Deal With Stress

How to Deal With Powerful, Negative Thoughts

negative-thoughtsAs a kid, Tigger was one of my favorite characters from A.A. Milne’s series, Winnie the Pooh. His happiness got all over everyone as he bounced his way through life. His counterpart, Eeyore, was the donkey whose sadness could be just as infectious.

For most of my life I have leaned toward the Tigger attitude. I have enjoyed laughter and humor. I have always been an optimist, perhaps to a fault. The cup has always been half full at least in my eyes. Pessimism has never been on my radar.

However after walking through a long and arduous season of difficulty, I found myself continuing to battle negative emotions. Unlike Tigger, I had lost my bounce and could not get it back. What happened? Why were negative emotions haunting me still?

About this time I read You Can Be Happy No Matter What (Richard Carlson). He wrote, “Every negative (and positive) feeling is a direct result of thought.” Our minds are constantly thinking and those thoughts cause us to have emotions. We have jealous feelings because we have jealous thoughts or we have angry feelings because we have angry thoughts. I realized that my negative emotions were coming from negative thoughts. In order to overcome my negative emotions, I needed to deal with my negative thoughts, which can be incredibly powerful. Our minds tend to hang onto negative thoughts more than the positive. Negative thoughts can be incredibly dangerous as well. If we allow them to continue, they create a loop that we keep playing over and over. They can lead us toward a downward spiral of emotions that can result in self-destructive actions. Our thoughts become feelings that lead to actions. Negativity can be a thinking pattern we develop from disappointing circumstances that beat us down or cause us to live in hopelessness. For me, I was disappointed and kept being disappointed. All I could see was darkness.

1. I recognized the negativity. That may sound crazy, but negative thoughts had become routine for me and I did not even recognize them. However as I became more self-aware, I saw the Eeyore attitude in me. The negative thoughts had become normal. Once I became aware of them, I wanted to recover my optimism. That is where it begins. Become aware of your negative thoughts. Are you critical? Do you complain? Do you have a negative outlook on most situations? Do you see what is wrong before you see what is right?

2. I realized I needed to control my thoughts. I could not keep thinking negative thoughts and hope to move forward in a positive direction. I knew that I had power over my thoughts. I could choose to be happy or I could choose to be sad. My emotional state was not up to my circumstances. That was my decision. While acknowledging that life was difficult, I did not have to dwell on that all the time. I could think about other things.

3. As a religious person, my faith was a great help. I prayed and read Scripture regularly. I believe that negativity has a spiritual foundation. I believe that there is an evil presence in this world that is able to prompt us to think negatively because negative thoughts diminish the life our Creator instilled in us. I knew that GOD made me for more than a negative life. My faith gave me positive thoughts and pointed me in a positive direction.

4. I discovered that sitting still and doing nothing often contributed to my mental and emotional status. Wallowing in self-pity usually happened when I sat still. The absence of physical motion can contribute to the lack of positive emotion. When I forced myself to get up and do something, my mind kicked in gear and went a different direction. That is one reason that exercise was helpful to me during that difficult season. When I was physically moving, the negative feelings diminished.

5. I looked around and I was thankful for what I did have. Gratitude is a powerful antidote to negative thoughts. I expressed gratitude because I had my family and my health and my friends and a job and the list could go on and on. They were the basic things in life, but they were things that I realized that millions of people in the world do not have. I was a blessed person in so many ways. I focused on what I had rather than what I wanted.

6. I expressed my feelings. This looks different for everyone. For some, it means talking to a friend. For people like me, it means journaling. For others, it means painting or drawing. I would write down what was going on inside. The pen on the page gave me a way to get off my chest the thoughts and emotions I was battling.

7. I found positive friends. My co-workers were a very positive bunch. They had a joyous spirit and they kept my spirits up. You really do become like the people you are around. If you are struggling with negative thoughts, consider the people you spend time with. Are they complainers? Do they criticize regularly? If so, make new friends. Find people who are optimistic. They create positive energy around you.

