It’s not enough just to repress less-than-productive thoughts. You have to teach yourself to shift your thinking completely so that those negative impressions don’t even appear to distract or derail your focus in the first place.
It may seem counterintuitive, explains Dr. Jeremy Dean of PsyBlog, but suppressing unwanted thoughts will only result in having them come back stronger than before, thus perpetuating a cycle of negativity. Fortunately, Daniel Wegner shares 8 practical methods to make the process of eliminating unwanted thoughts that much easier.
- Distract Yourself Deliberately: Instead of letting your mind wander when negative thoughts enter your mind, focus on one specific thing. This distraction will move you away from the feelings of negativity, directing your focus instead towards the task at hand.
- Avoid Stress: As you might suspect, stress and stressful situations can bring on negative thoughts much stronger than peaceful situations.
- Postpone Unwanted Thoughts: This may sound odd in theory, but you can trick your brain into worrying about things later. You will have to deal with these thoughts eventually, but postponing negative thoughts will allow you to deal with them when you have the time.
- Give Deliberate “Batched Attention” to Unwanted Thoughts: When you do have time to deal with these negative thoughts, concentrate your attention completely on them. This method is based on the principle of “exposure therapy,” whereby the exposure to a thing will over time render it harmless.
- Surrender the Struggle: Like the direct focus method, but less difficult, instead of actively resisting unwanted negative thoughts, strive to accept them instead. By letting them run their course, you will soon find that they fail to affect you the way they did when you fought so hard to suppress them.
- Just Say ‘Ohmmm’: Meditation has been proven to quiet the mind, and relax the brain centers which harbor thoughts of self-deprecation and negativity. This is why the happiest people in the world are those who meditate daily.
- Adopt Self-Affirmation: By pushing down negative thoughts, you are creating a void that the negative thoughts will try to come back and fill. Instead, fill that void with self-affirming, positive thoughts about your traits and abilities.
- Write Down Your Thoughts: Expressive writing of your thoughts and feelings can help them feel less potent in your mind. Journaling plays a central part in my work and personal life, and many other high performers report a similar practice.
Dealing with negative or unwanted thoughts is all part of being human, but there are ways to overcome them and still stay productive. Basically, you don’t have to let your negative thoughts get the better of you, and putting these methods into practice can make that process much easier.
Read more details from PsyBlog.
What are some tips or techniques that you use to keep negative thoughts at bay at work or in your personal life?