How to challenge negative thoughts

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Negative thinking is a mental attitude of anticipating the worst possible outcomes on situations (walking on the road), events (speaker blown at party), and circumstances (someone just yelled at you). In other words, 'It is the ability of the mind to produce thoughts that are not deemed favourable to what the person wants'

An example of this could be:

SITUATION - You are walking down the street and you see someone wearing a hoody, your initial reaction could be 'Oh no, what if they try and mug me'.

EVENT - Two of the four speakers have blown at your wedding and all you can think of is how everyone (including you) will not enjoy the celebrations.

CIRCUMSTANCES - Someone at work just yelled at you and you could answer back as you did not have the evidence to support the fact you are right. Now, all you think is how this will impact your credibility, instead of trying to rectify it.

The 3 steps to challenge negative thoughts

Step 1 - Action

Challenge 1 - Ask yourself 'What other outcomes are possible?' What if the person wearing a hoody doesn't do anything, what if they just smile at you, what if that person is cold (hence the hoody), what if they are attempting to be fashionable.

Challenge 2 - Is there evidence for this worry? Count how many times what you are worried about has manifested in your life. Has anyone in a hoody tried to mug you? Have you been to events in the past when something went wrong but in fact everything was, okay?

Challenge 3 - Make a list of positive outcomes. I'll ask them for their number, and we will go out on a date. I've confirmed the booking with the DJ, the cake will arrive on time as required, and the decorations will look awesome.

Challenge 4 - Is there another way to look at this? If something negative has happened, like you running a red light and getting caught on camera, ask yourself, are there any lessons to learn? The simple answer is not to run the light and secondly what is done is done, nothing will come of if's and but's.

Step 2 - Things you can control

Challenge 1 - The way you respond and react. If someone cut's you up whilst driving, you have the choice to be angry which turns into road rage, or you ignore it.

Challenge 2 - Your opinions. If you had an unpleasant experience with the hairdressers, then you have the option to complain to the management, not go home and get yourself worked up about it.

Challenge 3 - Asking for help. If you are struggling with something, like doing DIY, cooking, accounts, or writing a formal letter, then there is no need to beat yourself up about it or complain, "I can't do it." Just reach out for help from someone who can or can teach you how to. Even if it is anxiety or stress you cannot handle reach out to a professional (including holistic practices).

Challenge 4 - Taking care of yourself. It is especially important to sleep, eat well, exercise and/ or meditate, have a holistic treatment (Reiki, Reflexology, Acupuncture, Aroma therapy, Acupressure, Crystal healing etc.)

Challenge 5 - How you speak to yourself. If you have done something wrong, learn from it and move on. Do not call yourself an idiot, silly, crazy, or mad. If you do this all you are doing is reinforcing this behaviour and will never get out of this negative way of thinking.

These are all positive challenges, but what do we do to keep our awareness in the positive area of the mind? Here's where step 3 comes in.

Step 3 - Gratitude

We are creatures of habit, so to keep our awareness in the positive area of the mind at least by 51% in the day, create a gratitude list. This reinforces positivity in your way of thinking and allows you to receive more of it.

1. Something that happened today - You had a great cup of coffee.
2. Possession you own - You have this amazing jacket that feels good and looks good with everything.
3. A relationship you have - A family member, friends, colleague, or even the bus driver.
4. Something you are proud of - I have a Black belt in Tae-Kwon-Do, position at work, recent sales pitch you made.
5. A strength of yours - Good at cleaning, doing the housekeeping, painting, cooking, martial arts, running, puzzles.
6. A place you visited - A park, town, city, country, or historical site.
7. Something in nature - A tree, plants, Christmas trees, robins, river, the leaves etc.
8. An experience you had - Going up the shard, motor racing experience, going on the tube, hot air balloon ride.
9. Food you have eaten - A particular cuisine, a burger, chocolate, sandwich, crisp, avocado and toast.
10. A bodily function - Your ears, legs, arms, eyes, organs, your feet.

So, what are the next steps for you?

1. Challenge the negative thoughts - What other outcomes are possible; Is there evidence of worry; make a list of positive outcomes and is there another way to look at this.
2. Things you can control
3. Gratitude exercise

Remember where awareness goes energy flows. If you put your energy into something negative that is what will grow, if you put your energy into something positive that is what will grow in your life.