A lot of people are quick to criticize themselves and get mired down in everything that’s wrong with their life, like a boot getting caught in quicksand.
These people know, intellectually, that this is a useless endeavor that only keeps us stuck and unable to achieve our best in life. But how to stop it? How to rid yourself of negative thinking and live your best, most fulfilling life? I’ve got some ideas to help you break this vicious cycle, the one that has you trapped in negativity and feeling like you’ll never break free.
1) First you name it, and then you can tame it. This is an old adage in therapy circles, and that’s because it is so true. How can you overcome negativity if you can’t pinpoint its source? You can’t. You’ve got to do the work to discover the root of these feelings; that’s the only way you’ll ever overcome them. For example: let’s say you are chronically insecure about your appearance. Did someone, a parent perhaps, make you feel like you were never attractive enough, never smart enough, never enough, period? Parental influences leave lasting impressions on children, and if yours were negative, it causes problems. You’ve got to focus, let those attitudes go — you’re an adult now — and practice positive reinforcement every time you look in the mirror.
2) Be around positive thinkers and winners. Don’t surround yourself with folks who reinforce negativity — they make everything worse. Have coffee or lunch with a friend or colleague who is upbeat and sunny; people like that are infectious. Their good mood can easily become your good mood if you let it.
3) Regret & guilt are no one’s friend. I know this is a tall order, but you must try focusing on the present, not past mistakes and “if only.” That mindset gets you nowhere, and contributes to keeping you mired in negativity and self-criticism. It’s tough, but ask yourself: what do I accomplish when I focus on the past? The answer? Absolutely nothing. If you must think back to old times, choose a cherished, positive memory, like the day you got promoted or the day you met your spouse. Remembering those moments induces calm, happiness and the knowledge that, often, you make good choices and accomplish goals.
4) Stop believing your harshest critic — you. Negative emotions come from a deep well of insecurity and self-doubt. These are what you must quell if you’re going to start living a better, more satisfying life. Here’s a tip: ask someone close to you to name your three best characteristics. I guarantee you’ll be amazed how quickly they respond, and how easy it is for them to name those three traits. You’re a lot more wonderful than you may realize!
5) Establish an ordered morning routine. Not surprisingly, people who don’t get out of bed at a set time with an established routine — shower, coffee, breakfast, exercise — fall prey to negativity much more frequently than their organized counterparts. That’s because their lives feel purposeless, and it’s a short step from there to negativity and gloom. Even if you’re temporarily out of work and therefore home all morning, don’t discard the routine you established when employed. Disorganized habits lead to a disorganized mind.
If you are genuinely struggling with deep negativity that keeps you from getting out of bed, it’s time to seek professional help.
But if, like many people, you fall prey to these emotions occasionally, practice these steps and get out of the mental trap you’ve created. It is possible to break the cycle and move on to live your best, most productive life. But it’s up to you — you’re in charge of making your life fantastic. Silencing that inner critic and surrounding yourself with positive people who love and admire you is an important first step.