What’s the difference between feeling low, and feeling energised and upbeat? It’s of course down to how you’re thinking, and what you’re thinking about. Suffering from years of anxiety and depression, I wanted to put together a list of positive thinking techniques that help to pull me out of negative thinking patterns that I think we all find ourselves in from time to time.
If you’re like the rest of the human population, you probably find yourself in negative thinking spirals that can be brought on by a single event in your life. Before you know it, everything seems shitty and all hope is lost. Most of the time, we let ourselves marinade in our thoughts, causing them to become a bad habit, that then ends up also being a cycle. Your mind can be a helpful place, but sometimes it can give you unnecessary grief. So how can you put yourself straight and start finding hope when negative thoughts take over?
In my own personal experience, there are simple thinking techniques that can work wonders. I don’t believe in forcing yourself out of feeling fed up, because after all, you can end up feeling worse. However, a lot of the time it’s about plugging yourself back into logical thinking when your mind starts to wonder.
Why Is Positive Thinking So Important?
Negative thought patterns are lethal, in my experience. It’s the basis of all anxiety and depression. Without catching yourself before you start to spiral into negative thinking, the anxiety you feel can get worse and worse, and what started off as something little can soon seem like a major deal to you.
Negative thinking can;
- cause anxiety
- cause depression
- cause harmful stress
- bring on low self-worth
- give you a negative self-image
1. “Is This Helping Me?”
Sometimes a simple question can be all it takes to stop negative thinking in its tracks, and that’s why this positive thinking technique is my go-to. Asking yourself; “Is this helping me” can instantly bring about some peace of mind. When we find ourselves in negative thinking spirals, we normally do it because our brains are trying to ‘problem solve’. Even if there is nothing that can be done about a situation, we can’t help but mull it over, thinking about what we could of said or done differently. A lot of the time the answer to this question is ‘no’.
No matter how much we think about something, it often can’t help us in any way. Usually, it just makes us more and more anxious until we end up having a panic attack or we find ourselves exhausted. *yawns*
For example, let’s say that you’re worried about what your teacher is going to say to you after you didn’t show up for college the day before. Maybe you had an emergency and forgot to let him know. Maybe you were just bunking off? If so, shame on you! However, no matter how much you mull it over in your mind, it’s not going to help you, only stress you out more. The only thing that will help will be when you go in the next day and explain the situation.
2. “Everything Is Just Weather”
Some people thought that Jim Carrey was having a psychotic episode when he said: “I don’t think anything is real, everything is just weather“.
However, I think Jim made a good point when he said this. Believing nothing is real is a little extreme, but I get what he means. After His wife died, Carrey experienced depression and became a recluse. After the turmoil he experienced, he would later describe how he felt as ‘deep rest’, instead of depression. And, he’d describe every emotion and thought as ‘just weather’.
Every time we get into negative thinking, we can begin to think of everything as very permanent, forgetting that everything in life is very temporary, even our thoughts. Thoughts can linger like grey clouds, never making way for the sun to shine. However no matter how much we dwell, tomorrow always comes around, and with it, a new viewpoint. Before we know it, we’re thinking more positively, and then ultimately, we will at some point find ourselves feeling negative about things.
Like the weather, our thoughts bend and dissipate, forever shifting from god to bad, and bad to good. To get stuck in the grey clouds is when we feel the most pain. We forget that the weather changes rapidly and everything moves, often without us realising it.
And so for me, understanding that the weather is temporary is a very important positive thinking technique. It’s not something that can be argued with, because it is something that is happening at every point in time. One day I wake up feeling like shit – the next I wake up and I feel like I can rule the world.
Everything is temporary and moving, and there’s something about that fact that I find brings me peace of mind.
3. “Don’t Forget What You’ve Got”
Much of the time, we bring ourselves the most pain, not outside forces. We get stuck on our own POV, mainly because we can’t see through other peoples eyes. But imagine you could. Imagine what they would say about you and what your life looks like. Chances are, they would say that you have some pretty good things going on that they wish they had. Maybe you have a talent that they’d think would improve their lives if they had it too.
Humans are wired to want more of everything. More money, more relationships, more respect that we think we deserve. In the race to the top, or the race out of our darkest thoughts, we become blind to what we have, It’s easy to take things for granted when you’re only thinking about what you don’t have. Most of us have more then we need. Friends, family, and support networks are usually readily available to us, yet we push them away thinking that they are not useful. If you have any kind of network around you then you are lucky.
How can you use gratitude as a positive thinking technique then? To me it’s simple, taking the time to stop and appreciate those in your life is important because when you do this it’s impossible to be anxious or depressed at the same time. You might feel like you need to get your shit together, You might feel like you’re having a hard time and just need a break in life. Often times we have the things we need around us to have that ‘break’, but we just can’t see it.
At the end of the day, we’re all consumers, eating, watching, spending, but we never stop to look around us. Appreciate what you already have and you might just start to feel a little more positive.
4. Forget Everything You Think You Need
Point three leads us nicely onto point four. The Buddha taught us that attachment breeds misery. A need for things is what keeps us unhappy. I used to think that this idea was ridiculous because I thought that if I had a new car I’d be happy. The problem is, when we get something we want, we’re already thinking about the next thing, and so the cycle never ends leaving us in a state of unhappiness. Whilst you can show gratitude for what you have, it’s also important to not let external things hold any bearing over your happiness and positivity.
Having a new car or house is great, but it can easily hold your happiness in its clutches. What if you lost your car or your house? You’d be unhappy again. Whilst losing things or having things break isn’t nice, if we don’t lend our happiness to things that will ultimately wither away with time, we can be more positive from within.
Let’s look at the new car example;
I wanted a new car so badly. My college friends would turn up in their new rides every day at college and I felt like a bum having to take the train. It made me unhappy and jealous. So I started taking driving lessons and eventually passed. By the time I’d passed, the novelty had worn off and I was left with a car that ate into my finances. The car was never something that was going to make me happy, it only temporarily filled a void that never really existed in the first place.
As I get older, I’m learning not to ‘invest’ my happiness and positivity into external objects. Because I know that I’ll only be looking at the next thing, forever trying to feel that dopamine hit again and again, much like a drug addict. In a way, that way of living is self-torture. Nice objects can give you a sense of happiness, but that happiness is fleeting. So don’t invest your positivity and happiness into ‘things’, instead, try and invest it in yourself.
Imagine if you didn’t care to have anything, only your health and your family. Imagine how positive you’d be. There would be no void sapping at your happiness, only contentment with what you have – the important things.
Positive thinking techniques take time, so don’t force yourself to ‘be positive’. It’s really important to be sad if you have to be. Not everyone is positive all of the time, and no one is negative all of the time. Allow yourself to breathe and remember the techniques above next time you find yourself starting to spiral downwards.
This post was previously published on ProjectEnergise.com and is republished on Medium.
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