For those of us that suffer from anxiety and depression, thinking negative thoughts is pretty much what we do. We know intellectually and emotionally that it isn not healthy for us on multiple counts to continue this stream of self imposed misery. Yet, somehow our natural way (genetics, brain chemistry, environment, upbringing, or circumstance) brings us back time and time again.
This is where taking some action on the cognitive level can help. First let me say that I realize what I’m about to ask you to do may seem silly, forced, or even just down right lame. I am fully aware of this, as I have thought all of those things myself. I will not pretend to myself or you that consciously working on your thoughts is easy or fun. It feels odd when your brain isn’t used to thinking in a positive way.
So here it is. We will go with baby steps here. When you think about something that makes you anxious or sad, force yourself to think the opposite. For instance, I often have super fearful/negative thoughts about my back pain. When I catch myself thinking “This will never end, I’ll be broken forever, I suck.” I will know that it feels real to me AND I will say out loud (although you do not have to) “This can end, I can be better than ever, and I am glorious.” Now the second may not feel real but it is at least providing some sort of positivity in my brain that is swamped with negatives.
The point at first is not to have you feelings 100% different. This is a process. This approach provides a couple things for those that try it:
1) You can laugh at how silly you feel doing it.
2) You are trying something different which may actually have good results where your auto-pilot does not.
3) You are one thought at a time telling your brain to connect in a different way. You are literally teachin git a new way to think.
4) You are stopping the constant self-infliction and choosing to put in some level of positivity.
5) You are learning a fuller range of emotions by reminding yourself that it is not just sad/worried but also happy/calm.
There is more to this than just doing a see-saw of thoughts. But this first part is worth trying, as an action step towards changing those thoughts that you do not want. You have trained your brain for a long time to be negative… dont’ expect it to feel easy or good introducing positivity. However, you have been with the negative long enough it is time to bring about something inspiring.