Negative thoughts are poison.
In life, negative thoughts can hold us back and diminish our happiness. In recovery, they can lead to relapse. Anyone who’s relapsed will tell you that a boatload of negative thoughts preceded their relapses.
Very rarely is relapse an impulse action. It is commonly said that “stinkin thinkin” is a leading cause. Ultimately, relapse happens when someone picks up the drink or drug and puts it into their body, but the downward spiral usually starts days, weeks or even months before the relapse itself.
It is possible to make a conscious decision to turn your negative thoughts into positive ones. You can take control of your emotions and your mind. If you do this you will see your life and your emotional state significantly improve. Whether you’re in recovery or not, here are 8 methods you can use to combat your negative thoughts.
If you are feeling down, and you just can’t figure out why… try some of these techniques to battle the depression.
Write down your negative thoughts.
Reading it back to yourself will help you identify what is distorted about your thinking. This can be difficult, but it gets easier with practice. If you write your thoughts down, then you can see where the fear is. Usually, we are fearful of things that haven’t even happened. This is a great way to gain perspective.
Sometimes all it takes is a change in perspective. If you get your negative thoughts on paper and then look at it from an objective standpoint, you very well may realize that your fears are an illusion. They could be insecurities that are finding their way out.
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Find Your Evidence
After you’ve written down your negative thoughts, it’s time to play detective.
Look for the evidence that proves your negative thoughts are valid. Many times, we will find that there is no evidence of fears having validity, but rather they are a manifestation of our own minds.
If you find that your fears do have merit, it sometimes helps to write a gratitude list. For example, if you are fearful of losing a relationship, then you may change your perspective by highlighting everything about that relationship that gives you joy.
Maybe you will find the evidence to back up why you are feeling depressed, or maybe you realize that you have a good reason to feel the way you do. There could have been a tradegy or a death or some real life hardship you are dealing with.
But after you get to the bottom of your feelings, you can make a plan to change.
Feelings aren’t real. They are by-products of what we are doing with our actions. Change your actions, and change your thoughts and feelings.
Use a Rating System
Try using a rating system with your negative thoughts. Instead of thinking, “This is the worst thing that could ever happen to me,” try to rate the experience on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 being the worst. It will help put things in perspective by thinking in shades of gray rather than black and white.
Life is not meant to be perfect. Everyone has challenges to deal with and negative emotions to overcome. A mental rating system is a way for you to prioritize the things in your life that are really causing you discomfort.
Address the big problems first.
When you have a negative thought, turn to some trusted friends, relatives, or mentors for their take on the issue. Tell them what your negative thoughts are, and ask if they think they are realistic. Explain the situation and ask them how they would feel if they were in your shoes.
This is why having a sponsor is such a great idea. Having someone who is committed to telling you the truth and giving you a different perspective plays such a huge role in recovery.
It has been said to me that when you talk about your fears, you are cutting the power of those fears by half. It works.
Adjust Your Wording
Many negative thoughts include self depreciation or negative feedback.
I am a huge believer in this concept. Too often do we see people who are down on themselves and they make it worse by talking to themselves in horrible ways.
I remember an experience in which I was talking to a loved one. This loved one was dealing with some real personal struggles. The things this person was saying to about herself waere very disturbing. I remember thinking “if someone was saying these things about her, I might punch them.”
But somehow we don’t call ourselves out for talking to ourselves in such a negative way.
Positive affirmation is a great motivator in changing the way you feel about yourself. Tell yourself that you are good enough. Remind yourself that you are smart and deserving of love and success.
It goes a long way.
Re-Attribute the Problem
If you blame yourself for something that went wrong, try to reexamine the issue in another light.
You’ll likely find that there were many factors involved and that had nothing to do with you. Most of the time, we have way less control over what happens than we like to admit.
It is the age old problem of control. Here’s the truth… you don’t have control over anything.
The only thing you will ever have control over is your own actions. If someone does something to hurt you, you have to understand that you can’t control that.
Granted, that is very easy to type this or say to someone and much harder to put into action. But it doesn’t make it any less true.
If you have feeling down or having negative thoughts, try to assess how much control you actually had over the outcome. Chances are you didn’t have any. If that is the case, you will just have to learn to live with the outcome.
Go Do Something for Someone Else
There is a common recovery slogan that really grinds my gears.
If you want self esteem, do esteem-able things.
Yeah yeah, I get it okay.
The thing is, it always works. Every time. If I am feeling down on myself or having negative thoughts about an issue in my life, the best way for me to stop thinking about it is to do something for someone else.
Even if that means talking to someone. Seeing other people and what they have to deal with can oftentimes make your problems feel much smaller and can give perspective on what is important in life.
If I do something to help, if I am giving back to the world and I am contributing towards humanity, all my problems seem to drift away.
What Else Works?
I by no means have all the answers.
I have found a list of techniques that work for me and keep me from driving too far on the struggle bus. What helps is talking to other people.
If you have any other techniques that help you combat negative thoughts, please leave them in the comments section below. 🙂