We all experience negative thoughts on a daily basis, but sometimes they become more loud and relentless.
Booking a session with a therapist might not fit in your schedule or budget. Confessing to a friend could make you feel better in the moment, but it probably won’t be enough to break the loop of toxic thoughts.
What to do?
Try out these simple and effective strategies from Kerrie Thompson Mohr, psychotherapist and founder of A Good Place Therapy in New York City.
Change Your Mental Script:
It’s easy to beat yourself up over small slipups. In the long term, indulging in self-blame can chip away at your mental health. Try changing the script, Thompson says.
Instead of: “I can’t believe I didn’t wake up when my alarm went off to go run. What’s wrong with me? I am so undisciplined and lazy,”
Try: “I just had a thought that I was undisciplined and lazy, because I was too tired to wake up when my alarm went off for my run”.
Train Your Mind to Look for the Positive:
Most of us blame the situation for creating our emotional state, Thompson explains. In reality, it’s the other way around. “Imagine you are enjoying your own birthday party, when you receive a text from a friend saying she can’t make it.
Suddenly, you are filled with disappointment and resentment.
Focusing on the fun you are having with the friends who made it to the party will help.”
Ditch the “All or Nothing” Mentality:
Thompson uses the analogy of marathon training to help patients see the big picture.
“Any marathon runner’s training season is not likely to be 100% awesome or 100% terrible. If you find yourself thinking that the whole season is difficult, a more balanced view may be, ‘I’ve had some runs where I’ve felt great, and two long runs that were hard.’ “
Practice the Worst Case Scenario:
“Let’s say you are anxious about a first date and find your mind filled with negative thoughts like, ‘This dress is so last year, I’m going to look frenzied coming right from work’ and so on.
Take it to the next level by asking yourself, ‘Then what?,’ ” Thompson suggests.
In almost every case, she says, your fear is often worse than the actual consequences.
Entertain Probable Outcomes:
Say you receive a harsh email from your boss. Before obsessing over the possibility of losing your job, list all the probable outcomes and assign a probability percentage to each, says Thompson.
This exercise can help reduce your anxiety. “Chances are, your boss doesn’t want to fire or you’ve misinterpreted the tone of the email.” Thompson says.
Often, taking action — such as rehearsing the toast for your best friend’s wedding in front of a small audience — can ease your stress, Thompson notes.
Snack On This:
Want to learn more about what keeps you in a good state of mind? Thompson recommends checking out this TEDx Talk from happiness researcher and psychologist Emma Seppälä. Responses are edited for space and clarity.