The thing with having anxious thoughts swirling around your mind is that it’s an uncomfortable place to exist – you’re never just at rest and the fear of it continuing forever often perpetuates the cycle.
But here’s something that’s worth remembering: your anxious thoughts won’t last forever. Nothing lasts forever.
It may come and go, be worse then better, but it won’t stay in its current form forever. If you want the anxiety to leave you alone sooner rather than later, then psychologist, life coach and author of the book Anxiety Free, Sam Owen, has some useful thinking strategies to help you on your way.
“Thinking strategies can be used to help soothe your thoughts or even resolve it completely if your anxious thoughts are purely stemming from repetitive negative thinking,” she says.
“Repetitive negative thinking is something your mental health requires you to steer well away from. Because what we repeatedly do becomes a habit (as it becomes wired into the brain), the simplest way to approach this is to focus on small thinking changes and repeat them consistently,” explains Sam.
Let’s look at some of those small thinking changes Sam suggests implementing.
Swap your positive thoughts from negative ones
“Replace negative thoughts and spoken words with positive ones the moment you realise you’re thinking negatively.
“This reduces how frequently we induce the fight-or-flight response, results in greater positive emotions and fewer negative emotions, and it helps us to indulge behaviours that will help us to be happy, healthy and achieve our goals whilst negative thoughts have the opposite effect.
Positive thoughts/images have been found to reduce anxious thinking even when the positive thoughts have no relation to the thing you are worrying about.”
© Harper’s Bazaar How to be happier and have a healthy mind
Move and distract yourself
“Distract yourself when you can’t stop ruminating. No matter how much research you read into the importance of positive thoughts, or self-talk, and the importance of using positive words with others, sometimes you can just get stuck in a negative thinking pit.
“In these moments, logic may not help out you out of that pit, but distracting yourself can quite easily.
Whether you recall a positive memory that always makes you feel good, or look at online images of cute puppies or watch a feel-good TV show, doing something to distract yourself can help you to quickly forget about the thing that you were (unnecessarily) worrying or ruminating about.”
Use your senses
“Use mindfulness to immerse yourself in the present moment. If you’re always in your head, it’s easy to stay in that pit of negative thinking so get out of your head and into the present.
To do this, simply focus on what you’re absorbing through your senses (ears, eyes, nose, etc) and when you do so with a sense of gratitude, you can feel instantly euphoric…and you’re no longer thinking those repetitive negative thoughts.”
“When the negative thinking has become pervasive and is really affecting your mood, energy, focus and self-belief on a daily basis, mindfulness meditation can really help.
When done frequently for a number of weeks, it has been found to rewire your brain to become better at emotion-regulation again, and reduce the number of intrusive negative thoughts you have.”
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Find new thoughts when walking
“When you feel like your life is stuck at a standstill because you’re stuck in a negative mental rut, you need new thoughts and ideas to help you move forward.
“For that, walking can be a great solution. Research finds walking helps you to problem-solve by generating more creative ideas and this happens whether you walk in nature or in built up-areas or facing a wall on a treadmill.
Walking, when done briskly, also helps soothe anxious symptoms so it has two huge benefits when you’re experiencing anxious overthinking”.