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by Maddie Lukens, MA

Negative thoughts are the phrases we hear in our head like: “I’m not good enough;” “I will only fail if I try again;” “I hate ____ about myself.” These thoughts do nothing but tear down our self-esteem and leave us feeling discouraged, hurt, and depressed.
At Lime Tree Counseling, we understand life is challenging and causes us hurt and pain.

Here are 7 easy ways you can combat those negative thoughts and start feeling happier, relieved, or more comfortable in your own skin:

1. Journal. Journaling is an excellent way to get all the things that might be in your head out onto paper. Sometimes we just have so many thoughts and feelings jumbled up in our mind that we don’t know what to do with all of them. Writing is a simple, tangible way to get these out of your head. If you don’t know where to start, you can try a few of these prompts to give you some ideas: “How am I feeling today?” “What happened earlier in the day that has left me feeling discouraged?” “How did I sleep last night?” ”What has been really difficult for me today?”

2. Gratitude. Gratitude is a free and easy way to shift our perspective from the negative to the positive. It’s easy to take a moment and recognize the many things I am thankful for: warm coffee, sunshine, time spent with my family. Here’s an idea: set your phone timer for 3 minutes and write down as many things as you can think of to be grateful for. You might be surprised to see how quickly your perspective shifts from the negative to positive.

3. Track your sleep. Restful sleep for many of us can be evasive, depending on the demands life has placed on us. Getting adequate sleep is imperative for our bodies and minds to function effectively. Tracking your sleep might raise your awareness – showing you that when you get a few consecutive nights with poor sleep, your mood and thoughts about yourself tend to be more negative. To improve your quality of sleep, some people like to journal before bed, pray, meditate, listen to calming music, or utilize sleep apps (i.e. Calm, Headspace, Pzizz). If you have underlying medical conditions, make sure to do your research before utilizing any of the sleep apps above.

4. Talk to a loved one or friend. Although it feels scary to be vulnerable with those we are closest to, it is important to let our friends and family know how we are feeling. If we have persistent negative thoughts, we might find that these thoughts begin to disrupt our daily life – like our attitude or relationships. Talking to a close person, letting them know the thoughts we are having, can provide space for encouragement and combating some of the lies in our heads that keep us feeling isolated and alone. Be courageous and share those negative thoughts – it’s much easier to win a fight on a team than alone.

5. Pause. One of my favorite reminders (that I need often) is to pause. Usually this looks like “hitting the brake” in my head. When I realize my thoughts are spiraling into the negative or I feel overwhelmed, I try my best to pause and count the number of seconds I spend breathing. I like to do 4 seconds for an inhale and 8 seconds for an exhale. After about a minute or two of practicing breathing like this I usually feel better. It’s a nice way to get “out of my head” and focus on something else for a few minutes.

6. Make yourself go outside. As the weather is getting nicer and some of our “stay at home orders” are being lifted, it is so important to get sunshine and fresh air. Especially if you’re working from home, or confined to an office, getting outside of those 4 walls when you experience negative thoughts is an easy way to shift your thinking. Sometimes we just need a change of scenery to change our perspective. Open the maps app on your phone and look for the nearest green space – maybe it’s a park or a field. Lace up those shoes and head in that direction!

7. Do something small to care for yourself & celebrate your small victories. Because we get caught up in caring for others, we sometimes forget to do small things to care for ourselves. But an easy way to celebrate overcoming negative thoughts is rewarding yourself for making the next right choice. Sometimes choosing to get up off the couch and go outside is hard; practice having a little grace and reward yourself for doing the hard thing.

Anxiety Treatment in Pennsylvania

At Lime Tree Counseling, our team of experts can help people combat negative thoughts and identify the things in life that might be leading you to think or feel negative things about yourself. We offer anxiety counseling in Ambler, PA, along with depression treatment and marital counseling. Don’t hesitate to contact us today if you need more support combating negative thoughts, or if you consistently find yourself in a negative thought pattern.