When you spend all day working on your own, it can be tempting to let your mind wander.
You may start to think negative thoughts from time to time.
Controlling the negative thoughts in your head is essential to stay focussed on your mission and achieve your goals.
There are several proven techniques to control negative thoughts.
In this article I will discuss a couple of these methods.
Develop Your Vigilance
Once started, negative thoughts churn round and round in your mind – like clothes in a tumble-dryer.
Round and round.
Over and over.
To curb these negative thoughts, and stop the dryer, you need to be aware of the exact moment they kick in.
Observe your thoughts.
Step back and notice if what you are thinking is unproductive, negative or ego-centeric.
Pay attention: your negative thoughts are with you everywhere.
Let me give you an example from my own life:
I recently dropped in to my local supermarket to pick up a couple of items needed for a meal.
There were only a few things in my basket but everyone ahead of my in the checkout queue had trolleys.
After quite a wait I was almost at the cash desk.
The customer in front of me was being very slow to bag his items.
Then, before paying, he produced a stack of coupons.
He began to hunt through this pile of paper for the coupons which matched the items he had just bought.
At this very moment, my negative thoughts woke up.
I found myself thinking;
“Why does this always happen to me?”
“Why didn’t he check his coupons while he was waiting in line?”
“Why isn’t there a special slow-line for people claiming on coupons?“
These negative thoughts were unproductive.
I was not going to get to the check-out any faster.
So instead I looked for the positive.
“That guy must be saving a bundle with all those coupons. How clever of him to spot them and cut them all out!”
Negative thoughts can also show up at work.
That one person in a meeting who speaks for ages but doesn’t make any real contribution to the discussion.
“Why doesn’t she just stop talking?”
The tenth time the phone rings when you are trying to concentrate to hit a deadline.
“Why won’t people leave me alone to get on with my work?“
Try to realise each time a negative thought enters your head.
That way you can say “stop!” and take action to turn the thought positive.
You cannot pay attention to two things at once.
So if you notice a negative thought replace it with one which is positive.
“Let me plan my afternoon while she continues to talk.“
“All these incoming calls could be new clients seeking work.“
If you immediately shift your thoughts to an uplifting notion you will brighten your mood.
So if you are chatting with someone and the tumble-dryer in your head starts up?
You suddenly find you are not listening to them.
Bring your attention back to what the person is saying.
When you eat, focus on the flavours of the food.
Or, do some activity that occupies your mind.
Deprived of the power of attention, your tumble-dryer will no longer be able to monopolise your thoughts.
Being outside of your thoughts is a skill.
Like any skill you can learn it, but it does take practice.
The more you practice, the better your results will be.
But never let your guard down.
Because your mental tumble-dryer will restart as soon as it has the opportunity.
Don’t give it the power it needs.
Concentrate on Your Breathing
Become aware of the path of the air that passes through your nose, swells your abdomen, rises, and then leaves your nostrils.
While you are paying attention to your breathing, you are starving the tumble-dryer of power.
You can perform this breathing exercise anywhere, anytime.
Do it and as often as you feel the need.
Also try out some relaxation and meditation activities.
Imagine your thoughts as they spin.
Notice them and mark them as “negative” or “unproductive”.
Giving a label to each thought makes you concentrate on the task of labelling and you can forget the thought itself.
Set Yourself Free
For most people, negative thoughts mean a tendency to dramatize things.
They predict the worst possible outcome.
Make and effort to keep your distance from these types of thoughts.
Analyse what is troubling you and how you are feeling.
Turn your catastrophic thoughts into rational thoughts.
Recognise that the situation is, after all, not so bad.
Imagine you are waiting for an important client to meet you at a restaurant.
Right before they arrive you accidentally sprinkle red wine on your clothing.
You could panic: “What is he going to think? … I’m sure I’ll lose the contract!“
An alternative is to say to yourself instead, “This is just a garment. I’ll explain my clumsiness to them. They will understand. My proposal is concrete.“
By looking for the good in every situation you instantly de-dramatise the event.
Your thoughts can no longer be threatening.
Let it All Out
If you always have negative thoughts in your head, it is often because you keep everything inside.
Do you sometimes try to keep a to-do list in your head?
You keep going over it again and again, trying not to forget an important task.
It is so much easier to write out your to-do list.
When you write down your list, your mind will be calm – confident you have captured everything you need to do.
If your thought tumble-dryer won’t stop, keep a thought journal.
When you record all those thoughts and your emotions, you can let them go.
Those negative thoughts will not trouble you again.
Your mind will be calm.
When your mind is calm you will do your best work.