Many people who struggle with anxiety, depression and addiction also suffer from negative thoughts. If you find that you stop yourself from reaching for activities and experiences that could be helpful because you don’t think they will work or that you don’t deserve a positive outcome, negative thoughts have become a cage. Can therapy show you how to quiet these negative thoughts without drugs? A common form of therapy for negative thoughts is cognitive behavioral therapy, or CBT.
Your CBT therapist can help you to overcome your negative thought patterns by making you aware of them, giving you new dialogue or go to phrases to use on yourself, and guide you toward a way of thinking that doesn’t limit your life. Once you learn to be aware of your negative thoughts, you can use tools other than drugs to manage them.
Negative Thinking is a Learned Behavior
If you struggle with negative thoughts that steal your focus and hope, you may have been told not to take things so personally by a boss, friend or family member. However, those who’ve been raised in a destructively critical family may never have learned how to accept criticism. For example, a child may learn that they have made a mistake on a math quiz, or they may learn that they are a mistake when a parent or teacher berates them for the error.
One of the biggest challenges in breaking the cycle of negative thinking is to step back from all or nothing thinking. Those who tend to think in black and white have a thinking process that requires them to judge or assess everything that comes into their field of perception. This is exhausting and wasteful. Instead, your therapist may help you to step back from this judgement. Instead, you can learn to see the world as a great deal of stuff that just is. Are there very bad things that need your attention? A few, but there are also good things that deserve your attention. To break away from all or nothing thinking, understand that there are many things that can pass by with no opinion whatsoever.
Tools to Help
A simple step in overcoming negative thinking is to practice mindfulness through meditation. Those who struggle with anxious thoughts may think meditation is impossible, but as you learned to think negatively about yourself, you can learn positive thoughts. Set a timer for ten minutes and light a candle. For those ten minutes, look at the candle and breathe. When a negative thought comes into your head, ask it to wait. Keep breathing, keep looking at the candle. When the timer goes off, you can attend to any anxious thoughts that remain. Many of them will have gone away for a long time.
Another tool to manage negative thoughts is to engage your creative brain through exercise. While new exercises can be interesting and fun, fighting negative thoughts will take habitual behaviors, such as walking. Get your body moving through space and take a deep breath. Look at the world around you with no judgement; the trees, sky, sidewalk or walking path just are.
Next, visualize your mind as a clean, white balloon with no blemishes or marks. Feel it as a space of no judgement, worry, anxiety or negativity. If you’re working through a problem, this exercise can allow your creative brain the space it needs to tackle the issue without resorting to negative thoughts or other forms of self-abuse. Many who cling to negative thoughts picked them up very early. If your negative patterns came from a verbally abusive parent or an instructor who made errors on paper feel like mistakes in who you are, you face a double challenge.
First of all, you should have been able to rely on your caregiver, but weren’t. You had no way of understanding that they were mistaken, so you may have grown up feeling that you were the mistake. Secondly, you believed that they were accurate and wanted to be accurate as well, so you internalized this attitude and have been dealing with it for a long time. It’s what you know, but you have the capacity to learn something better. We can help. Our counselors are available 24 hours a day. Call 833-610-1174 to get started on your journey to mental wellness and resilience.