Negative thoughts—like those stemming from jealously, anger, fear and shame—are a natural part of the human experience. Negativity feels heavy in our bodies; it clutters our minds and blocks our connection to spirit. On the other hand, positive thoughts—such as those stemming from feelings of joy, love and gratitude—feel good and are good for us. Research shows that positively minded people are healthier, happier and more successful than those who engage in more negative thinking.
Maintaining a positive mindset is easier said than done. We live in a sea of negativity, where judgment and fear abound. The news and popular media are rife with images of danger and destruction. And many of us have been taught from an early age to focus on what is wrong with our lives and the world, rather than embracing what feels right and good. Fortunately, our minds and brains are malleable. With some time and attention we reverse this “negativity bias”, and start bringing more positive thoughts and experiences into our lives. Here are some tips for detoxing our minds:
Pay attention to your thoughts. Many of us keep our attention focused outwards on things in our environment and are not aware of the contents of our minds. In order to reduce negative thinking, we must be aware of our thought processes when we are falling prey to negativity. Not sure what counts as a “negative” cognition? Try paying attention to how the thought feels in the body. Negative thoughts typically feel denser and less comfortable than positive ones.
Listen for hidden messages. Our negative thoughts and feelings often appear for a reason; it’s important to take time to listen to what they have to say before moving on. If we just try to ignore them or whitewash over them, they will just get louder and stronger. Sometimes the messages are obvious, other times they are subtler. For instance, a stab of jealousy for a physically fit friend may be a signal that we need to spend more time taking care of ourselves, or it could reflect deeper feelings of unworthiness.
Practice radical acceptance. Paradoxically, change flows most easily from a place of self-love and acceptance. It’s important to recognize that whatever we are experiencing—be it positive or negative—is absolutely right for us in that moment. We don’t have to like it. We don’t have to embrace it. But try not to judge as judgment is another form of negativity. Counter negativity with love. Negativity comes from a place of fear or pain. No matter how prickly it feels, the best antidote is to bath those thoughts and the hurt place inside of us with plenty of love. Love really does conquer all.
Shift your thoughts to something more positive. Once we have identified, heard and accepted the negative thoughts, we can gently shift our focus to something more positive and pleasant. For instance, we can counter thoughts of jealousy for what we are lacking with thoughts of gratitude for what we already have.
Seek Support. For some people following the above steps may not be enough. Some hurts and negative belief systems are harder to let go of than others. Working with a mental health professional, spiritual healer or life coach can help to heal these deeper wounds so that we more easily invite in the positive energy and experiences.