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5 Steps To Release Negative Thoughts And Improve Your Mindset

Written by: Molly Donovan , Executive Contributor

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.

 

Our brains produce upwards of 6,000 plus thoughts per day. That’s a lot of mental chatter that we’re subjected to on a daily basis. We can all agree that our mental chatter is often far from positive. The consequences of negative thinking on our lives can be massive and pervasive. Our thinking patterns have a direct effect on our mood, because the content of our thoughts produce correlated emotions. If I’m catastrophizing about all the ways that I could bomb my presentation next week, I’m going to feel anxious and incompetent. Exactly the opposite of how I want to feel when trying to nail a big presentation.

One thing we know for certain about our brains, is that they’re equipped with what’s referred to by neurobiologists as the negativity bias. In other words, in an attempt to protect us and keep us alive for longer, our brains are hardwired to seek out and focus on the negative. How can you protect yourself from the hungry tiger lurking in the bushes if you don’t first anticipate that he could be there?


Since our brains are designed to focus on the negative, are we held captive by negative thinking with no way out? Not at all. We may not have control over the thoughts that our brain presents us with. We do have control over how we respond to the negative thought once it’s there. And that’s where our power lies and how we must intervene.


Here’s one proven method to stop negative thinking in its tracks:


1. Cultivate increased awareness:

Practice noticing thoughts as they first emerge in your mind. Our mind is often on autopilot with racing thoughts. If we’re not fully aware of what is going on in our heads, we are powerless to pump the breaks and make a change. Becoming more aware of our thoughts is a skill that we cultivate through practice. Commit to following your breath and observing your thoughts for 5-10 minutes daily to start.


2. Label the thought:

Now that you’re more aware of your thoughts, it’s time to practice placing a label on them. By placing a label, we create instant separation between ourselves and the negative thought and reduce our reactivity. “This is me catastrophizing.” “This is an irrational thought”.


3. Consider the opposite & visualize it happening:

Most of the time, our negative thoughts are related to feared future outcomes. When you notice a thought pertaining to a feared future outcome, ask yourself, “But what if this happens instead?” Considering the opposite or a better outcome may not eradicate the fear associated with the worst case scenario, but at the very least it will soften it.


4. Assess the likelihood

Ask yourself another question. “How likely is this feared outcome going to occur?” Humans have a tendency to overestimate danger and threat levels. By asking yourself this question, you may realize that your negative thought is pretty unlikely to occur. If you decide that the likelihood that it could occur is high, then you can shift your focus to, “How can I be prepared in case this does happen?” “What resources can I equip myself with?”


5. Thank your brain

Thank your brain for trying to keep you safe, as that is essentially the purpose of negative thoughts. Extending this compassion towards ourselves calms our nervous systems and releases various feel good chemicals. Then we’re primed and well on our way towards more positive thinking.


There are so many other expert strategies on how to practice releasing overly negative thoughts that do not serve us. And sometimes, we have trouble differentiating a negative thought that is true and constructive, from one that is toxic, irrational and damaging to us. This is where I can help. I’m a licensed psychotherapist, owner of a group psychotherapy practice in Boston and a life coach who can guide you towards more positive and empowering thinking. Reach out to me here to work with me: molly@sagetherapyboston.com


Follow me on Instagram, and visit my website for more info!

 

Molly Donovan, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Molly Donovan is a licensed psychotherapist, life coach and a leading expert on mental health and self-esteem. She is the founder of Sage Psychotherapy in Boston, Massachusetts, a group psychotherapy practice that is currently helping hundreds of individuals overcome anxiety and depression. As a quirky late bloomer and extroverted introvert who struggled with anxiety, depression and low self-esteem throughout the majority of her early life, Molly was inspired to attend graduate school and gather as much knowledge, research and perspectives as possible on mental health care and confidence building. An additional niche of Molly's is helping people regain confidence and happiness after enduring narcissistic abuse. Molly has developed a powerful method that allows her clients to live with more confidence, purpose, joy and ease.

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