Everyone has thoughts. I have thoughts, you have thoughts, and even your next-door neighbour’s dog has thoughts. However, despite this, I think many people don’t understand them or how they can influence our behaviour and actions.
I used to struggle with negative thoughts. It was often fuelled by ideas of change and how unsure I was of my identity. I was an eleven-year-old girl, afraid of what growing up would mean for myself and the people around me. This manifested in how I would express myself, how I would communicate with others, and how I would treat myself internally. It wasn’t healthy.
While both your physical and mental health are important and necessary in helping you function, unlike your physical health, there’s a lot of uncertainty when dealing with your mental health.
Over the years, however, I have developed my own set of tips that combat negativity in my thoughts. Here they are.
Identify the problem
If I’m dealing with negative thoughts, chances are that nine times out of ten, there is something or someone that has set it off. Maybe there’s a really important maths test on Monday and I’m struggling to comprehend the binomial theorem, or maybe I went to pour myself a bowl of cereal this morning and the milk was spoiled.
Whatever the issue is, no matter how small you feel it is, by identifying it and making a note of it for yourself, you’ve allowed your mind to spot what it is that is making you feel this way.
Make jokes (in a self-affirming manner)
Now, I don’t mean that every type of joke will help in challenging negativity in your thoughts. I noticed when I was dealing with negative thoughts, I would make self-deprecating jokes such as pointing at rubbish bins and muttering ‘that’s so me’ or making comments like “I look like Quasimodo.”
While these seem innocent, by constantly belittling myself, my mind grew accustomed to being mean and nasty to myself, and will do so even when I am not intending to make a joke.
Flipping it on its side, however, I have found making purposeful jokes and comments that uplift me rather than degrade me, has been incredibly beneficial. This allows me to have a more positive mindset as opposed to having an automatic negative worldview. Falling on the ground? I guess I’m just the most graceful human on this planet. Does somebody comment on what you’re wearing? Well, I’m just so fashion-forward and ahead of the trends.
Naturally, this will result in your brain being kinder to yourself out of sheer force of habit. Irish people aren’t good at allowing themselves to be complimented, but everyone deserves to have their worth appreciated.
Find a support system
I have found that the people we surround ourselves with influence how we talk to ourselves. I joined a youth group in my community three years ago when I was going through a difficult time in my life, and I’ve realised that having people that understand me and want to help me can do wonders for combating negative thoughts. They can uplift, empower, and support me, no matter what I am going through.
Whether it’s a friend, a family member, a guidance counsellor, or anyone else, having people in my life can allow me to see my thoughts in a different light.
I think of it like this, would I speak to people I love the same way I speak to myself? Usually, people kindly speak to their loved ones. I wouldn’t be outraged if a friend gained weight or didn’t get high points in the Leaving Cert. Friends will be the same. Having a group that understands me can be a tremendous support when dealing with negative thoughts.
Managing my mental health can be tricky. There are thousands of different perspectives and opinions on how to navigate it. I am by no means stating these pieces of advice will work for every person, but I have found they’ve been vital in contributing to my #EmotionalGlowUp.