Welcome to another #WellbeingWednesday this week we are looking at how to break the cycle of negative thinking. You can catch up on all the previous weeks’ posts in this series by clicking the link above. This post is week N in The A-Z of wellbeing, so let’s get started.

Negative thinking is a habit. All habits, good and bad, can be made or broken by consistently taking the right steps to break a bad habit or create a new one. When it comes to negative thinking, it can be hard to break the habit if it’s been your go-to most of your life. Like any bad habit, it will feel awkward to act differently in the beginning, but over time the new normal will become second nature

Breaking the cycle of negative thinking doesn’t require an excessive number of steps. You can focus on the following three-step plan over and over again and get positive results. The simple steps are  

Capture, challenge & Replace

Capture negative thoughts

Here in step 1, self-awareness is key to changing negative thinking. Becoming aware of the exact thoughts that start running through your mind is the first step to changing them. For example, if you tend to say “that was stupid of me” or “I’m an idiot” when you blunder or make a mistake, you are labelling yourself stupid or idiotic which is extremely negative. No one can hurt our esteem better than we can. Capture that thought and recognise its toxicity. Acknowledge that you are thinking something negative. 

Challenge your negative thinking

Once you catch yourself in the act of thinking something negative, it’s time to challenge the thought. Step 2 requires you to speak to yourself in a healthy way, the way you might a best friend or colleague. Offer a kinder gentler thought instead. If you find that you might speak the same way to a friend or colleague, that’s an indicator that you may need some professional help overcoming a negative mindset. Assuming you have more compassion for others than you may for yourself, challenging the thought should be easier. 

Ask yourself if you truly are stupid or an idiot. Likely not. Likely you realize you’ve made a mistake or perhaps even were foolish or careless. Instead of blame consider this misstep an opportunity to learn.  

Replace the negative thought

Once you’ve identified the thought and held it captive and challenged it, it’s time to replace it. Step 3 is where you retrain your brain to think of new thoughts that are not abrasive. Instead of saying in your mind “that was stupid of me” consider saying “I wish I would have done that differently.” Instead of thinking “I’m an idiot” try “Oh dear, I don’t want to do that again!” Simply rephrasing the reaction can help create a more positive way of handling a blunder. Instead of shame and condemnation, there’s room for recovery from a mistake and possibly some humour. 

Do these steps each time you find yourself thinking something negative about yourself. Having compassion and kindness for yourself can allow you to be human and make mistakes while improving and living a more positive life. 

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