I work with many clients who struggle with anxiety and/or depression for a variety of reasons, whether they are struggling in their personal or professional life, or maybe a significant life transition. I have come to notice that many clients who struggle with their anxiety and/or depression have a tendency to have negative thoughts which increases their anxiety/depression. As their clinical therapist, I certainly help them discover reasons and triggers for their negative thinking patterns, and then also coping skills that work best for them when experiencing these negative thoughts.
I recently read an article from Goop, that touched on one specific way to stop negative thinking, “How to Free Yourself from Negative Thinking” by author Barry Michels. Michels is also a psychotherapist and has been helping clients for over 20 years who have struggled with anxiety/depression related to negative thinking patterns. His article is organized in a question and answer style of writing that uncovers reasons why people have negative thinking patters and also how to cope with them.
Below are some key points from Michel’s article.
- How does negativity manifest? Michel describes that negativity can be shown if four different ways: worrying, self-denigration, complaining, and regret. He then explains that one single negative thought won’t ruin you, but when having one negative thought turning into multiple negative thoughts, it can have significant effects on you regarding the life you are wanting to live to feel nearly impossible.
- Does switching negative thoughts with positive thoughts actually help? For some individuals switching negative thoughts for positive thoughts can certainly help, while for others it doesn’t help them at all. For example, if someone believes that their home will be damaged by a hurricane, I could encourage them to make plans to leave town if they truly believed a hurricane was coming. However, I would also be emphasizing that worrying about something without taking action for it, will likely hurt individuals instead of help them.
- The power of negative thinking. Many people who struggle from anxiety truly believe that they are protecting themselves if they come up with a worst-case scenario, so that if it happens, they are mentally prepared for it. Also, thinking of the worst-case scenario does not actually prevent bad things from happening, instead it just leaves you feeling miserable.
- So, what do I do to make the negative thoughts stop? Michel explains that one way to stop this constant negative thinking is simply by shifting your focus on the good things going on in your life, such as the basic aspects in your life: you have air in your lungs, your heart is beating, you are able to eat food, drink water, the sun shining, sounds of rain, or sounds of wind. These simple, yet beautiful parts of life, get left forgotten when we are constantly thinking negatively.
- The gift of gratitude. Michel also explains that practicing gratitude is an amazing tool to stop the negative thoughts from happening. You could initiate this coping skill first thing in the morning by thinking of new things each day you are thankful for. After listing things you are grateful for, take a pause and do a check in how you’re physically feeling. You might start feeling the gratitude in your heart, that may reduce the tightness in your chest that you once have felt when feeling anxious.
- Long term effects of practicing gratitude? If you are able to practice gratitude, over time you likely will feel less edgy, anxious, and overwhelmed, which then will have a result of you to maintain a more positive perspective during the harder times, as life can certainly be messy at times.
If you are currently struggling constant negative thinking patterns, it may be a good idea to connect with one of our skilled counselors at Symmetry Counseling today. You can contact them at 312-578-9990 to set up an appointment.