Scripps Ranch and Bankers Hill Therapist Sara Cole.
Unhealthy ways of thinking and reacting to things can cause depression and anxiety, actually make problems worse, and create a chronically stressed states of mind that can negatively affect your heart health and immunity. Negative thinking can get into anyone's head from time to time. Let's talk about how to shift to the positive. If you keep redirecting your negative thinking over months and years, you may even change the patterns of connections in your brain so that you react to life’s events in more grounded ways, with less panic and judgment. Here are few tried and true tricks to use when you want to get positive.
1. Notice your thoughts.
This may seem obvious but stopping to notice your thoughts takes practice. Thoughts often feel automatic, but you can retrain your brain. When you notice that your thinking starts to get repetitive and negative, make yourself break the cycle and stop. Get up and go for a walk, talk to friend, read a book, listen to music, etc. You can retrain your brain, but it takes practice. Stopping the habit when you notice it is the first step in the retraining process. Try to change your thinking to a problem-solving focus that is more realistic and strategic. For example, maybe you notice that you just thought "no one will ever love me". Ok, how do you know this? Is this even a likely prediction? Is there any evidence that this is true? Has anyone ever loved you?
You get the idea. Now you can change the the thought to something more realistic. "I don't feel loved right now, but that can change" or "there are people who love me and more people will love me in the future".
2. Look for evidence.
I sort of already started doing this in number one, but let's look at this trick a little more closely. Negative thoughts are often all or nothing types of statements or blanket types of judgements. For example, "these kids never listen to me". Is that true? They NEVER listen to you? Is there any evidence to prove or disprove this statement? Is this an over exaggeration? When you start looking at the facts and reality, it becomes clear that things are not so black and white. There is alot more gray area. Once you disprove the statement or thought, you can come up with a more accurate replacement.
3. Replace the original thought with something that more closely reflects reality or even looks on the positive side.
Back to the statement "the kids never listen". When you start to think about it and look around, you realize that "Actually, they listen most of the time. They are just not listening right now." So how can you change this statement to be more accurate? How about "I get frustrated when the kids don't listen" or "the kids usually listen. They must be tired right now, because they are having a hard time". Do you see the difference? Even typing these words, I get a different feeling in my body. The all or nothing makes me feel hopeless and heavy. The rephrase suggests hope and possible solutions.
4. Practice chilling out.
Overthinking is a common habit that can result in anxiety. Melanie Greenberg Ph.D. explains in her psychology today article, "Overthinking is when you go over and over different choices in your mind, trying to imagine every possible outcome and everything that could happen in the future, to make sure you make the perfect choice. Your focus is on avoiding mistakes and risk. The problem with overthinking is that it’s an attempt to control what isn’t controllable."
Practicing mindfulness and relaxation in other areas of your life can help lower your anxiety. Anxiety is often the cause of over thinking. So, don’t be so hard on yourself: You are only human, and it’s not the end of the world if you make a mistake. You can learn from it. Overthinking results from anxiety, so practice stress-management techniques like yoga, running, nature walking, meditating or other activities that you find enjoyable and relaxing. For a quick de-stressing exercise check out this blog post.
Sara Cole MFT has been practicing in San Diego for over ten years and is dedicated to helping people live their best lives. To find more information and ideas or to see how Sara can help you, check out www.saracolemft.com. She has offices in Scripps Ranch and Bankers Hill.
Sara Cole has been providing mental health services in San Diego for 15 years. Sara specializes in working with women and teen girls to overcome trauma and major life changes, including postpartum depression and anxiety. She is also passionate about providing treatment to those whose lives are affected by the addiction of a loved one.