What makes us have thoughts

Break the cycle of negative thoughts

The brain pervades our lives with a constant stream of thoughts and can thus help us plan and reflect. Solutions to difficult problems often just suddenly appear in the head or we can think of important observations about our fellow human beings out of nowhere. So this stream of thoughts can be very helpful. Negative thoughts, on the other hand, can be uncomfortable, especially if they constantly appear in the head without being asked.

Occasional worries or fears are of course completely normal at first. However, when these thoughts take on a life of their own and turn in circles, it can be very tormenting. A carousel of negative thoughts can rob you of sleep and energy, make you tired and powerless. It can steal our concentration and take away the desire to tackle our own tasks. In this article, you'll learn how to get your focus back to the things that matter to you.

How we harm ourselves

Negative thoughts can especially stand out when they are directed against ourselves. If our inner critic keeps putting us down, doubts and fears can get stuck in everyday life and feel very real. No matter how nonsensical the thoughts seem.

Suppose a person worries about acting strangely in social situations. This negative thought can lead to avoiding conversations with others. If social situations subsequently become more and more unfamiliar, the person can actually behave “strangely”. It comes from practice, so to speak, and the negative thought seems to be confirmed: "I'm behaving strangely." This can create a vicious circle. It does not matter whether the negative thought was originally justified or not. We are sabotaging ourselves and can get into a downward spiral.

Pressure increases negative thoughts

So the desire to get rid of negative thoughts can be very strong. For one thing, they can just feel stressful. On the other hand, we are sometimes afraid that we will stand in our own way and that our thoughts will inadvertently become reality. However, not wanting to think a thought or trying to force it out of your head can often make it even stronger. Allow the thought to be there instead. It's not about getting rid of it or fighting it. But to gain a helpful distance from the negative assessments of our inner critic. But how does that work exactly?

Do you know the mind game with the pink elephant? Just the instruction Not Thinking of a pink elephant almost inevitably makes it appear in the mind's eye. So the impulse to suppress or ignore is counterproductive.

You are not your thought

If you get too involved in negative thoughts, it means to gain distance. After all, a thought is initially nothing more than a thought. It is not decisive What goes through your head but howvery you identify with it. You are not your thought. Rather, this is one of many different perspectives on what you are thinking about. However, if you are brooding and similar negative thoughts keep floating around in your head, it can be difficult to distance yourself. Then it helps to look for the causes of these rapid, almost automatic leaps of thought.

Beliefs that make our thoughts negative

The basic framework for negative thoughts is usually brought to us from outside, that is, it does not come from within ourselves at all. In the course of childhood and in difficult phases of life, we can gather critical experiences that sometimes solidify into rigid opinions about ourselves . Thoughts like “I'm not good enough” or “This will end badly” can develop a momentum of their own in which they distort our perception and our thinking. These rigid thoughts often have little in common with a realistic view of reality. In psychology, these types of opinions about ourselves are called "negative beliefs".

How to get rid of negative thoughts in 3 steps

There are a number of strategies you can use to reduce negative beliefs and thoughts. Here we show you a way in 3 steps.

Step 1: recognize automatic thought patterns

Like invisible magnets, negative beliefs attract our thoughts. So actually neutral thoughts are rated negatively. As a result, the brain often produces negative thoughts automatically without our intervention. A first step in breaking through destructive thought patterns is therefore to sharpen awareness of one's own beliefs. Once brought to the surface, we can question and transform it. We can learn to intervene in the rapid automatic evaluation of our thoughts and environment. We pause for a moment and compare our thoughts with reality.

Step 2: subject associative thoughts to a reality check

If the thought “This will never work” occurs to you during an application or an important performance, compare this opinion with reality. Remembering similar situations in the past can help you get rid of negative thoughts. What positive and negative experiences have you had with applications in the past?

Incidentally, we are generally more aware of negative events and can easily forget our successes. It helps to find counterexamples to negative thoughts: When was the last time you mastered such a situation well? If the situation is completely new, it can also help to imagine a positive scenario with all the details. How will it feel to do this challenge well?

It's not about developing a consistently positive opinion of yourself. That wouldn't be believable either. We all make mistakes, after all. The aim is for you to develop a realistic opinion of yourself.

Step 3: reprogram thought patterns

Over time, not only single negative thoughts can be put in their place. You can also practice positive backlashes in general for this type of thought. If you remember your successes in similar tasks with every "I can never do this", new thought patterns can be created in the long term. In the case of new challenges or challenges that have been postponed for a long time, it can help to counter any negative thought with "I'll just try it out". You don't have to believe yourself 100 percent of this new attitude at the beginning. Nevertheless, it can enable you to take previously unknown paths and try out alternatives. It gives you a new perspective. As soon as you refute your negative thoughts through active action and new moments of success, you can also fundamentally reprogram negative beliefs.

Get rid of negative thoughts with support

When negative thinking meets other stresses in life, the cycle of worry is sometimes difficult to break. So negative thoughts and brooding can become psychological stress. For example, negative thoughts and depression often go hand in hand. Then therapeutic techniques can help prepare against a downward spiral. You can find out more about this in our article, Treating Depression. If your thoughts plague you too persistently and against your will, this article on obsessive-compulsive thoughts might also be of interest to you.

In small steps to improvement

Ordering, calming and correcting your own thoughts takes time. Be patient with yourself. Just noticing a negative thought flashing in your head is already a success. Step by step, your carousel of thoughts will slowly find more peace. You are on the right track!

Categories DepressionTags Carousel of thoughts, brooding, self-doubt, unpleasant feelings