly thinking and those thoughts cause us to have emotions. We have jealous feelings because we have jealous thoughts or we have angry feelings because we have angry thoughts.
I realized that my negative emotions were coming from negative thoughts. In order to overcome my negative emotions, I needed to deal with my negative thoughts, which can be incredibly powerful. Our minds tend to hang on to negative thoughts more than the positive.
Negative thoughts can be incredibly destructive as well. If we allow them to continue, they create a loop that we keep playing over and over. They can lead us toward a downward spiral of emotions that can result in self-destructive actions. Our thoughts become feelings that lead to actions. Negativity can be a thinking pattern we develop from disappointing circumstances that beat us down or cause us to live in hopelessness. For me, I was disappointed and kept being disappointed. All I could see was darkness.
What did I do? How did I deal with the negativity loop?
1- I recognized the negativity. That may sound simplistic, but negative thoughts had become routine for me and I did not even recognize them. However I was becoming more self-aware. The negative thoughts had become normal for me and I did not like it. Once I became aware of them, I wanted to recover my optimism. That is where it begins. Become aware of your negative thoughts. Are you critical? Do you complain? Do you have a negative outlook on most situations? Do you see what is wrong before you see what is right?
2- I realized I needed to control my thoughts. I could not keep thinking negative thoughts and hope to move forward in a positive direction. I knew that I had power over my thoughts. I could choose to be happy or I could choose to be sad in that moment. My emotional state was not up to my circumstances always. That was my decision. While acknowledging that life was difficult, I did not have to dwell on that all the time. I could think about other things.
Part 2 follows. What about you? How do you deal with negative emotions and thoughts?