We can spend a lot of time inside our head, usually worrying about things, replaying past events, and focusing on the negatives. Although negative and unwanted thoughts are common, they can prevent us from living our lives to the fullest. Sometimes negative thoughts can prevent us from enjoying daily life and fill us with feelings of anxiety, sadness, doubt, and low self-worth.
The important thing to note is that with dedicated practice, you can replace negative thoughts with positive thinking to support positive self-esteem and self-worth.
Try the following exercises to replace negative thoughts:
- Identify the negative thoughts and recognize the distortions: Take some time and write out some of those negative thoughts. Now look at some common thought distortions and see which ones you are practicing.
- Catastrophizing– Assuming the worst possible outcome is going to happen.
- Black and white thinking– Seeing everything as one way or another, without any in between (no gray area).
- Filtered thinking– Choosing to see only the negative side of a situation.
- Personalizing– Assuming you are to blame for anything that goes wrong.
- Overgeneralizing– When you take one instance or example and generalizes it to an overall pattern.
- Should statements– Statements that you make to yourself about what you “should” do, what you “ought” to do, or what you “must” do.
- Combat negative thoughts: Recognizing and understanding some of our negative thought distortions will help us learn to challenge them. Whenever you have a negative thought, stop and evaluate whether it is truly accurate. Think about how you would respond if a friend spoke about herself that way and apply that to yourself.
- Practice gratitude: Research has proven that practicing gratefulness has a big impact on your levels of happiness. Start a gratitude list and start identifying things you are grateful for.
- Recognize your strengths: Start focusing on strengths and not dwelling on past mistakes or choices. When we are able to recognize how strong we are it will be easier to feel positive about ourselves.
- Keep positive company: Surround yourself with positive and supportive friends. Having healthy and supportive friends can rub off on us and allow us to start thinking positively.
- Practice self-care: Take time for yourself. Relax and practice healthy activities. A healthy body and a healthy mind.