We all have experienced anxiety, stress, self-doubt, irrational fears, and regret at some point in our life, be it before our final exams or before a job interview or maybe in a time like this when we are all stuck at home for about a year.
It can all feel overwhelming at times, and our minds start to wander and get impatient – this is normal and can happen with anybody. But if these symptoms continue for a long stretch, we must find ways to eliminate these negative thoughts and find a positive outlook towards life.
REASONS FOR NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
There can be many reasons for us to feel low and cynical about everything. It can significantly impact how we express ourselves, our relations with people, our interests, our present, and our future.
People respond to this negativity in different ways- some might find ignoring these thoughts and suppressing them to combat negativity. In contrast, others might feel overwhelmed and give in to these thoughts and surrender themselves.
Each individual has a different aura, a different persona, and a different approach to coping with negativity. These negative thoughts may generate a small discomfort, such as scoring low in a test or maybe because of a tragic incident.
Therefore the intensity of this negativity can also vary among people, and so the impact. While there can be multiple reasons for negative thoughts, some of the commonly observed reasons are mentioned below;
Anxiety about our near future
This is mostly short term because it is related to something that is going to happen very soon, such as a deadline for an assignment, or a job interview, or getting your results, etc. these negative thoughts are often caused by our fear of failure and rejection, and therefore impact our morale by dragging us down into the spiral of negative thoughts and self-doubt.
Past events or incidents can leave a mark on our memory and cause significant distress. People often feel embarrassed and guilty about something they have done in the past and regret it. These mistakes and failures significantly affect our relations with people, and they might find it challenging to be comfortable among them. But just like Rafiki from the Lion King said, “The past can hurt. But from the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.“, we need to find the ray of hope to get over self-doubt and embarrassment.
WHY NEGATIVE THOUGHTS OCCUR?
We all know that our brain releases the chemical Dopamine or the “feel good” chemicals. Dopamine with some other chemicals such as serotonin and endorphins plays a crucial role in maintaining our feelings and mood.
While healthy levels of these chemicals can be beneficial to your body and make us feel happy, low levels of these chemicals can significantly impact our body – physically as well as psychologically.
It is the imbalance in the level of these chemicals that impact our behavior and result in various problems such as,
Fatigue and loss of interest
Loss of appetite
Our body has a reward mechanism that releases dopamine every time it experiences something good. Every time you eat your favourite breakfast, you feel happy, and an adequate amount of dopamine is released in your body. Similarly, when you accomplish a goal, dopamine is released, encouraging you to do more such activities and release more dopamine.
Dopamine is also associated with repetitive behaviour and reinforcement. Because of these characteristics of dopamine, a person naturally gravitates towards positive experiences and develops healthy habits. But in low dopamine levels, people choose such behaviours that help them release this chemical by engaging in harmful or addictive behaviour.
An imbalance of dopamine in the body can cause an unhealthy reward system adopted by an individual to release this chemical. Therefore, it can cause many physical and psychological disorders.
TYPES OF NEGATIVITY
Negativity can manifest itself in several ways, such as;
Polarized thinking about people and objects
Blaming others for anything wrong that happens to you
Jumping to conclusions without any reasoning
Filtering only the bad experience and not considering the good side
IMPACT OF NEGATIVE THOUGHTS ON DIFFERENT ASPECTS OF LIFE
- On health – as mentioned earlier, a series of negative thought and unhealthy behaviour can significantly impact our health by making us attract towards harmful habits such as addiction, alcohol consumption, smoking, etc. negative thoughts can also affect our eating habits, our sleeping pattern, and our interests and therefore, can influence not only our physical health but mental as well as psychological health
- On the body – When we subject our body to unhealthy repetitive behaviour, our organs’ normal functioning is disrupted. Therefore, the hormonal level for various reactions in the body is also disturbed. Because of an unhealthy routine, our body starts to fight back in different ways that can cause problems such as irregular bowel movement, fatigue, loss of appetite, hair fall, and loss/gain of weight.
- On lifestyle – human beings are social animals and therefore cannot survive in captivity. We cannot shut ourselves from the world, and thus, there is a need to maintain honest and healthy relationships with people around us. When we suffer from negative thoughts, we tend to isolate ourselves and limit ourselves from getting social and expressing ourselves.
HOW TO COMBAT NEGATIVE THOUGHTS?
Every individual has a different mechanism of understanding what their body is trying to tell them. It might take a few days or maybe up to several months for an individual to recognize the unhealthy pattern they are following.
Once identified, the way one tries to combat these thoughts and behaviour is also essential to overcome these. What works for some people might not work for the rest- there is no such thing as “One Fit For All ”’. Each individual has a different journey, different problem, and thus, requires different solutions.
