We’ve all heard that it’s all about how we respond to a negative situation that determines how we deal with the outcome but what about our negative thoughts?
I wrote a post a while ago explaining why negative emotions are crucial to happiness. To live a happy and fulfilling life doesn’t mean you need to be positive and upbeat every minute of the day – we need negative emotions to help us work through difficult times and to show us where we may be focusing wrong.
It can be frustrating when you’re having a good period and all of a sudden your mood changes, someone says something offensive to you, something happens that makes you feel you’re back to square one again. It could even be something really serious like illness or suddenly losing your job.
But there’s a difference between negative emotions and negative thoughts. Negative emotions are our reactions to big events or situations – they are there to help us work through the tough times and come out the other side.
Negative thoughts are much more important when we consider our happiness and mental well-being. Our beliefs are a result of our thoughts and when it comes to the beliefs we have about ourselves or the world around us, we can have a whole plethora of negativity going on in our minds. The same negative thoughts can go round and round until we don’t even notice them – they become a negative belief and this is where it gets dangerous.
It’s these thought patterns that can stunt the growth of our happiness and a lot of the time we don’t even realise we have so many of them. We then give them permission to grow by allowing them to come back over and over again cementing the negative belief. So the answer must be to get rid of our negative thoughts, right? Actually, no.
Your goal isn’t to get rid of negative thoughts, it is changing your response to them.
We’ll never truly get rid of our negative thoughts so there’s no point putting unnecessary pressure on ourselves to rid them altogether.
Instead, when you next have a negative thought – either about yourself, someone else or a situation you face, just stop, acknowledge it and choose your response. You can either choose to change the thought and therefore react in a different way or choose to continue the negative thought until it affects your mood and even contribute to your core negative beliefs.
This is why meditation is so wonderful for teaching you how to notice your negative thoughts and giving you the space to do this. It teaches you to:
- Be more aware of your thoughts both negative and positive.
- Notice when a negative thought arises and don’t pass judgement on yourself or blame yourself for the thought. (remember self-compassion!)
- Acknowledge the negative thought and note it.
By getting into the habit of doing this, you’re gradually giving yourself the power to respond to these thoughts – whether that’s getting to the root cause or changing it to a more positive thought. After a while, you will actually start to notice the negative thoughts start to fall away more easily and you will definitely notice a difference in your mindset.
So next time you have a negative thought, stop and acknowledge it. Ask yourself how this is contributing to your overall happiness and choose to take the power back 🙂
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Jenny Marchal is a freelance writer. Her hobbies are breakfast, lunch and dinner although writing, travelling and exploring are her biggest passions. She likes learning all about positive psychology and writes about it over at her blog: A Life Less Ordinary – Habits For Happiness.