I’m an over-thinker at the best of times, but add in a stressful situation and I quickly spiral into a pattern of overthinking. My brain will turn a bad day at work into losing my job and never being able to get another one, all in the space of 60 seconds. I don’t seem to be able to stop my negative thinking.
I tend to fall into very black and white thinking patterns and leap to worse case scenarios. I take responsibility for things that aren’t really within my control, and decide I can mind-read (they think I’m boring etc). Apparently, this is quite normal and reflects the way we are wired. However, the thing to remember is, our brains develop throughout our lives AND our neural pathways can be changed too.
What are neural pathways?
Our neural pathways are essentially transmittors sending messages to and from the brain. They’re the reason why we pretty much cross roads on autopilot and avoid getting knocked down. But they’re also the reason why some of us are unable to stop negative thinking; we’ve taught our brains to think that way. We’re basically created a habit. Often our spirals of overthinking are designed to protect us so in a way, our brain is only trying to be helpful. However, a lot of the time, in my case, I’m thinking about things that haven’t happened yet.
The good news is, just like we taught our brains to go into a spiral of negative thinking, we can retrain it to be positive too. Our neural pathways are habit forming so the more we practice thinking more positively, the better it will get.
How to stop negative thinking
- Label your thoughts when they come in to recognise they’re just a thought and not the truth. Tell your brain, this is just a thought so it starts to take them less seriously.
- Gratitude, gratitude, gratitude. It’s the best thing for turning my thoughts around and seeing a positive in a situation.
- Keep a compliments folder. I can probably repeat verbatim the majority of unpleasant comments I’ve had over the last five years. Can I remember any of the good ones? No, not really. It’s time to start keeping a record.
- Remember you’re probably not the most important person in someone else’s world. Is everyone really that concerned with what you’re doing or do they have their own problems and their own life? Try to get a sense of perspective.
- Do something positive for yourself. Read a book, light a candle, run a bath – anything to try switch off and give yourself a break
- Practice mindfulness. Negative thoughts tend to be around what could happen in the future. Mindfulness teaches us to be present and live in the moment.