Some of the effective ways to overcome your negative thoughts are;
Recognize and accept that you need help. The only way to cure something is first to accept the fact that you are suffering. Once you know that you are stuck in a spiral of negative thoughts, it would be easier for you to find the solution.
Find the source of these negative thoughts. Most of the time, negative thoughts occur because of something that happened recently or is about to happen shortly in the future. Such types of negative thoughts might get removed from your mind after some time. But in the case of childhood trauma or repetitive behaviour of negative thoughts, every small issue can severely influence your day to day life. If you feel these negative thoughts have been around you for a long time, then you can take advice from a specialist, but if you find yourself in a position where these thoughts only occur before a significant event, then you can try to resolve them by yourself first and then seek help if required.
Once you know that you are struggling with negative thoughts and understand why it is time to find the solution. Professional help is always there to help you get out of this circle. But you can also try some methods that can prove efficient as well, such as meditation.
MINDFUL PRACTICES AND MEDITATION
Meditation has a long history and dates back to ancient civilizations. Indian history mentions the importance of meditation and how it can transform an individual into a completely conscious being.
Buddhism talks about mindfulness and meditation as one way to lift yourself from all worldly pain and become your one true self. Once you become aware of yourself, you will control your thoughts and limit anything that can disturb your peace. With a strong mind, you can restrict these negative thoughts from entering your mind.
“If a man’s thoughts are muddy, If he is reckless and full of deceit, How can he wear the yellow robe? Whoever is master of his nature, Bright, clear and true, He may indeed wear the yellow robe.” – Buddha.
Many meditation practices such as Yoga also require physical involvement of the body. With yoga and meditation, you can restrict all the negativity around you to impact you. Meditation will help you to focus on the positive side and will give you peace, self-affirmation, and a positive outlook towards life.
“For soon the body is discarded, Then what does it feel? A useless log of wood, it lies on the ground, Then what does it know? Your worst enemy cannot harm you As much as your thoughts, unguarded. But once mastered, No one can help you as much, Not even your father or your mother.” – Buddha.
WHAT IS MEDITATION?
Meditation is a kind of practice that helps in promoting your mind-body relationship. Once you control your mind and your thinking, you automatically become more aware of your body and its needs.
Unlike other physical activities that require tools and equipment, meditation doesn’t require you to spend lots of money. Rather meditation is best to do in a natural environment with a healthy vibe.
There are multiple benefits of meditation. It is suitable for your body, your brain, your overall development, and so on. Some of its most common benefits are mentioned below,
- It helps you to develop a better perspective of life and gives you a new outlook
- It is an excellent way of stress management
- It makes you more self-aware
- It can help you to control negative thoughts
- It is a great way to increase your imagination and creativity.
- It can help reduce the chances of many illnesses.
ELEMENTS OF MEDITATION
There are many different meditation practices, such as yoga, Tai Chi, Mantra Meditation, etc. Each type of meditation has its various elements and other goals. Some of the common features of all these meditation practices are,
- Focused attention – while meditating, it is essential to focus your attention and cut yourself out of any other thoughts that come up in your mind. It might be difficult initially, but with practice, you will be able to lift yourself from the worldly problems and find a peaceful space.
- Relaxed breathing – meditation is the way to self-consciousness. While meditating, focus on your breathing, examine the movement of your diaphragm, feel the air coming in and out of your lungs. Take a deep breath, and with each breath, follow the movement of your neck, shoulders, and chest.
- A comfortable position – a comfortable position doesn’t signify sitting on the floor. You can be walking, lying down, or sitting on a chair and can still meditate. The only requirement here is to find a comfortable position. If you are not comfortable, you will not be able to focus your attention correctly.
- A positive environment – while meditating, is advised to sit in a peaceful environment because it will help you focus better and reduce hindrance and disturbances.
- Open attitude – do not get stuck on a single thought. Think of it as a reel; let this reel of thoughts pass without getting focussed on one.
LEARN HOW TO MEDITATE
- Find a peaceful place to meditate.
- Sit in a comfortable position
- Close your eyes and try to focus on one point.
- Take deep breaths.
- Follow your breathing pattern and observe the movement of your upper body.
- Relax your shoulders and let go of any tension.
- Relax your body, do not hold any part of your body – lose yourself.
- Let the thought pass.
- You can also add a mantra to your meditation practice.
- Practice the same for 10-15 minutes.
Meditation is the easiest way to reconnect with ourselves and find meaning. When you are self-aware and self-conscious, you will focus on the right parts of your life and learn from the bad experience and move on. With a peaceful mind, you will be able to look at your life differently- with a more positive and hopeful outlook.
“Peace comes from within. Do not seek it without.” -Buddha