8. I realized that most of my negative thoughts were not true. Perhaps if you have been fired, what is a negative thought you encounter? “I will never find a job. No one wants to hire a loser like me.” That is simply an exaggerated lie. None of that is true. Be careful to not generalize specific circumstances as a commentary about everything in your life.

9. Seek professional assistance. There are times you need a trained counselor to help you deal with the negatives. If your negative emotions are controlling your daily routines, then you need to get help. Fortunately I was able to function well and maintain a sane level of joy and peace. Go beyond your medical doctor’s prescription. Meet with a psychologist or psychiatrist. You are dealing with something that could ruin you so do not play around with it.

When you are in a funk, you do not realize the value you have in the hearts of your loved ones. Be there for them. They need you. Negative thinking can be a massive struggle. However it can be overcome and in the process, you become a stronger person. You gain mental toughness. You refuse to be a victim of your own failures. You choose to live in courage and peace. You can regain the joy of Tigger.

Learn more of my story from my book – Found My Heart When I Lost My Way. It is available on Amazon –

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Relieve Anxiety

Getting Past Intrusive Thoughts

Man Scratching HeadOne of the most frequent questions I receive is “How do I overcome negative thoughts that come up when I try to improve my life?”  You know those phrases like “I can’t do this,” “This is just too hard,” “Who do I think I am?” and “What’s the use?”

These phrases can be quite distracting, lead you to feel bad, and intrude on your best intentions.  In this post, we’ll explore some insights from Dr. Otto Scharmer’s research at M.I.T. on how the top leaders and innovators handle that and move to powerful solutions.

So, what did Scharmer’s research reveal?

First of all, Scharmer found that successful leaders and innovators share certain attitudes and strategies to create a positive mental environment for success.  He synthesized his findings into what he calls Theory U.  Theory U takes participants through seven stages to develop what he calls “presencing,” a state of inner stillness in which inner knowing comes to the surface.

Sounds a lot like what we do in meditation.

The first stage of this process is to “observe, observe, observe.”  You learn to recognize the voice of judgment which reflects a lack of acceptance of what is really happening.  You notice habits of being self-critical or blaming others, so you can consciously set them aside, and move deeper into a state of “full immersion” that reveals the best solutions to what is actually going on.

As you accept the chaos of the ever-busy critical mind, challenge its assumptions, and consciously let them go, you begin to access a quieter mental space in which you can ask substantial questions like “Who am I?” “What is my work?” and “What is the highest future possibility in this situation?”

Now, this process happens in stages.  The first stage is perhaps the most essential, as it sets up the rest.  In the first stage, you learn to recognize where your mind is coming from at the moment.  In other words, you observe the different thoughts you have.  You recognize the memories, inner critical voices, cynicism, and fear that intrude on your consciousness and color how you are looking at things.

You accept all of this, so you can see it more clearly and realize the results of your thinking.  This alone is a powerful step.  The ability to “observe, observe, observe,” sets the stage for diving deeper to access authentic, effective, creative solutions.

You can apply this idea whenever you run into a challenge or a stumbling block, whenever you feel stuck on “where to go” or “what to do.”  You simply start from where you are now.  And a big part of that is becoming more aware of what you are thinking.  That doesn’t mean that you have to know 100% of what is going on in your mind.  That could be an endless task.  It just means that you begin to be aware of thoughts that stand out.

This can be as simple as turning inward and noticing the words that are streaming through your brain.  See if you can witness what your mind is saying, without getting caught up in it or reacting to it.  Is it possible to just watch your thoughts?

In that process, you start to grow a little mental “wiggle room.”  You start to separate “who you are,” from all the various things that are going on in your head.  As you watch and observe, you may start to experience a little quietness, a little more clarity, a little deeper connection to “what you are here to do,” and the best steps to get there.  When you practice this consistently, that bit of awareness can grow into a quiet inner presence that senses your best solutions.