Negative thoughts influence our feelings and actions. If left unchecked, negative thoughts often become an agonizingly repeated script that drives discouragement and defeat. Negative thoughts can easily derail your positive mood. It is therefore necessary to determine which of our thoughts are accurate and which ones are distorted, exaggerated, and irrational. Here’s how!
1. Recognize negative thoughts. We often have difficulty recognizing our negative thoughts for what they are. As you grow in recovery, you are more able to recognize pessimistic and destructive thoughts as they come. Recognition of the intrusive, negative thought allows you to take it captive, weigh its validity, and either accept it or reject it.
2. Refute negative thoughts. As you analyze each thought, determine if it is destructive and damaging. If it is, you can decline and discard it, saying, “that is not true, and I will not accept it.” You can kick it to the side and refuse to entertain it as legitimate. Determine if it is true and reject it when it is not. When you listen to the radio or watch TV, you will likely hear or see a commercial asking you to come down and buy a new car. You instantly identify the thought as irrelevant information and a request that does not apply to you. You disregard the commercial without giving it any consideration. Our thoughts can be reviewed in a similar way. Many of our own thoughts are distorted, inaccurate, and don’t apply.
3. Replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts. After you have refused a negative thought, find a positive alternative. Think about things that are true, right, and wholesome. “I can’t do this” becomes “I am making progress.” Over time you can develop positive substitutions that come quickly and easily to mind. Practice them when things are going well rather than waiting for difficult situations and trying circumstances. In this instance, practice makes progress.
4. Rehearse a positive substitution. Because the negative thought or negative line of thinking has been repeated so many times in the past, it will be necessary to rehearse the positive substitution as well. You can replace negative and fear-based self-talk with positive, realistic, and empowering statements. It may take some practice for the positive substitutions to feel natural, so rehearse them often and with confidence.
5. Repeat the process as necessary. As you work through this process, there is likely another negative thought on its way. Repeat the steps as often as necessary to stay positive and at peace. Challenge your worries and fears as often as it takes.
Change Your Thinking
Using the process above will promote positive thinking in the present moment. It is easy to be led by your feelings and become emotionally intense and highly reactive. Eliminating negative and distorted thoughts and rehearsing positive substitutions will help you stay emotionally healthy. By highlighting the positive and eliminating the negative, you can completely change your life.
Recovery is a journey. Enjoy the ride!