Negative thinking affects everyone, but those of us in recovery seem particularly prone to it. You may have heard it called “stinking thinking” in the rooms of AA. These thought processes include outward behaviors like complaining, being judgmental, blaming others, and gossiping. Negative thinking distorts perception and it can be the start down a road that leads to discontent and irritability.
How to stop negative thinking in 5 steps: Stop thinking in extremes
Addicts and alcoholics in recovery tend to be very black and white when they think about things. If they hear that someone who is active in AA has been stealing money from their job or cheating on their spouse, they may think that everyone in AA is a fraud and no one is practicing what they preach. If they don’t get a job they want they may think “I’ll never get a job.” All or nothing thinking misses out on the subtle shades of life. It makes you think of every little hiccup like it is a catastrophe. Sure, disasters occasionally happen, but most of the time, one little thing hiccup will not lead to complete failure. Most of life consists of shades of grey. Recognizing that life is going to have both ups and downs is the best way to get past this kind of thinking.
How to stop negative thinking in 5 steps: Stop negative self-talk
Addicts and alcoholics in recovery are often their own worst enemies. They say horrible things about themselves to themselves all the time. Things like “I’m so fat” or “I’m going to end up alone.” Not only does this pattern of thoughts bring you down, it also gets you in a dangerous mode of self-pity. Next time you have negative thoughts about yourself, ask yourself if you would allow someone else to talk to you this way. If you wouldn’t, then you shouldn’t say it about yourself.
How to stop negative thinking in 5 steps: Be grateful
One of the best ways to stop negative thinking is to be grateful for what you have right now. Gratitude automatically puts us in a good mindset because we realize that there is a lot of good in our lives. You can practice this by writing a gratitude list every night before bed. Write down at least five things in your life that you are grateful for.
How to stop negative thinking in 5 steps: Let go of the things you cannot control
It is easy to get caught up in negative thinking when life is stressful and things are not going according to plan. Recognizing that you have no control over almost anything but your own behavior and reactions is a good way to stop negative thinking. Sure, bad things are going to happen, but the only thing you can control is the way you react to it. You can’t control other people’s actions and trying to will just make you miserable.
How to stop negative thinking in 5 steps: Stop making stuff up and believe it
Imagination is a wonderful thing, but not if you use it to imagine the worst case scenario. Looking at an upcoming event in your mind and vividly picturing the worst possible outcome can be very destructive. If you get caught up in these kinds of negative thoughts, do something to distract yourself or at least dilute them by imagining a good outcome as well as the negative one. Remember, stopping negative thinking is something that requires practice. Get in the habit of thinking good thoughts and eventually it will become second nature.
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