How to Ditch Negative Thoughts (For Good)
Those people who seem so happy, calm, and put together must have a secret, right?
Well, yes. But it’s probably not what you think it is.
The brain you own and the thoughts you keep are the single most important influencers of your happiness. Just like the saying goes with food (“You are what you eat!”), the same is true for what you feed your noodle. Put your mind on a steady diet of comparison, negativity, and complaining, and you’ll be more prone to adopting the same behavior. Reverse the mindset, and results will, too.
That’s why the people you admire so much for their mental clarity, focus and fortitude do operate differently – because they’re selectively choosing to heighten the ways they think and process differently.
Have you ever heard of the 21-Day Negativity Detox? It’s something I’m loving as of late, especially with all the negativity swirling on social media and in the news. It’s a simple challenge with a big payoff. 21 days without complaining, negative thinking, and zero guilt. Think you’re up for the challenge?
I started this detox myself after noticing how much I was complaining and producing negative thoughts which were, I hate to admit it, almost every few minutes. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another. Traffic, cab drivers, my hair, how fat I looked today, my latest breakout, early alarms, loud neighbors, tricky parking, shitty weather. Everything was up for criticism, and I could literally feel the joy being sucked out of my life.
Things are going to go wrong all the time. That’s a fact of life. But you have a choice and a responsibility in how you react to them. That’s a fact, too.
Manifesting the goodness around you makes room for the light to shine in.
To understand how and why the negative brain works the way it does, we have to go back to prehistoric times. See, as we were exposed to real threats like packs of lions, aggressive tribes, and fire, our “lizard brain” thought in terms of carefully calculated risks that told us what our body wanted to hear in order to keep it safe. This made sense…until it didn’t anymore. Negativity was the original defense mechanism that grew out of itself. Fast forward through millions of years of evolution, and we’re still here, contradicting ourselves out of our true desires, talking ourselves down, and playing it safe so we won’t get hurt, physically AND emotionally. The irony in the lizard brain is that it only hurts us more when we believe in what it tells us: stay small, and nothing bad will happen.
Resisting the urge to complain or vent is absolutely (and surprisingly!) one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. It’s like cutting out sweets or juicy gossip out, cold turkey. After a few days of self-correcting and noticing when negative thoughts rise to the surface, I began to notice that replacing them with positive ones had the power to completely turn a situation around. I’m on Day 5 now, and I already feel happier and lighter. I know avoiding negativity at all costs is impossible (not to mention unhealthy in its own right) but how refreshing to train the brain to look for light where it was only used to seeing darkness.
Thinking about doing a negative detox?
Here are some steps to ditch those negative thoughts:
1. Talk to yourself how you’d talk to your best friend, your child, or your mother.
You’d never tell your bestie that she’s ugly. You’d never tell your daughter she needs to lose 10 lbs. And you certainly wouldn’t tell your mother that the expensive anti-aging cream she bought is a lost cause. You deserve the same amount of encouragement and compliments that the loved ones in your life receive. Endure the temporary discomfort that comes with telling yourself you look nice today, and see how it feels to be on the receiving end of your own compliments.
2. Go on a social detox.
Okay, so we’ve been throwing the word ‘detox’ around a lot, but hear me out. Long periods of mindless scrolling through your newsfeed leaves you vulnerable to self-doubt and confidence creep. (Takes one to know one here!) Use these 21 days to really rethink how you approach your social media habits. Do you reach for it when you’re bored? When you feel the urge to scratch or pick at your insecurities by sizing them up against someone else’s? Reframing social media by intentionally interacting with it has the power to highlight the habits that keep you from recognizing your own best traits.
3. Turn up the positive thinking.
Lead or be led by your thoughts. There’s a certain amount of power in knowing that you can change the direction of your thoughts anytime, anywhere. Worried about what could go wrong? List all the things in your life that have gone right. Anxious about future unknowns? Look for the people, objects, and experiences that you can trust no matter what. Stressed about a disparaging comment? Meet their insult with a compliment and see how it feels. Don’t let your thoughts put you on a leash and take you for a walk. Walk in your own positivity and own it.
4. Write it out.
How many of us have gotten together with friends for brunch, only to spend the entire time venting, complaining, and raging against all the unfair things in life? Debt. Bad Tinder dates. Being passed over for that position you’ve been eyeing. Venting, especially in groups, only gains momentum and is dangerous territory if you’re making strides to stop negativity from dominating your life. Instead, try to avoid situations where negative ‘groupthink’ is present and replace it with journaling. In your journal, nothing is off-limits, no one can judge you, and the sooner you’ve exhausted the negative, the faster you can get to the positives. Now that’s something to be happy about.
5. Look at the bright side.
Cultivating gratitude regularly is one of the very best things you can do for a more positive life. Not only are you training your brain to always be on the lookout for the positives in the mundane – a clean glass of water, a warm coat – but you’re also reducing stress, boosting your optimism, and increasing your lifespan. There are so many ways to cultivate gratitude, from apps and journals, to ‘gratitude jars’ and conversation starters.
So what do you think? Can you go 21 days without negative thinking? Let me know if you’ve tried it or if you’re ready to embark on the journey by sharing your (positive!) thoughts on my Facebook or Instagram page. I'd love to hear!