21 Tips to Learn How to Divert Your Mind from Negative Thoughts!
Negative thinking and depression go hand-in-hand, often fueling each other in a vicious cycle that can overwhelm even the most positive of personalities. If letting go of depression seems like a daunting task, start by learning how to divert your mind from negative thoughts. Check out these 21 tips for a variety of expert, simple, and even fun strategies:
#1. Mindfulness is Key
First and foremost, to divert your mind from chronic negative thinking, you have to be aware of your thoughts. Mindfulness combines staying present in the moment with noticing your thought patterns; this practice of neutrally observing each thought trains you to become aware of—and better challenge—your mind’s various tendencies toward negative patterns. Also, pay attention to what triggers your negative thinking! By knowing what sends your mental well-being into a downward spiral, you can actively manage your mental health.
#2. Meditation can Reverse Negativity
When we expend energy caught in the web of our internal negative thoughts, or dwelling on negative thoughts about others, we suffer. But there is hope! Nothing symbolizes the end of suffering better than Buddha. If you haven’t yet, give meditation a try. Apps such as Headspace or Insight Meditation Timer can help get you started.
#3. If You are the Energetic Type, Try Walking Mediation!
If sitting still has you restless you can also try walking meditation. Feel your feet on the ground, notice the sensations in your joints as you step, and turn your attention to the experience of movement.
#4. Learn to Lengthen Your Breathe
If any form of meditation is not for you, there are breathing exercises that can help you temporarily pause, calm, and refocus your thoughts. In particular, concentrating on lengthening each exhale activates the parasympathetic nervous system, producing feelings of calm. Even adding a few extra counts to the out-breath can help you put on the breaks when you start feeling overwhelmed by negativity.
#5. Banish the Booze
The psychology of negative thinking is a lot like the psychology of addiction: the same habit that might bring temporary relief can also be highly self-destructive. Alcohol is a depressant, and while it may provide short-term distraction from negative thinking, ultimately it is going to magnify your negative thoughts. Not to mention: there is nothing worse than a hangover!
#6. Health Hygiene Inspires Optimism
The category “physiological needs” forms the base of Maslow’s Hierarchy for a reason: these needs—from rest and hydration to food and shelter—are the most essential. Before you can divert negative thoughts, your basic needs must be met: fill up on nutritious meals, shower, and get a solid night’s rest. It is easier to think positively when your physical health is in order.
#7. Quality Sleep Matters
The necessity of rest is worth mentioning twice! The pro tip is to leave the electronics at the bedroom door. Studies have shown that powering down before you get into bed will help you fall asleep faster (less time for negative thinking) and improve the overall quality of your sleep (waking up on a better side of the bed). If you have trouble falling and/or staying asleep, try a Hemp Extract; they contain naturally-occurring CBD which helps calm the body into deep sleep.
#8. Tell Social Media You’ll Be Back
Taking a break from social media can do wonders for anyone trying to overcome negative thoughts about others. If you can’t eliminate social media completely, then try taking an extended break. In fact, social media has been deemed a public health risk because it is so closely correlated with depression and suicidal behavior. And remember: people are not thinking about you as much as you are thinking about you—they are also caught up in thinking about themselves!
#9. Avoid Comparing Yourself to Others
No one has a perfect life. If you just can’t press pause on your daily Instagram habit, try reframing how you approach scrolling. Remember that any social media profile is the best version of a person’s life—the shiny exterior, so to speak—and not the reality of life behind the scenes. Instead, think about your own achievements and memorable moments. As Dr. Jordan Peterson advises, compare yourself to who you were yesterday, not who someone else is today.
#10. Try “The Power Pose”
Try the “Power Pose” (think arms raised over your head and a wide stance): although the science is still out on whether or not striking a power pose can actually make you more powerful, experts tend to agree that establishing better, broader posture habits can contribute to more positive thinking.
