Overcoming Negative Thinking

Negative thoughts can come in many forms, such as stressing over things outside our control, feeling down from rejection, or even lacking a sense of meaning in life. It isn’t fun; dwelling on thoughts that can’t help us move forward is not a productive thing to do. So, what can we do in response to it? Can we adopt a mindset which makes everything seem much better, and less doom and gloom? There is a simple habit — you may consider it trivial — but is often completely neglected. It’s gratitude.

If you’re feeling down or worrying over things outside your control, then just take a step back. Create a list of the things which you’re grateful for in life, perhaps your education, your friends, the food you eat, having running water, etc. Putting things in perspective will alleviate your stress.

If you’re reading this article, you probably have an electronic device with which you can connect with people all over the world. Many people don’t have that. Comparing yourself to everyone you can see around you will usually not make you feel good. You might want a better job, a social circle you really enjoy, a new relationship partner, a new car; the list goes on. Being grateful for your circumstances will make you feel much better than before. Yes, the things that are getting you down won’t disappear. But if you feel down, it’s probably because you are focussing too much on the negatives of your life; rather than seeing the positives as well.

You should also remember that all that negative emotion you feel is just in your head. The difficulties of life always seem pressing but will rarely lead to your death. We evolved to feel lonely when we’re isolated from others so that we don’t leave the tribe and go out to fend for ourselves. In a tribe, getting rejected by someone could prevent you from passing on your genes, but nowadays it isn’t a real threat. Emotions came about to keep us alive in earlier times, but now the game has changed. It may seem horrible to trivialise negative emotions like this, though it’s something to keep in mind. It’s all part of putting negative emotions in perspective.

Expressing gratitude to others will also make you feel better and more appreciated by others while making them feel better themselves. Spreading kindness, happiness, and gratitude will invite similar feelings to come back to you. If you spread negativity, sadness, and fear, you’ll only reinforce those feelings in yourself, while attracting more negativity to come back to you.

Why does gratitude have such a powerful effect on happiness? There are several reasons.

It reminds you of the positive things in your life. It’s all about perspective. Losing sight of the great things about your current circumstances is common, bringing your head back to more positive thoughts will generally make you happier.

You can start to see bad things as good things in disguise. Consider the last time you got rejected. It likely made you feel terrible. If you view the situation through a lens of gratitude, you can start to see the positives of the rejection. You can see it as saving time you could have wasted if you continued working on pursuing what you got rejected from. It could also be a lesson you could learn, and an experience you can grow from. Finding the lessons you could learn from any given situation is a skill, it can be improved like any other skill. Seeing the unfortunate situation as something that yields lessons can help you be a little bit grateful for it happening, even if it was horrible. This isn’t only about rejections, seeing anything else which seems negative through the lens of gratitude helps to see the good points of whatever happened.

It also helps to remind you what’s important. Losing a competition you had hoped to win can make you feel sad. Creating a list of the things you are grateful for puts whatever small losses you may experience each week back into perspective. Things like family, friends, relationships, a place to call home — these are examples of things which could be vital to you, realising these helps so that the smaller losses don’t hurt so much.

Plus, it helps to remind you to appreciate others in your life and to express some thanks to them. Realising what you’re grateful for makes you realise what others have done for you in your life. As mentioned earlier, expressing gratitude to others is a brilliant thing to do, for both you and them.

Gratitude is the frame through which we see meaning in life. I can’t stress this enough. Remembering to be grateful is one of the best habits you can build for improving your well-being. Realising this and building on this habit can literally turn your life around for the better.

As I sort of mentioned before, I’d recommend spending a few minutes thinking about what you’re grateful for in life. Spending more time on this and/or writing them down will make this exercise much more impactful. Incorporating this into your life as a daily or weekly habit can do wonders for your self-esteem.