This is not meant to be therapy, so please if you’re suffering, seek out professional therapy.
Managing your mood can be challenging at best and when our thoughts get mired in negativity it can be even harder. Many people defend their thought patterns, believing they’re looking rationally at the world they live in. But there is always a choice regarding how we focus our thoughts, either positively or negatively.
Rationalizing negativity doesn’t help us feel good and often, when we perceive events as simply bad, there is some negative aspect of our factual thought patterns. We need to realize that when our negative thoughts are factual, then we have grief work to do. If your thoughts stray to your history with an alcoholic parent who mistreated you when they were drunk, that requires grief work. If you, like me, find yourself thinking about the loss of a loved one, that will also require grief work. If you were raped or beaten, you’ll need to grieve your lack of safety at that time.
Thinking about Donald Trump’s potential to detonate nuclear weapons is future tripping. It hasn’t happened yet and worrying about it just makes you feel like crap. Similarly, thinking about the quantity of plastics in the ocean may be a fact, but it doesn’t help us to focus on it unless we have a solution. These thinking patterns might require grief work, but it might be more helpful to develop some faith that a brilliant scientist will figure out a way to fix it. In the mean-time, you can reduce your plastic consumption and reuse every bit of plastic you find yourself in possession of as solutions reduce anxiety. It doesn’t help your mood to dwell on the negatives of the world.
It’s much more helpful to work on increasing positive thoughts. Each morning, work on a list of things you’re grateful for. Here’s my daily list: 1. I’m grateful for my children, 2. My husband, 3. My dear friends, 4. Supportive communities, 5. My pets 6. My garden, all the food and flowers it produces, 7. My career and it’s flexibility, 8. My writing, 9. Being able to help people, 10. The accessibility of the spirit world, 11. Miracles, 12. The rejuvenability of water, 13. Publishing my writing 14. Psychic skill, 15. The ability to manifest, 16. It’s spring time, 17. A beautiful sunny day, 18. Raining when I’m inside, 19. That my son, though deceased, is still available to talk to, 20. That I live in Eugene, Oregon, amongst large forests and near the ocean.
You can also work on a list of things you appreciate about yourself. For example, 1. I’m kind. 2. I like helping people. 3. I’m a loyal friend, spouse, …. 4. I’m healthy. 5. I’m a good mom, dad… 6. I’m genuine, 7. I have a good sense of humor, 8. I’m intelligent, 9. I take care of myself. 10. I meditate. 11. I exercise, 12. I’m a good cook 13. I’m empathic, 14. I have artistic skill, 15. I’m good at what I do (as a career). 16. I’m compassionate, 17. I’m honest/have integrity, 18. My kids friends like hanging out at my house, 19. I take good care of the people and animals I love. 20. I share my abundance.
Overall the goal is to increase your positive thoughts until there are at least twice as many of them as the negative thoughts that plague you.
It is important to recognize the negative thoughts that are causing you trouble. For example, thoughts about not feeling well that make us create excuses to stay indoors, in bed, alone, are unhelpful thoughts. Thoughts about doing something exciting to get out of depression or out of agitation are also unhelpful. These kinds of thoughts need to be changed. Thoughts about not wanting to go to bed or to sleep at a reasonable hour are also unhelpful because they are poor self-care and are likely to aggravate the negative mood.
If you find yourself thinking negative things about yourself or others and feeling badly, it’s time to learn to change your negative thought patterns. I recommend David D. Burns: Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy. His book is easy to read and can help you learn to change your negative thought patterns.
Start with a chart like this:
4.Evidence Supporting The Thought
5.Evidence Against The Thought
6. Balanced Thought
7. Post Mood
This is a copy of the chart in Mind Over Mood, by Dennis Greenberger PhD, Christine A. Padesky PhD, et al. This is a dry book with a great chart!
Generally, when people first do this exercise it is hard to get all the way through it. If you need help, seek a therapist that does CBT, (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy). Eventually when you can complete all 7 columns your mood should improve a little. Over time, as you do this exercise more and more, there should be greater improvements in your mood. The research says that after doing this exercise 20-50 times, you will be able to do it automatically in your head. I believe that happened to me. I hope it will happen for you too.
Once you can do this exercise effectively, you will know how to change all your negative thoughts to more positive ones. This blog is about helping you learn to find the positive in any situation!