Do you ever wake up feeling empty? All you want to do is curl up on the couch and watch TV that makes you miserable. You look around the house, there is dirt everywhere with loads of laundry waiting for you but instead of getting to it, you hate yourself just a little bit more for not having the energy to move a muscle. Your friends and maybe some of your family make you feel unworthy; they leave you out of fun trips and you question, what is wrong with me? why don’t they want me? The bills are mounting, life seems to be passing by and everyone is out there working their dream jobs except you. As a coping mechanism, you pile on the weight with junk food, give up on life and tell yourself that your friends, neighbours and cousins are all better than you are.
If you’ve ever dealt with depression, struggled to get out of bed in the morning, low self-esteem as a result of negative thinking and unhealthy habits you can’t seem to break, this article is for you. Keep reading to find the root causes of depression, how negative thinking ruins your life, new habits to help you overcome negativity and resources to make positivity a permanent life choice.
Why are all my thoughts so negative?
Negative thinking is a thought process where humans find the worst in every situation or manage their expectations by assuming the worst case scenario in every outcome. It’s not surprising that all negative thinking is rooted in fear, after a day or two, your negative thinking becomes chronic and creates stress that slowly destroys your mind and body leading to some physical or mental disease. The body uses depression as a defence mechanism to protect us from the damaging effects of extreme fear, worry and anxiety.
According to the Mental Health Foundation, depression is a mental disorder where people experience depressed mood, feelings of guilt, loss of interest in happiness or pleasure, low self-esteem, inability to concentrate, lack of appetite and sometimes zero energy level. A depressed person feels intense emotions of negativity, helplessness and anxiety, and the feeling doesn’t evaporate but stays with them.
So there is a link between negativity and depression and it is clear that negative thinking will ultimately lead to depression if its’ not managed properly. This means that if you actively work hard to redirect your improper thoughts, you will conquer depression.
Some common negative thoughts to watch out for include the following:
- Polarized thinking: this is the fallacy of thinking everything is at two extremes; good and bad, black and white, all or nothing, if you’re not perfect at something then you’re a failure.
- Filtering: Your eyes focus on one tiny fault and amplifies it to diminish the entire work, however fantastic it might have been. An example, The Van Gohl painting has a speck of dust.
- The jumping conclusion bias: a physiological term that refers to a communication gap where a person judges something without having all the details or fact. My partner hasn’t called me today, therefore, they are cheating on me.
- Catastrophizing: the tendency to view every situation worse than it actually is. It generally takes two forms; the first is catastrophizing a situation, for example, I haven’t made a sale this month, therefore I will lose my job. The second is more mental and future oriented that occurs when you anticipate that all future events will end badly because you believe that something must go wrong.
- The illusion of control: This is also known as control fallacies where people always overestimate their ability to control events. You think you’re responsible for everyone’s happiness and you’re a helpless victim of uncontrolled forces all the time.
- The blame game: one of the most destructive attitudes where you blame others for an event or state of affairs that you find undesirable. If something went wrong, it is not my fault and I won’t accept any degree of responsibility for the situation.
- Emotional reasoning: this is a cognitive process where a person concludes that what they feel is always true. I feel guilty, therefore I did something wrong. I woke up late, therefore I am lazy.
- The fallacy of change: a psychological belief that changing others will improve your self-worth and make you happy.
- Global Labelling: a situation where you generalise by taking one characteristic and use it to describe the whole person. She is always late to work so she is irresponsible, he has tattoos all over his body, therefore he is a criminal, I couldn’t solve the puzzle, therefore I am stupid.
What can I do to break the cycle of negative thinking?
As earlier stated, depression is mostly caused by negative thinking because our feelings guide our thoughts and when we dwell on negative thoughts we spiral into depression. Scientists and psychologist have conducted extensive research on this topic for decades and we’ve picked the most effective techniques people who have conquered negativity used and triumphed.
