Our brains are constantly turning over thoughts as we go about our day. Most of the time of course, this is necessary to help us plan ahead and make the right decisions. However, sometimes unhelpful or repetitive thought patterns can occur, which can seem louder and more insistent than our positive and pleasant experiences and recollections.
If you find that this is happening to you, it’s important to develop some techniques for dealing with these thoughts, rather than allowing them to build up, which can exacerbate problems such as anxiety, stress, and depression.
Remember that it normal to have some negative thoughts; it is all a part of the way your brain is designed to function. After all, a healthy mind needs to alert us to any potentially dangerous or problematic situations. This has served a useful evolutionary function, as in the past, humans had to be constantly on the alert for predators.
Now, although we are rarely in life and death situations, our minds still retain what psychologists refer to as a ‘negativity bias’. This is the tendency of the mind to foreground potentially harmful and threatening situations, in order to help us keep safe as we go through the world.
The first step is to acknowledge your negative thoughts, rather than try to suppress them. The next step is to identify your most unhelpful thoughts, and learn to step back and view them in an objective manner. Some people find they can change their thought patterns through mindfulness techniques.
This involves learning to detach your thoughts from your emotions, so that you no longer become depressed or discouraged by any intrusive negative voices in your mind. It’s a far more effective way of dealing with the problem than trying to ignore or distract yourself from your thoughts with unhealthy behaviours and habits.
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