Negative thoughts are massive energy suckers. They recruit your creativity in service of overthinking, solving problems that don't exist, or attempting to control people and circumstances you have no control over. They create anxiety, exhaustion, and overwhelm. Here are 5 steps to follow to detach from the vortex of negative thoughts so you can use your time and energy in more creative ways.
1. Become an Objective Observer
Before you're able to deliberately change something, you must first become aware of it. If you're not aware of your negative thoughts and how they impact you, you can't do anything about them. One of the best ways to create an awareness of your thoughts is by becoming an objective observer.
Resist the urge to judge, evaluate, analyze, or "do it the right way." Resist the urge to follow and feed any specific thought. As an objective observer, your job is to watch the thoughts as they emerge and get them out of your head by writing them down. Empty your mind onto the paper by asking yourself over and over, "What else is there?" until everything is on the paper and there's no noise in your mind.
2. Separate Facts From Opinion
Now that you have your thoughts where you can see them, notice the wide range of their content: from irrelevant chatter, grocery list, last year's conversation... to familiar worries, fears, and internalized judgments. Is there a specific thought you find most troubling or believable? Which one are you most attached to? Which one would you love to be able to let go?
The majority of thoughts that our mind offers us are merely opinions and suggestions. They are not truths, facts, orders, or summons, which means they don't need to be followed or taken seriously. When they come from within our mind, they appear as if they are facts, but they are not. Decipher for yourself: Is this a fact- something a majority of people would agree on, like they would on colors, or weather, or is this just an opinion?
3. Decide if You Want to Keep This Thought
If you decided that your thought is not a fact but simply an opinion (perhaps not even your own opinion!), proceed by asking yourself: Is there a benefit in keeping this thought?
Each thought has an emotional response to it, so consider - how may you end up feeling an hour from now if you keep thinking this? Do you feel better or worse when you think this? If someone else said this to you, would you think they were a well-meaning friend or a hurtful foe? What is the cost of spending time thinking about this? What would it feel like to let go of this thought? If you decide you don't want to keep this thought, say it out loud or write down "I am letting this thought go," or "It is safe to let this thought go." Notice how that feels. Don't rush out of it. Let your body memorize that state by staying in it for as long as you can.
4. Build Evidence for a Different Perspective
There are so many different ways to think about anything. Just because your mind suggested one perspective, it doesn't mean you have to keep that perspective. Imagine if you actively and deliberately tried defending an opposite position.
What would be a different way to think about it? How would someone who loves themself/ believes in themself/ is patient/ is a loving partner... think about it? What other thoughts are present but you haven't given them a platform? Answering these questions guides you toward considering a different perspective and provides you more choices.
5. Practice a Thought That Feels Better!
Once you decide that the initial thought is not worth keeping and you choose a new thought that would feel better, it's time to practice it! Pick a thought you can actually believe and that generates more positive feelings. Practice that thought by writing it down as a reminder and placing it in places where you can see it often. Create check-ins during the day to remind yourself of the new thought. Journal on a topic: I am the person who [insert new thought].
Don't be discouraged by having to practice this. Healing and change are processes, not one time events. The more you practice, the more your body memorizes the new way of being and thinking. And as always, be gentle with yourself. You can't detach from negative thoughts by using negative thoughts towards yourself!