This guest post is by Dan Lippmann of the Mood Switch Method.
Have you ever noticed how easy it is for your negative thinking to spiral out of control?
You start out by thinking one upsetting thought. In seconds, that thought leads to another, until you’ve produced a whole chain of negative thoughts. When combined together, these thoughts steal your sense of well-being, leaving anxiety and fear in their wake.
“I wonder if I’ll be able to meet that deadline.
If I don’t meet the deadline, my boss will go crazy.
He’ll give me a bad evaluation.
I’ll end up getting fired.
I won’t be able to pay my bills.
I’ll lose my home.
I’ll be out on the street with no money.
My life will be over.”
The most important thing for you to know is this: You don’t have to go along with whatever negative thoughts are triggering up in your brain. You can learn to direct your thinking in a way that will be helpful instead of harmful to you.
Breaking the chain of negative thinking
Picture your negative thoughts as a chain of associations. Your goal is to break the chain after the first link and then keep new links from being added.
This is easier than you might think and doesn’t require superhuman effort—only a little bit of awareness and practice.
You may be surprised to learn that your negative thoughts aren’t usually random. Often, there’s a specific underlying emotion (sadness, anger, jealousy) or theme (money, death, health) that triggers your negative thinking and serves to link your thoughts together. Once you’re aware of your personal patterns or themes, it’s easier to break the associations or links.
I realized this a few weeks ago when I heard on the radio that a TV personality from my childhood had died. I immediately felt mildly sad, and then I realized that my mind suddenly wanted to make other “death associations.” If I had allowed my thoughts free rein, they probably would have played out something like this:
“My mother’s dead.
My father’s dead.
I’m the same age as my father when he got sick.
I hope the same thing isn’t wrong with me.”
…and on and on!
If I had allowed this line of thinking to continue, I would have been in a down mood in a matter of minutes, and maybe spent the next few hours, or even days, feeling badly.
Fortunately, I recognized where my mind wanted to take me, and made a conscious choice to stop my thoughts in their tracks. I simply refocused my thoughts on something neutral – the tastes and smell of my breakfast – and then switched the radio to a music station that I like. I was able to stop the downward spiral before it began and to get on with my day.
So the next time you experience an upsetting feeling, ask yourself the following questions:
- Is there a benefit to thinking about this situation?
- Is there a benefit to following the chain of associations arising from this situation?
If the answer is no, turn your thoughts to something neutral, interesting, or uplifting. You might be surprised at how easy it is to avoid a downward spiral.
It might even save your day.
Change your negative thoughts, change your experience
William James, the “father” of psychology once wrote, “My experience is what I agree to attend to.” By refocusing our attention on the things that brighten our day, we can insulate ourselves from stress and boost our feelings of calm and contentment. What we pay attention to literally becomes our experience.
Choosing to think about something you’re looking forward to each day may sound simple – and it is. And if you do it consistently, you’ll notice your mood improving and your stress decreasing.
So before getting out of bed tomorrow morning, focus on one positive thing the day holds, and let me know how the rest of your day goes.
“You can think your way out of any negative emotion.” ~Dan Lippmann
Dan Lippmann counsels clients from his two Chicago-area offices and is the creator of the Mood Switch Method, an easy to learn technique that breaks the painful cycle of negative emotions, such as anxiety, down moods and anger. Download his free eBook, Beyond EFT: 7 Steps to Banish Stress, Worry, Fear and Anxiety, and sign up for his weekly tips at www.danlippmann.com.