By David Joel Miller.
Do you find your brain full of negative unhelpful thoughts?
Sometimes it feels like our own brain is out to get us. Sometimes it is. If you have unhelpful thoughts and then you sit and chew on those thoughts, thinking them over and over, those thoughts are likely to try to get you.
That pattern of not being able to get a thought out of your head is referred to as rumination and it can trigger all kinds of negative behavior. Rumination is a trigger for cutting (non-suicidal self-injury) drinking and drug use, depression and anxiety and I suspect a lot of other mental health issues. How do you stop unhelpful rumination before it creates some serious issues?
Here are some ways to stop those unwanted, unhelpful thoughts.
Tell unhelpful thoughts to stop.
If you have kids that are doing something they shouldn’t, many parents would tell those kids to “knock that off.” Learn to tell your unhelpful thoughts to stop also. It takes time and it takes practice but repeated enough you can train your brain to stop thinking about something that is not helpful.
This soft mental yelling at unhelpful thoughts is one form of thought stopping. There are other methods. Use the thought stopping technique that works best for you.
Recognize that thoughts, like many people’s “voices” sometimes lie.
Ruminations like to tell you that the problem is you. The will try to convince you that you are no good, the world is no good and things can never get better. This is not true.
No one is totally no good. You have some things about you that are good and you can learn to do better and practice positive skills. Do not give in to the negative thoughts.
Reduce unhelpful thoughts by using positive affirmations.
What you tell yourself comes to be. Tell yourself that you will keep trying and you will do better. Develop a list of things you will tell yourself when these ruminator-thoughts attack. Make sure you are telling yourself the truth.
Do not tell yourself that you are so smart you know all the answers. No one is that smart. Do tell yourself you know many things and are capable of learning many more.
Develop a gratitude list to increase helpful thoughts.
Are there any things in your life that you are grateful for? When you are really anxious or depressed it may be hard to think of any. Work on this gratitude list. Keep it handy like a fire extinguisher to put out the flames of these ruminations.
Have friends and supporters suggest things for this list. Write it down. The brain tends to believe the things you write down are important. When the unhelpful thoughts attack, whip out your gratitude list and beat them back by reading off all the things you really have to be thankful for.
Problem Solve so you don’t get stuck in the problem.
Think about how you will handle things better next time, not why you made the mistake this time. Not good at making friends? Avoid asking yourself why no one likes you and instead ask yourself how you can become better at making friends.
Ask others how they solved this problem. Do not think that because you are unskilled in an area that you will never be good at that skill. Talk with the experts, those who have been doing something well for a long time. Get a coach, seek out the “old timers” that everyone thinks are “naturals.” They will tell you that becoming a natural took years of effort.
Once you find out that others have had the very same problem you have and have learned to overcome anyway, you will discover that you can do this too.
Maintain a positive attitude to reduce unhelpful thoughts.
Look for the positive not the negative. What you look for you will find. Become an expert on positive thinking and you will discover that those who believe in themselves do better.
To start with most people find it hard to see the positive possibilities. Do not beat yourself up if in the early stages you slip back into negative thinking from time to time. Not able to be positive as much as you should? See the next hint.
Increase your positive thoughts.
Being a positive person takes lots and lots of practice. Early in life, it is common for you to see others who succeed and think there is something wrong with you because you can’t be perfect.
Learn to be just a little bit more positive each and every day and eventually the things you could only dream of doing become the normal for you.
Try these hints. Practice them daily and you will be pleasantly surprised with how much less you will be ruminating about the negative and how often you will see that glimmer of hope shining in your direction.
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For more about David Joel Miller and my work in the areas of mental health, substance abuse and Co-occurring disorders see the about the author page. For information about my other writing work beyond this blog check out my Google+ page or the Facebook author’s page, up under David Joel Miller. Posts to the “books, trainings and classes” category will tell you about those activities. If you are in the Fresno California area, information about my private practice is at counselorfresno.com. A list of books I have read and can recommend is over at Recommended Books.