Who doesn’t know it, the negative thinking loop that includes one (or all!) of these examples: ‘I’m not good enough’, ‘Others are so much better at doing this’, ‘I’ll never manage…’, or ‘Of course this happens to me!’.
Per day we have on average 60.000 thoughts
A study of the National Science Foundation in 2005 showed that on average, we have between 12.000 – 60.000 thoughts per day. Furthermore, 80% of those thoughts tend to be negative and 95% are repetitive. Now, this doesn’t sound all that promising, but it also shows us that it’s completely natural to have negative thoughts.
Oftentimes we have the expectation towards ourselves to think positively all the time and don’t we dare have one single negative thought – it might turn into reality after all! Luckily, we are not that powerful. Not every negative thought will immediately manifest itself and we can spare ourselves a lot of stress by accepting that it is OK to occasionally have negative thoughts.
It is OK to sometimes have negative thoughts
The main point is that we recognise these negative thoughts but then don’t identify with them. And herein lies the crux of the matter. When we think ‘I’m not good enough’ this quickly has the capacity to trigger our individual negative thinking loop and before we realise it we whole-heartedly believe what we think.
Thoughts are not facts
To break free from this negative thinking loop it’s essential to recognise that our negative thoughts are not facts. Just because I think ‘I’m not good enough’, it by far doesn’t mean that I actually am not good enough. Rather, these are limiting beliefs that we carry around with us since childhood.
However, we are not born with these limiting beliefs. It is through social conditioning that we acquire them and store them in our subconscious, rarely questioning them again.
5 Steps to letting go of negative thoughts
Fortunately, there are tips and mental tricks to let go of obsessive negative thinking. I created the below list with the 5 tricks I personally find most effective:
#1 Do a thought check
To start with, it’s crucial to become aware of your own thoughts. For that matter it’s helpful to conduct a regular thought check. For example, each time you enter the kitchen or each time you brush your teeth ask yourself: what am I currently thinking about? Become aware of the noise in your head.
#2 Write your thoughts down
Once you are aware of all the thoughts in your head, it can be a great relief to bring your fears and worries onto paper without trying to censor them. Set your timer on 5 minutes and get started with your unfiltered writing practice. This simple practice can help you gain control of your emotions and enhance your overall wellbeing.
#3 Name your thoughts
In order to detach from your thinking, versus constantly identifying with it, it’s helpful to name your thoughts. This transforms an ‘I’m not clever/ beautiful/ good enough’ into an ‘I have the thought that I’m not clever/ beautiful/ good enough’. A small but powerful difference that helps us to gain a new perspective on our thoughts. Try it!
#4 Challenge your thoughts
You don’t have to take everything that’s going on in your head at face value. Instead, I encourage you to challenge your negative thoughts and look for proof. Where does this thought come from? Is this thought actually true? With which behaviours am I keeping this thought alive?
#5 Build up your confidence
Obsessively indulging in negative thinking can lead to a significant decrease in confidence. Therefore it’s instrumental to look for counter-arguments for your negative thoughts. For example ‘I will most certainly fail’ turns into ‘Which situations in my life have I mastered successfully? Which strengths did I gain through this?’