Oftentimes I begin to feel stuck in my own patterns. I sit down and wonder how to stop negative thoughts about myself. I hesitate to take my own steps. Question my thoughts. And worry about a million things that are not working for me. Building a life you desire requires you to improve yourself. Whether you want to lose weight, grow happier, earn money, and so on—it requires some level of change in the choices you make everyday and actions you take. However, some of us remain stuck in the same cycle for years.
We want to lose weight, but can’t resist the pastry from that shop, on our way home from the office. We want to switch that job, but the fear of joblessness keeps us from writing that resignation letter. You see, there are many barriers. Internal fear, other’s expectations, or lack of motivation, to name a few.
Looks complicated right? So, what do we do? How to improve yourself and make it look like an effortless game?
- 100 Things People Overthink About (Answers from a facebook group).
- 25 Examples of Negative Thoughts
- Questions to Challenge Negative Thoughts
Identify Your Personal Values
One of the most straightforward ways to stop negative thoughts is by identifying your values. Yes, that’s true. For instance, I wanted to pursue Psychology as my core subject during my bachelors, because I valued the field of mental health. So, back then, despite my parents suggesting, “This field won’t land you a well-paying job,” I managed to complete my education and set up my own therapy room.
I carved my own path, despite all the confusion and uncertainty that I had. And what helped me the most was making choices that best aligned with my personal values.
Knowing what you value is the key. One of the simplest ways to know what you value the most is asking—“What brings me peace?” My context behind this question is that many of us are chasing something today. Be it money, goals, or people. In times like these—such a question is a reminder to give up your chase (in case it isn’t serving you), and reframe your alternatives closer to the question and(or) your values.
However, If you’re like me, you’d need something more, just in case the question—“What brings me peace?” Doesn’t work for you, occasionally.
- What areas of your life are going well? What areas are going bad? What areas of life could be improved?
- How would you like to spend your time?
- Could you list down a few values that are most important to you?
- What makes one value more important than others? How long has this been important to you?
- How involved are you in this value, and for how long?
Another good option to stop negative thoughts is by keeping the Values in Daily Living worksheet handy.
I prefer this worksheet because it has a seperate section with all the values listed, along with gaps where I can write my thoughts down. It gives me time to think, attain clarity over my values, and write down what truly matters to me.
Prioritize What Requires Improvement and What Doesn’t to Improve Yourself
You’d do anything to stop negative thoughts. I get it. However, I’d not suggest you make a list of strengths and weaknesses because it can be difficult for some of us, especially those who struggle with feelings of low self-esteem. So let’s just skip that part for now.
However, if you can do it, then that’s great. Do it! For others, look at your strenghts/weaknesses as “behaviors.” Ask yourself:
- What behaviors do I pursue frequently but aren’t as helpful in living a fulfiling life?
- What behaviors do I pursue minimally, but can help me live my best life, if I pursue them?
You can also download my goal setting worksheet that will help you identify and set goals—best aligned to your values. It’ll help you explore barriers that are keeping you from your goals, and set up an effective strategy towards attaining goals successfully.
Tackle Negative Thoughts & Overthinking
Don’t be disheartened if you feel like giving up while trying to stop negative thoughts. Despite choosing to pursue my own values and goals—I have always allowed space for experiencing the discomfort in my day-to-day life. That’s all part of the process, I guess.
However, when I’m loathed with negative thoughts—I’d head to the kitchen coffee-table, turn to my negative thoughts chart from the ebook, and scribble all of them down, even if it makes no sense to me. The whole activity eases my mind. It feels like I have something put down on the table now, rather than keeping it inside me.
This second chart got 5 columns that lets me explore my negative thoughts from multiple perspectives. As you see in the picture above, the chart involves questions like:
- My negative/unhelpful thoughts are…
- This thought makes me feel…
- This thought makes me want to…
- What evidence do I have that this thought isn’t true?
- A more helpful thought is…
Additionally, I have listed down 15 questions in my journal for when I’m overthinking. Simply reading and scribbling upon it is a good enough way to cope with overthinking and negative thoughts.
Speaking of scribbling, you can also dump your worries in these six categories that I have (from one of my newsletter ebooks)—specifically so that we don’t feel overwhelmed when different things are happening in our lives.
Here, you can dump others’ expectations of you, negative thoughts, or important decisions that are yet difficult to make. Anything that occurs in your head, is for you to put it down.
Sally George is a Psychologist & the Editor of Gentle Meanings. She shares thought-provoking tools, asks insightful questions, and encourages her readers to be gentle with themselves.