Ask Dr. V, Reversing Negative Thoughts

Venus Nicolino holds a Ph.D. in Psychology. Her column addresses Love, Life and Relationships. This week: reversing negative thoughts

Dear Dr. V,

Often, I find myself daydreaming. One of the times I do it most is when I take my daily 45-minute walk. What I find is that I have this awful habit of replaying the sordid and rotten events that have happened in my life throughout the past eight months. I think about what I could have done or should have said differently. And I sometimes get a little bitterness in me, too.

So do you have any advice as to how I can clear my mind of these thoughts? Sometimes I dwell on negative thoughts way too much.

Cameron from Washington

Dear Cameron,

I believe that attention is self-reinforcing when it comes to mind management. For example, if you give attention to negative thoughts, they will get stronger and stronger. What seems like a small matter in the beginning may become monstrous at the end. I’d like to reccomend breaking the vicious cycle by shifting your focus to something positive.

You can then reinforce this positive attention until you completely defeat the negative thoughts. There have been many books written in the last few years concerning positive thinking but what spells it out most clearly for me ist his: if you want to change what you are thinking, change what you are doing.

I’d like to share 20 tips to overcome negative thoughts, which are mostly based on this principle. Not all tips are suitable for all situations, so choose the ones that work for you. Here they are:

  1. Realize that you only hurt yourself with negative thoughts. Don’t let them trick you.
  2. Decide that you will live your day with happiness and not let negative thoughts steal it.
  3. Look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I’m a positive person. I won’t let negative thoughts control me.”
  4. Read positive quotes. You can go to Quotations Page or ThinkExist and browse the topics. Or, if you want random quotes, you can go to Random Quotations.
  5. Avoid negative words in your conversation.
  6. Change the tone of your thoughts from negative to positive. For example, instead of thinking “This problem is too difficult” think “This problem is cool and challenging.”
  7. If you think negatively about someone, remember positive things about the person. Shift your attention to the positive side.
  8. Smile. It’s more difficult to think negatively when you are smiling.
  9. Walk and act confidently. Good body language helps you have good thoughts.
  10. Pray or meditate. Spiritual peace and calmness is among the most effective ways to overcome negative thoughts.
  11. Gather with positive people. Be careful not to choose the wrong people or the situation will only get worse.
  12. Take a nap so that you will wake up with a fresh mind.
  13. Read an inspiring book.
  14. Go out and appreciate the beauty of the world around you.
  15. Ask yourself, what purpose does it serve me to think negatively? Currently, in your life it is serving a purpose.Otherwise, you wouldn’t be doing it. Perhaps, it helps you to express your anger or defers success or protects you from being intimate with others. It is certainly stopping you from living in the here and now, as you dwell upon the last eight months. It also is stopping you from self-care, as you moll over the should’ves and could’ves. (My feeling is at the time you did the very best you could.) Reflect and observe your negativity but do not entertain it.
  16. Make yourself comfortable with failure. Failure is the stepping stone to success, so don’t be afraid to fail.
  17. Have realistic expectation. Accept the fact people make mistakes since nobody is perfect.
  18. If you think negatively about a situation, decide you won’t give up even if the worst happens. Prove yourself to be a tough opponent.
  19. Accept yourself and be comfortable in who you are. You can’t be perfect but neither can anyone else.
  20. Help someone. Shift the focus away from yourself and do good to others.

Finally, keep in mind that negative thinking is enormous emotional and mental energy going in reverse. So the upside is that you have an enormous emotional capacity for intention. Now, imagine if you put your mind in four wheel drive: all of this emotional and mental energy would just be churning out positiveness. My point is that the power is within you.

You just need to make a choice.

With Empathy,

Dr. V

Note: All information in the Ask Dr. V column is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnosis and treatment, please feel free to call or email Dr. V, or consult your doctor.

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