We beat ourselves up wondering – why am I always thinking negative – not realizing that this is also a negative thought. This article is all about how to escape negative thinking for good and start living life more sanely.
First of all it’s important to distinguish between practical thinking and negative thinking. The former is an essential necessity of daily living while the latter is just a waste of vital energy.
What’s Practical Thinking?
Practical thinking involves predicting the future based on our past, learning and taking necessary action to fulfill certain goals. There are times when we have to be cautious and on the alert to safe-guard our life, like when crossing the road or while driving. It’s also important to have some means of generating income to lead a certain lifestyle. All of this falls under practical “daily living” thinking.
What’s Negative Thinking?
Any form of obsessive thinking which serves no practical value, other than to make us suffer, will constitute negative thinking. Some examples of negative thinking patterns are as below:
- Worrying about being fired from your job without any concrete reason to support such a thought.
- Frantically consumed by the thought of being cheated on by your partner without any proof to support such a belief.
- Thinking about all the things that could go wrong with you at the office party.
- Worrying about what will happen to you after retirement, 20 years before you retire.
- Obsessively worrying about your health.
You know when you are thinking negative because you feel it in your body. There will be a sense of restlessness, unease and sometimes a nauseating constriction felt through-out your body when you are thinking negative thoughts.
Worrying obsessively about the future is a form of negative thinking. Resenting the past, or feeling guilty about the things you did back then, is another form of negative thinking.
Quite simply, when your negativity is projected in the future you feel angst/anxiety and when it’s pointed towards the past it’s usually guilt or resentment.
How to Escape Negative Thinking?
When majority of your waking hours are spent in negative thinking, you are living an insane life. So the pertinent question would be how can I live more sanely? A mild amount of stress is needed to survive, but that’s not a problem at all. What is problematic is an obsession with negative thinking patterns.
Here are two powerful techniques that you can use to cut through the pattern of negative thinking:
1.) Byron Katie’s Technique
If you are asking – why am I always thinking negative – it could well be because you are wired to self-criticism. You have a lot of self-loathing inside you, which manifest externally as negative thoughts.
Byron Katie devised a simple technique to cut through the mire of self-loathing and fear through self-enquiry or introspection. Every time you have a negative thought, ask yourself the below questions and write down the answer to each.
- Question #1: Am I 100% percent confident of the truth in this thought? Or Am I deeply certain that this is a true thought?
- Question #2: What is this thought making me feel and go through? (Consciously feel and write down all the physical sensations you feel in your body)
- Question #3: Now reverse the thought and find out five reasons why it’s true (for example, if your original thought was “I am terrified that I will lose my job”, just reverse it in any way – “I am not terrified that I will lose my job” or “I am terrified that I will not lose my job” and find five reasons why these thoughts are true.)
The third question is the most vital one. Reverse your original thought in as many ways as you can and find out 5 reasons why it could be true. If you just put in some effort, and honesty, you can easily come up with 5 reasons even if you initially think the “reversed thought” to be most absurd.
Just try this technique with any one of your negative thought patterns and see how easily it breaks through it. You will realize that the mind was just repeating the negative thought without any concrete reason that you need to fear about. The thought will then lose its grip on you.
2.) Eckhart Tolle’s Practice of Present Moment Awareness
Negative thoughts arise because of our preoccupation with the past and the future.
When we are obsessed with the future we feel anxiety, stress and unease. While thinking about the past negatively causes us to feel guilty or resentful.
Ultimately, both the future and the past exist completely in our mind as images or projections. They have no reality beyond the images running through our mind. The past cannot be relived and the future never comes. Only the present moment has a reality to it.
If you rest your attention in the present moment, you will see that there are no problems in the now. Any thought of a problem is always pertaining to either the past or the future. When you are deeply attuned to the present moment awareness, the mind stops churning out thoughts and focuses on dealing with just the now.
Here are Few Techniques to Enter the Field of Now:
- Become conscious of your breathing. Don’t try to control it, just place your attention on it. Remain this way for a minute. When you place your attention on your breath, you are no longer occupied in the mind and you become aware of the present moment.
- Look around you and become acutely aware of the objects in your surrounding. Don’t try to label the objects but just look and take in the presence of each object in your vicinity.
- Listen deeply to the sounds around you. Try to detect the most subtle sound that’s audible.
- Feel the sensation of your touch. Hold something and feel it deeply.
- If you are eating something, feel the taste and the smell of each morsel or bite.
- While you are walking, become aware of each step that you take and your body movements.
The bottom line is to drag your attention away from your mind and place it in the present moment. When you do this you will feel your own presence deeply. The purity of your presence is very powerful and it has the capacity to drive you towards taking the right action.
Obsessive negative thoughts have a habit of repeating themselves. It’s like a tape recorder rewinding itself again and again. Such patterns are created because you are unconsciously living in the mind and there is no presence in your life.
Initially it is difficult to stay present even for a few seconds, but with practice you can become more and more aware. When you stop investing attention in your mind you will see your life unfold beautifully. You will stop thinking negatively because you are not longer dwelling in your mind.
Living in the now is like walking the narrow space between the past and the future; all it requires is your presence. It’s a powerful shift in consciousness. You will notice how life starts working for you rather than against you when you stay in the present constantly.
You have to make a choice on whether you want to go through life in an insane manner or in a sane manner. Life is always asking you to make this one choice. Your negative thinking is nothing but a resistance to life itself.
The only way to drop it is by bringing negative thought patterns to the light of your presence and scrutiny. Then you realize there was no truth to them to start with.