#11. Smiling Scares the Negativity Away
Literally turn that frown upside-down: you can trick your brain into less negativity with a smile. Take it a step further: they say laughter is the best medicine for a reason! Laughter increases serotonin levels (the same neurotransmitter levels increased by antidepressants) in your brain. You don’t even have to go far for great comedy: there are a ton of hilarious stand-up comedy shows available right in your Netflix queue.
#12. Write Down 5 Things You are Grateful For Per Day
Another popular tactic for overcoming chronic negative thinking is the daily gratitude list. Aim to write down at least five a day. The list can be simple at first, so don’t overthink it! You might be grateful for the roof over your head, a family member, a sunny day, a pet, or a comfy pillow—there, five ideas to help get you started!
#13. Good Music Boosts Good Feelings
Songs like “I’m Happy” by Pharell Williams, “I Love Me” by Meghan Trainor, and Bob Marley’s all-time classic “Don’t Worry Be Happy” can boost the feel-good hormone dopamine, which can help quell the ruminations that fuel negative thinking. If a positivity playlist isn’t your jam, then create a backup with your favorite angry songs: leaning into the strong beat can assist you in pushing the negative thoughts out.
#14. Write Positive Affirmations In Places You See Everyday
An old but good tip: write positive affirmations on your mirror in dry erase marker, or create post-its that you can stick to the places you frequent, such as on your calendar or laptop case. This is a useful technique for overcoming negativity purely by imbuing your daily line of vision, and routine, with positive messaging.
#15. Go for a Drive and See Something New
Are you steeped in more negativity while stuck in a cluttered office? Devote some time to cleaning, and schedule more lunches out. Force yourself to leave by a certain time each day, so you aren’t arriving to work before the sun rises and leaving after it sets. Even better: getting fresh air and exposure to sunlight, which can help fight depression.
#16. It’s Not Too Late To Try the DIY Movement
Channel internal negative thinking into a creative project: journaling, trying a new recipe, starting a small potted garden, pulling out a sketchbook or retrieving old photos to create a new scrapbook. Google “DIY” or spend some time on Pinterest for inspiration.
#17. Talk It Out – It’s Tough but It Helps
Seek out and embrace evidence that the negative thoughts plaguing you are not true. Talk to a therapist or a friend; you can even talk it out with yourself: what you would tell a friend if they were thinking the same thing? You could also develop a mantra that you say aloud to yourself so that you are verbally overcoming negative thinking as it arises. Try picking a letter and coming up with positive words to describe yourself: “I am calm, cool, collected, creative, courageous…” Lastly, if you are religious, you can “talk it out” through prayer.
#18. Get Your Blood Pumping
Just get that heart rate up!! Exercise increases energy and endorphins, the “happy” chemicals produced by the body’s natural (and perhaps healthiest) reward circuit. Furthermore, engaging in physical activity refocuses your thinking so that you are no longer concentrating on negative thoughts.
#19. Get Outside of Yourself
Do something for someone else: cooking a meal, helping with childcare, volunteering at a local nonprofit, even surprising a friend with flowers. A foolproof way to divert negative thoughts is to think about what you can bring to the world instead of what you want out of it.
#20. Make a Good-bye Box
It could be an empty box of tissues, or something more elaborate. As negative thoughts come up (e.g. “I am not good enough”) write them down on pieces of paper and slip them into the box. This is a practice in not only recognizing, but also releasing negative thoughts. It is also an effort in neither dwelling on the past nor projecting negativity into the future.
#21. Confront Your Inner Negativity
This final diversion technique may seem counter-intuitive, but sometimes resistance to negative thinking can actually make it linger longer. Rather than pushing these thoughts away when they show up, say hello to them—invite them in, ask why they’re there, and give them the option to leave. Don’t slam the door. Sometimes the best way to overcome negative thinking is to accept and work with the thoughts, so that you can ultimately let them go.
Learning how to divert your mind from negative thoughts can transform you into a beacon of light; spreading the contagious effect of positivity to our world that so desperately needs light. I hope these 21 tips gave you ideas and inspiration to live and be the light of the world.
Discussion Question: How do you divert your mind from negative thoughts?
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To your mental well-being,
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