A few toxic thoughts can be the difference between a good day, and a really bad one – but many of us feel powerless to turn the unhealthy state of mind around. If this sounds familiar, and negative thoughts are starting to get you down, we’ve got just the thing: Seven actionable tips to get yourself back into a positive headspace. Keep scrolling!
According to Dr. Dion Metzger, psychiatrist and co-author of “The Modern Trophy Wife” there is nothing that leads to negativity quicker than directing too much energy towards the past. “Mulling over what could have happened, what should have happened, or what would have happened usually causes negative emotions to develop as a result,” he told us. Apparently focusing on the past actually prevents us from being truly present in the current moment and from moving forward in our lives. Therefore, he says one major step to letting go of negativity is to “stop obsessing about what was and focus on what is yet to be.”
Forgiveness is the process of giving up resentment towards a person or situation – showing empathy when someone has done the wrong thing by you. And, it could be the key to letting go of some serious negativity, explains psychiatrist and author Dr. Ayo Gathing. “Holding on to pain and anger only hurts you in the long run, so deciding to accept what has occurred and release the associated negative emotions is empowering. Letting go of the emotions does not mean restoring trust in someone, but it does mean not letting the situation have power over you.”
Ellie Burrows, cofounder of MNDFL studio in New York and bona fide meditation-nut ramps up her self-care routine whenever she’s feeling sad or angry. “I find that the more I can love, honor, and be gentle with myself in situations where I feel scared or fearful, the better able I am to sit in strong emotions,” she told us. Specifically, that might mean getting together with a loved one who can offer love and support, making time to move my body in a way that feels nourishing, meditating for longer than usual, or even treating herself to a massage.
Do you tend to replay or fixate on negative ideas or situations? Of course you do! And the more you try to tell yourself to stop thinking about things, the more you seem to obsess about it, right? Dr. Metzger says that the solution is to “shift the conversation in your head in a positive direction with positive self talk.”
This type of internal dialogue is about being optimistic and encouraging toward yourself and your life situations. “It is giving yourself the grace and understanding that you often give to others. This is the key to breaking the downward spiral of pessimism,” Dr. Metzger said.
If you can’t immediately pinpoint your negative thoughts, it may be easier to look at specific situations or interactions that cause you worry or other negative emotions, such as meetings with certain colleagues, going to the gym, or visiting your in-laws. “You likely have negative thoughts that run through your head when going into these situations, so pay more attention to what is leading to those negative feelings and try to avoid those people or situations if you can,” suggests Dr. Gathing.
“One of my favorite [meditation] teachers will often say, ‘True control comes from doing nothing’ and I repeat this like a mantra when my emotions are heightened,” MNDFL founder, Ellie, said. Sometimes if we just sit with ourselves in the discomfort and let it move through us instead of acting out or responding right away, we start to feel empowered instead of powerless.
“To prevent the vicious cycle of negative and self-defeating thoughts, it is important to develop a sense of self-worth,” says Dr. Metzger. The idea here is that you realize the amazing person that you are and know that you are good enough, you will begin to tolerate simple mistakes. “You will be able to tolerate the idea that no one is perfect, including you, and that you have flaws. You can then begin to silence your biggest critic, your own inner voice!”
If you think you or someone you know may be suffering from depression, contact your health care professional.