5 Ways to Keep Negative Thoughts from Spiraling Out of Control

Compliments of Valerie Burton

No matter how positive of a person you are, some days are better than others. One negative encounter can ruin an entire day, if you dwell on it. And if you’re dealing with an ongoing challenge – such as a job loss or divorce, financial stress or a health problem – it’s imperative that you learn how to stop negative thoughts before they spiral out of control. In fact, learning this one key skill can keep you from sabotaging your success, ruining relationships and even sinking into depression.

The key is to catch yourself in the moment when you are stewing over a negative situation. You know how it starts: You encounter a rude driver in traffic on your way home from work after having a disagreement with a co-worker – and begin lamenting how everyone is out to get you. Or you or your spouse lost a job and you begin imagining the worst case scenario rather than focusing on the positive action you can take to land that next job. Or maybe you are just down because life is just challenging right now and it’s taking all your strength to keep moving forward. Whatever your scenario, use these five techniques to keep negative thoughts from spiraling out of control:

1. Breathe intentionally.

Research shows that proper deep breathing – in which you breathe from your diaphragm rather than shallow breathing from your chest – reduces blood pressure, anxiety and stress. Take one minute and focus your thoughts on your breath. Feel it enter your nose, fill your belly and exit through your mouth. Center yourself in this moment. Relax.

2. Anticipate the negative and be ready with the positive.

Expect negative thoughts to cross your mind, especially when you are dealing with stress. But choose not to ruminate on them. Rumination means meditating on the negative – and doing it often enough can have serious mental health consequences such as depression. Instead, meditate on the positive. Focus on what you are grateful for. Focus on the opportunity you have for change and improvement. These are things within your control.

3. Get out and about.

Sunshine and fresh air can do wonders for your mood. Being stuck physically – whether at work or home – can leave you stuck mentally. So get out. Take a walk. Ride your bike. Run some errands. Stand on the porch or patio for a few minutes and soak up the rays. Sunshine helps your body produce vitamin D and has been shown to be a mood lifter.

4. Do something fun.

Research confirms that negative emotions are far more powerful than positive ones. Therefore, you need at least three positive emotions to overcome the negatives you face. So when you are particularly challenged with negative conversations, interactions and situations in your life, you’ve got to be intentional about countering them with positive experiences. One way to do that is have fun. What do you like to do for fun? Go do it. What brings you joy? Incorporate more of it into your life today.

5. Get around funny, happy people.

Psychology researchers have discovered happiness is contagious. And when you are down, it doesn’t help to be around other negative people. Who makes you laugh? Who always puts a smile on your face? Who knows how to find peace and joy even in the midst of chaos or challenges? That’s who you need to hang out with. Give them a call, stop by their desk at work, or get together for dinner tonight. You won’t have time to let those negative thoughts spiral out of control – you’ll be too busy laughing and enjoying good company

Valerie Burton is an Author, Speaker, Personal and Executive Coach.
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