- Identify the source
The first step to solving any problem is usually to identify the source so you can develop the best solution. In this case, the goal is to identify the negative thought(s) and cast it away. A mind is a powerful tool, you must be conscious of what you feel and think so it doesn’t take control of your life. Ask yourself how thinking a line of thought makes you feel; good, lousy, disgusted? Some examples include: what is wrong with me? Why can’t I solve this question? Life is so bleak and the future is going to be awful. I am weak and I hate myself for it. I will never make it in life. Why doesn’t anybody love me?
The moment you identify the train of thought, you can work on the exercise of countering the negative thoughts with positive ideas and words. The best way is usually to speak it audibly for the power of words in time, convinces you of the truth in what you say over where your wrong thoughts lead. From the same examples above, counteract with the following: There is nothing wrong with me; I am perfect as I am. Just because I can’t answer this question doesn’t mean there aren't other things I can’t do (think of the things you're good at when faced with problems that threaten your confidence).Life might be hard now, but it will get better in time (look through each day with a positive attitude). I am strong willed and powerful, strength is not only physical.
- Eliminate Negative thoughts with meditation
Your thoughts determine how you live and research has shown that 95% of your thought is repetitive and 80% of this number is negative. Think of the most pressing thoughts – the ones always at the forefront of your mind, nagging you, judging your every action and speaking every hour of the day. Sometimes these negative thoughts make you do unusual things like spending money on expensive clothes you don’t need, over eating, skipping the gym and waking up late for work. Although these thoughts are in your head, they are not your own and who we really are lies beneath the mind we know.
Meditation is not difficult to learn, neither is it a disciplined sport like martial arts, we just have to live in the moment, long enough to experience the benefits. Our minds have the nature of a calm ocean floor, tranquil stillness inside of us, beyond all the chaos and repetitive thoughts. Meditation helps you find your quiet place to dispel all those negative thoughts that follow you throughout the day. Some easy steps to find your inner peaceful side include:
- Go to a quiet space and remember that meditation is a luxury you offer yourself, not work
Give yourself permission to relax, be lazy, empty yourself from all the stress of life and enjoy the moment. Your body is on vacation, feel your muscles soften your skin; your face relaxes as the lax breeze blows upon your cheek and your body starts to remember what it feels like to lounge on a hammock on a sunny summer afternoon.
- Focus on those parts of your body that feel good even when there is tension or pain in your knees or back, remember that there are hundreds of nerves where pleasure exists, tap into those nerves and stay there.
- Enter your internal world
You’re in the middle of your sea, going under the waves but not yet at the bottom where everything is quiet because you have thoughts and nerve receptors flying all around you.
Breathe in deeply and expand your body, try breathing all the way down to your heels and feel the body release tension and soften with every deep exhale. Visualize your stress, negative thoughts and pain evaporate when you breathe out. Clear out negative energy and breathe in the positive air until you feel completely still.
- Get a good night sleep and take short naps
One of the most effective ways to clear your mind and relax is to sleep for 8 hours every night. Have a routine time for bed; do not bring your gadgets so you can focus on shutting down your body and mind to wake up feeling refreshed. For those who have trouble to fall asleep, you could take short power naps during the day and it should not be longer than 30 minutes to prevent grogginess and disorientation.
- Spend more time outdoors
A good way to relax is to stay fit and exercise outdoor. Studies reveal that regular exercise increases the energy level and helps you maintain a clear head. When you focus on activities that help you overcome a chaotic environment or a bad day, you get over negative feelings or thoughts more easily. Take a walk in the street, running in the woods; get some much needed fresh air, go to your favourite bench in the park and ensure you leave behind the muddled environment that is toxic for your frame of mind at least for thirty minutes every day. People who surround themselves with nature enjoy a calming effect that helps to clear the mind.
- Surround yourself with positive media
One of the established causes of low self-esteem is when you compare yourself to fictitious characters you see on TV, books or in some cases, friends who you think are better than you. Surround yourself with positive media that uplifts you instead of content that makes you question your abilities.
