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Combating Negative Thinking

Negative thinking can be a hard habit to break, especially if that is the type of thinking that you have been accustomed to your entire life. If you have been engaging in these types of thoughts, core beliefs, and self-talk for long enough, negativity can start to become your baseline, essentially forming a habit of it.

Nobody intends to think negatively; it seems that it just so happens that way. We say things like “I’ve always been like this” as a way to justify our behaviors. When we fall into a pattern, and it can be difficult to recognize and change.

I believe we all struggle with negativity on a daily basis, but if you recognize when your default is to see the glass as half-empty, then perhaps it’s a good idea to start actively changing your way of thinking in order to start building a new life for yourself.

Personally, I thought that my pessimistic outlook was a more “realistic” one. It seemed false, temporary, and overly hopeful to be positive about life. I believed that my unfavorable opinions of myself and the world were unalterable facts. I gradually transformed into someone I didn’t even recognize as I quickly become accustomed to these negative tendencies.

Despite the fact that I still struggle with negativity, I have learned a lot over the past six months that has helped me in replacing these patterns with more empowering ones, so I thought I would share some of what I’ve learned.

  • Recognition
    • Recognizing your negative thought patterns is often the first step in beginning to transform them. I started off slowly by attempting to become aware of the times when I was speaking or thinking negatively. I did not place any pressure on myself to act or talk differently. To recognize problems, become conscious of one’s ideas and thoughts.
  • Reading self-help books
    • Becoming more educated on the topics of the self, trauma, core beliefs, and habits has really been helpful in identifying where negative thoughts and beliefs come from and how it is affecting life. Through reading, you can gain a better understanding of yourself and the world around you. Two books that I recommend on the subject are:
      • The Happiness Project
      • Already Enough: A Path to Self-Acceptance
  • Journaling
    • Journaling has been a great tool in combatting negative thinking. Journaling assists you in getting thoughts down on paper and allows you to recognize, change, and physically rewrite them. One of my favorite ways to journal is to write down negative core beliefs that I currently hold, and next to it in a different color, I rewrite that belief to be a more self-serving one.
  • Meditation
    • The practice of meditation has significantly impacted my life. It takes a lot of work and can be hard for most people to be able to sit stationary for minutes a day and just exist without thought. I’ve learned to be more aware of my emotions and myself by taking the time to sit quietly and re-connect with my inner child and with life. I can take some time during meditation to be alone with myself and be grateful for being alive.
  • Adding activities into your life
    • Life can feel mundane if you don’t have any interests, hobbies, or extracurricular activities to engage in outside of your commitments. If you’re anything like me, you might not be entirely sure what your interests or hobbies are, and you might be unsure of what activities to include in your day. I advise you to consider things you’ve always wanted to study, things you wanted to do when you were younger, or things you’ve always wanted to do but haven’t.
      • Volunteering- picking a nonprofit or organization that you care about and would like to donate your time to can add so much value and joy to your life. It’s hard to be negative when you’re giving back to others.
      • Musical lessons- Ever wanted to learn the piano? Or get out your clarinet from middle school? Learning how to play an instrument can be a great activity to add to your life, while also building new skills, and possibly finding a hidden talent!
      • Language/ Skill Learning- Learning a new skill or language can be challenging yet thrilling! By filling your time with personal development in an area or aspect of your life, you are enhancing yourself and fostering new positive energy.
      • Start a collection– This can be a fulfilling and fun activity to begin in your life, with so many different types of things you can collect, you’re likely to find something you enjoy. I have a vinyl, cat mug, and book collection. These turn everyday trips to the store even more thrilling because I may be able to add something to my collection!
      • Get outside- Getting outside for at least 15 minutes a day, and truly experiencing the beauty of the nature around you can feel refreshing and always gives me a new positive outlook on life. I try to find at least 3 beautiful things about nature every time I go on a walk.

Remember, change takes time. You cannot unlearn many years of negative thinking overnight. However, to start with changing one small negative thought into a positive one each day, in time, will add up to a lifetime of positivity.

Ashlee ZaragozaVolunteer at The Kim Foundation