Friday, May 2, 2008

5 Techniques for Breaking Negative Thought Patterns

As the meds clear my system, I have noticed my tendency to focus on negative things is returning. My neighbors stole my trash two weeks ago and returned it yesterday filled with their garbage. This is annoying, and is part of a pattern of misbehavior on their part that needs to be dealt with. Their misbehavior is not worth putting myself in a negative frame of mind over.

Five techniques I can use to break a negative thought cycle are:
  1. Listen to music AND sing along. I find that just listening to music is too passive and allows my thought cycles to continue. When I listen to music I can sing along to it uses a larger portion of my brain and I can't as easily think about other things.
  2. Try and think of 2-3 positive things about the situation/person. Most situations are not all bad. If one can think of things about a person or situation that one likes, it is harder to stay upset and angry.
  3. Read a book, preferably engaging fantasy that easily transports me to another world. I'm a reader. It's always good to have a book around that one can escape to. I recommend Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy for good, escapist reading. I don't recommend my Regression Analysis textbook. It takes too much effort to get into and is too easy for one's mind to wander away to uncharted territory.
  4. Tackle an project that needs doing. Doing something productive gives one a sense of accomplishment and pride that helps to chase away negative thoughts. Choose something manageable that can be accomplished in a few hours. For example, my house needs cleaning and organizing badly. Trying to tackle the entire house is a project I can't accomplish in one afternoon. Choosing to organize and clean the spare bedroom is something I can accomplish in an afternoon.
  5. Take action to change the situation. If this involves confronting a person, make sure you are not too angry or upset while you are doing it. Try using steps 1-4 first to get yourself in a better frame of mind before initiating a confrontation. Make sure you know what you want to get out of the confrontation and give the person something concrete they can do to fix the situation. A good approach for the problem with my neighbors would be to tell them that I would like them to get their own trash cans and keep their trash at their house. A poor approach would be to tell them they are noisy messy slobs.
Things that upset are a given in life. Sometimes actions can be taken to correct the situation. Other times these situations are out of one's control. In either case, dwelling on the negative does not help and leads to negative thought patterns. I am trying to use these techniques to be a happier, more productive person.

1 comment:

Be Free Where you Are said...

Hi A Girl,
I really like these simple ideas for combating depression without drugs. I also use music to circumvent a brain which tends to focus on negatives and it really helps a lot. I am dealing with cancer, and another device I found designed specifically for folks with chronic illness is a gratitude journal - every night you write down 5 things or people in your day that you are grateful for. I write about it in my blog, at http://www.circle-of-healing.com/index.php/2008/03/11/gratitude-journals/