The Downward Spiral - Deepstash
5 Healthy Ways to Deal with Negative Thinking - Nick Wignall

5 Healthy Ways to Deal with Negative Thinking - Nick Wignall

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The Downward Spiral

The Downward Spiral

Everybody gets stuck in negative thinking from time to time:

  • Anxious bouts of worry and catastrophizing
  • Depressing spirals of self-criticism and judgment
  • Angry cycles of rumination and resentment

Unfortunately, the way most people try to deal with their negative thinking is completely unhealthy and only makes the problem worse in the long term.

Identify the Emotions Behind Your Negative Thinking

Identify the Emotions Behind Your Negative Thinking

The content of your thoughts determines the content of your moods:

  • If you’re constantly worrying, you’re going to feel pretty anxious.
  • If you’re chronically ruminating on how someone hurt you, you’re going to feel pretty angry.

Negative thinking can lead to painful emotions, but painful emotions can also be a trigger for negative thinking (and more painful emotion!)

So it’s worth identifying which emotions or moods tend to make you more susceptible to unhelpful negative thinking patterns.

Distinguish Helpful vs Unhelpful Negative Thinking

Distinguish Helpful vs Unhelpful Negative Thinking

Just because you’re having negative thoughts doesn’t mean something’s wrong. In fact, negative thinking can be a very good thing!

What you want to watch out for is a specific type of negative thinking that is unhelpful.

Your brain’s primary job is to keep you safe and that requires some negative thinking.

Instead, save your energy for identifying and managing unhelpful or unrealistic negative thinking, which from here on out is what I’m referring to by negative thinking.

Call out Your Cognitive Distortions

Call out Your Cognitive Distortions

Cognitive distortions are errors in thinking that lead to unnecessarily painful and prolonged emotions.

We all fall into cognitive distortions from time to time. And while you probably can’t avoid them altogether, you can get much better at noticing them.

Anytime you feel your mood dropping or some difficult emotion intensifying, ask yourself:

What was I thinking just now? What thoughts led to this shift in emotion or mood?

Write down that self-talk on paper and look for any cognitive distortions. Once you find some, calmly and nonjudgmentally identify which they are 

Do your negative thinking intentionally, not reactively

Do your negative thinking intentionally, not reactively

Most people are in the habit of only thinking about their negative thinking when it shows up.

The best time to do hard, important work is when you’re feeling good, not when your life is falling apart!

And this principle applies to negative thinking as well.

Instead, you need to practice and prepare for it. And that means taking some time to intentionally confront your negative thinking head-on so that you can get to know it and make a real plan for navigating it at the moment.

Identify Your Negative Thinking Triggers

Identify Your Negative Thinking Triggers

If you understand what types of situations or events are most likely to trigger negative thinking, you can avoid a lot of negative thinking before it even happens.

Identify the triggers for negative thinking, deal with those triggers more directly, and you won’t experience nearly as much negative thinking in the first place.

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