Everyone falls into unbalanced thinking traps from time to time, it’s normal.
But when you dwell on negative or unwanted thoughts for too long, they can distract you from focusing on what's important and drain your energy. Think of it like this:
Deep thinking about things that don’t matter is like hammering the wrong nail.
In other words, it serves no purpose.
Not to mention, your thoughts have a big influence on your mental health. That's because what you tell yourself about a situation affects how you feel and what you do. You're most likely to distort your interpretation of a situation and react in an unhelpful way when you’re only focused on the negative aspects.
The antidote to intrusive, unhealthy thoughts is developing mental skills that help you navigate your way out of those thinking traps so you can find a productive way forward.
Here are three coping strategies to get you started. When you practice these, they will help you regain control of your mind and focus your attention in the right direction—the pathway of positive possibilities and growth.
Stay in the light
Don’t believe every dark, worried thought you have, worries are notoriously inaccurate. Instead of replaying the worst case scenario over and over, cut off the noise by coming up with a plan. Odds are, the worst case scenario will not happen, but at least you have a plan which keeps your mind in a more positive state.
After coming up with a plan, visualize the BEST case scenario. This helps balance your thought patterns. And guess what... what actually happens is usually somewhere in the middle.
Give yourself grace
Beating yourself up is not helpful. Whether you sent a text you wish you hadn’t, said the wrong thing in a meeting or hit “reply all” on an email meant for one person, forgive yourself, laugh about any perceived faux pas and move forward.
You get to choose what thoughts you believe and which ones are useless to your happiness, so make the choice in favor of thoughts that feel good and don't add unnecessary stress.
Turn mental blocks into building blocks
One of the most common mental blocks is the fear of failure—failing as a parent, as a partner, as a professional. Instead of letting this fear get in the way of your growth and success, readjust your perspective to see failure as part of the journey. Failure doesn’t define you; it’s a problem to be faced, dealt with, and learned from.
When you reframe a mental block like this one, you take back control by using it to become a better person.
100% Positive Isn’t the Goal
One question I get a lot, “What if I’m in a situation that’s genuinely terrible?”
Which is closely followed by, “Am I supposed to be positive all the time?
No—there are times when negative thoughts are realistic. But, it’s still helpful to find different ways of looking at the situation. Try to find a meaningful personal challenge in the situation. See if you can find any opportunities for personal growth or skills development.
No matter how much we try or how much we visualize success and plan for something, not everything is going to work out the way you hoped or pictured. We’ll all have our fair share of challenges, heartache, bad luck and unfair circumstances, but the truth is we only have control over what we do and think.
When you find yourself dwelling on negative or troubled thoughts, pause and ask yourself, “Am I hammering the wrong nail?” and then adjust accordingly.
Instead of creating unnecessary stress for yourself, learn what there is to learn from the situation and choose to move forward.
See you in the next post, my friend!