Five techniques I can use to break a negative thought cycle are:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.