The first step is to write down all the TV shows, movies, music and books you read that causes you to think negative thoughts. Next, make a conscious choice to eliminate these types of content from your viewership and replace them with positive quotes that empower you with the strong message and realisation that you are better than you think you are. A good place to start is the Power of Positive Thinking by Norman Vincent Peale (1952) or Psycho-cybernetics by Maxwell Maltz (1960).
- Focus on the good memories
You are constantly exposed to garbage in the media that lead to thinking destructive thoughts like, why should I go on living? Alternatively, when friends make us so frustrated we only think negative thoughts towards them. Remember the good times and use that to overpower the impure thoughts. When you ask yourself why life is so hard, recall when your wife had your first baby, or your parents showed up at your graduation or family Christmas dinner where you were joyous and infinitely happy. Your friends are human and when they offend you, it helps to remember those times when they turned up for you, fought by your side, brought you dinner, held you when you cried and did embarrassing stuff out of love for you.
- Watch uplifting YouTube videos
YouTube is a worthy resource for almost everything and this is no different, there are some great channels to follow and top videos you can watch to help you turn negativity into positivity. Humans do retain and feel more strongly with visual media than words.
- com is one of the world’s most followed personal development trainers with a massive fan base on Facebook. Over 1.5million people have completed his online course making him one of the most successful online instructors in history. A recommended video to watch is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wmx_35rQIRg how to reprogram your mind for positive thinking.
- Sandeep Maheshwari is one name in a sea of millions who failed yet forged ahead on the path to happiness, success and contentment. He is a popular YouTuber with over 189,733,547 views and one of his most viewed videos include the post: Overcoming Fear & Anger https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EVNNzwHWq78
- YouAreCreators is a self-inspirational YouTube channel where people learn to change their negative thoughts into powerful tools for productivity and success. A popular video on the channel is Change Your Thoughts, Change Your Circumstances https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xp02R9fgSKI
- Listen to podcasts and on the go
In the battle to regain control of your mind and redirect your thoughts from the drain of sad thoughts, podcasts are a great way to take keep the flow of positive words close to you wherever you are. The commute on the way to work, an early morning walk, shopping for grocery, doing home chores, lunch break at the office. When you surround yourself with positive content from people who have been where you are, you gradually start to speak these words when the odd negative thought creeps in and with time, you become a healthy, happy version of yourself. Some powerful podcast to help change your thought process include
- The Lavendaire Lifestyle: in this podcast, you hear from YouTuber Aileen who shares tips about personal growth and the best way to create the life you want.
- If you need help focusing on each day as it comes then listen to Justin Malik on the Optimal Living Daily where he reads blog posts that help you optimize your life with different techniques that work.
- Tony Robbins is an American entrepreneur, life coach, author and philanthropist popular for his self-help books and infomercials. About 4 million people have attended his live seminars and he has been listed on the Worth Magazine Power 100 list. In the podcast, you listen to Tony Robbins speaking directly to you as he shares strategies and tactics to help you create real and lasting positive changes in your life.
- Useful mobile apps that will help you stay positive
- Headspace – A free app that offers techniques beneficial to your mood, coping skills and attention. The simple well-designed app provides short meditations with how to videos.
- Mindshift – This app is specifically designed for teenagers and young adults struggling with anxiety. With a simple interface and language, the app communicates useful information on what anxiety is and some essential strategies to tackle it.
- I can be free (IOS ONLY) – free access to the popular learning program directly on your apple device. The content on the app helps you modify your thoughts and make an immediate adjustment to how you deal with situations.
- Positive thinking (Android only) download this app for motivation on reaching your goals because your success starts with a positive mindset. Receive inspirational quotes and stream of rousing images every morning to guide you through each day.
It's’ harder to be sad when you’re smiling, avoid negative people who bring you down, be thankful for what you have, pamper yourself, enjoy life and even when everything seems bleak, be happy!