When things start going downhill it’s easy to get stuck in negative mode. I’ve been there more times than I care to admit. That place where it’s difficult to even think of something positive and once something negative starts rolling around in my brain all I can do is ruminate on it. It can be hard to change your thinking when you get into one of those negative spots.
Several years back I found myself in the grips of a negative mindset. I couldn’t find a way to think positive and I kept getting stuck thinking about all the negatives in my life. I finally sought out a therapist just for this reason. He really helped me learn how to get control of my thoughts, limit the negative thinking, and refocus my attention.
The process of changing my thinking from negative to positive took a bit of work, but once I paid attention, it didn’t take long. One thing he had me do was to actually note my negative thoughts. Instead of just letting them ruminate, I’d make a tic mark, keeping track of these negative thoughts. The simple act of stopping to log the thought, was often enough to stop the thought, and over time the number of negative thoughts decreased to a point where they were no longer an issue.
Additionally, There are several questions that have helped me refocus my thinking in a positive direction. No single one of these will completely change your thinking, but the more you can think about positive things the more positively you will think. So, let’s give it a try. Here are 10 questions to help you start thinking positive again.
What is one positive thing about your life right now?
It is so difficult to think of anything positive when you are stuck in the dumps. It’s much easier to look around and find negativity in everything. But, the only way out is up. So, what is one positive thing you can say about your life? Do you have a roof over your head? Do you hurt less today than other days? Is there one person who cares about you? Does your cat love you? Is your chair comfortable? Pick something- anything – positive, no matter how small and focus on that one thing that is positive.
What is one thing that you can be thankful for right now?
Now that you’ve come up with one thing positive, be thankful for that thing. Or, take it a step further and think of another thing you have to be thankful for in this moment. The more things you can think of the better. Maybe it’s a person you are thankful for, or a TV show that allows you some distraction from your pain. Maybe, it’s a pet. Maybe it’s something as small as having your favorite food on hand.
What do you need to stop saying to/about yourself?
Why are we so mean to ourselves? Why are we so often our own worst enemy? There are so many things I’m willing to say about myself that I’d never say about someone else I care about (or even someone I don’t care about). I’d certainly never let someone talk about a friend the way I often talk to or about myself.
When you find yourself thinking one of those thoughts, write it down and then draw a line through it and write the way it should be. Instead of
“I never do anything right”, write out “I often excel at…..”. Instead of “ no one loves me“, write out “….. loves me” Just be sure to fill in those blanks. We all have these thoughts, we just have to pay attention to them and turn them around, rather than letting them continue.
What do you need to let go of?
I’m amazed at how often we hold onto things that we need to let go of. Whether it’s an actual item, a grudge, or just a way of doing things that doesn’t really work for us. The problem is our brain fights change, so it’s easier to keep doing what we’ve always done, keep thinking what we’ve always thought, and hold onto the known, than it is to let go. But, change is good and often change is exactly what we need to shake us out of a rut. So, look around what are you holding onto that you just need to let go. Is it a person? It is a thing? Is it a thought?
What is your plan of action to make your life better?
Change starts with a plan. When we live with chronic pain we often can’t see past the end of our nose. Plans? What plans? Instead of plans we have hopes, we hope we’ll wake up tomorrow in less pain. If we could just feel better, maybe then we could plan. But, sometimes we need to just go ahead and make a plan. Making a plan gives us the impetus to make changes that can improve our lives. So think about what it is that you want and start thinking about what it will take to make that plan a reality. Put together a plan to make that happen.
Are you reacting to life or responding to it?
Too often in life we are reactionary. We react without thinking and often without even knowing all the facts. When we live life reacting to things we stay stressed out, and tense, and in the case of those of us living with chronic pain, it extends the pain and makes it worse. However, when we can learn to live life from a state of calm and a respond thoughtfully instead of just reacting, we can actually reduce the stress that surrounds us and reduce the pain. Sit back. Take life in. Think. Give yourself time to respond rather than simply reacting.
How can you lift yourself (and others) up?
Sometimes the best way to lift ourselves out of a negative space is to help someone else. That may be as simple as listening to a friend in need. It may mean volunteering in some way for some cause that you believe in. We don’t really think about it, but helping others is really a selfish act because we feel good when we do it. So, lift yourself up by helping someone else.
Do you expect too much of yourself and others?
I know I do. I beat myself up quite a bit because I don’t live up to my expectations of myself. Those expectations, by the way, are much higher than the expectations others have of me. In turn, I often expect others to have the same high standards of themselves. This isn’t helpful for either of us. I need to take a step back and give myself a little grace, and extend that same grace to others.
Do you need to forgive yourself or others?
I can honestly say that right now I don’t have anyone I need to forgive. But, I have certainly had times when I needed to. When I hold a grudge I hold it well. Holding onto things, just creates stress as I continue to think about the situation and over-analyze it. I’ve learned that I need to let go. I can’t go around holding grudges and staying mad at others or at myself. I’ve had to learn that the past is the past and sometimes you just have to let things go because it’s not worth the stress. Life is just so much easier without the stress.
What can you learn from your past to help you move forward?
The ability to look inside myself is one of my strongest assets. I can (when I choose to) see where I need to improve, figure out what went wrong in situations, and can help myself. Unfortunately, I don’t do it often enough, or in some cases I do it when it’s not necessary. I often over-analyze past situations, when it’s not warranted. But, it is that analysis that allows me to move forward and to grow. Additionally, I can take what I’ve learned about myself and use it to help others avoid the same mistakes, or maybe I can use that past to just understand others and let them know they are not alone.
Do you get stuck in the negative thoughts? It’s time to change your thinking. To start finding small ways to think positive. Look out the window what do you see? Watch the birds, enjoy nature, hang out with your pets, your kids, your family and friends. Find something positive in life and then start the climb. There’s no reason to continue to live in negativity. You can pull yourself out.