Home Self Esteem 3 Strategies To Overcome Negative Thoughts And Improve Your Mental Hygiene

3 Strategies To Overcome Negative Thoughts And Improve Your Mental Hygiene

Illustration montage made from two different vectorised acrylic paintings and vector elements.

Brushing our teeth before bed is an essential habit for our dental hygiene and directly influences our health and well-being. But have you ever thought , what about our mental hygiene? … We rarely give it the importance it deserves.

We forget that our thoughts and emotions also directly influence our quality of life and we get entangled with destructive thoughts that are constantly repeated, which only affects your self-esteem and confidence.

In this article you will find 3 quick strategies to start taking care of your mental hygiene and start to overcome negative thoughts.

“Well, how do you get a plaster on your soul?” -Mafalda 

I heard in a talk by Guy Winch  the story of a lady, who after many years single, decided to rebuild her life:

She went to a web page to meet people, and by chance started chatting with a man a little younger than her.

Their online conversations were great, they had a lot in common and the most important thing is that he seemed very interested in meeting her personally.

One day they finally met for dinner.

The lady had an army of ants in her stomach from excitement and nerves.

She was so excited that she even went to the salon to touch up her haircut, bought a new dress, and carefully arranged for her date that night.

When she arrived at the restaurant at the agreed time, there he was sitting at the table in the corner, waiting for her …

They greeted each other and a few seconds later, the man suddenly got up from his chair and said with a slight: – “I’m not interested, thank you”  and left.

The lady was frozen with anger and disappointment.

She immediately took out her cell phone and with tears in her eyes, called a close friend.

Unfortunately the friend was not very friendly. After he told her everything that had happened, she only said: – “What did you expect? You are fat and ugly, you have wrinkles and your life is boring. Who would want to be with you like this? “

Maybe you are surprised that a friend talks to you in such a cruel way, right?

But here comes the most shocking thing: that friend never existed

The lady did not call anyone that night…. all those painful words appeared in her head and she said them to herself.

Have you ever been cruel to yourself? Have you ever behaved like your worst enemy?

No doubt we have all done it at some time.

Something like this happened to me. A negative thought took over my mind, and it repeated itself over and over like a broken record:

“I can’t, I’m terrible at writing and what I’m doing doesn’t make sense”

It appeared suddenly, like a monster under the bed that won’t let you sleep.

First I tried with all my might to bury him ten feet underground, but each time he revived (just like the bad guys in the movies) little by little depleting my self-esteem and confidence.

I felt like a complete failure because I myself decided to believe this thought, and take it as part of me.

Things got worse, because accepting it and ignoring it only made it stronger: I started to feel sadness, fear, frustration, stress …

Sometimes we are the ones who are crushing our self-esteem and not external situations.

We repeat those hurtful words over and over again, like a painful habit that weakens our confidence and satisfaction with life.

Furthermore, these negative thoughts become fulfilled prophecies because we take them as true.

Thoughts like:

  • “I’m a cow, nothing looks good on me and I’m not able to lose weight”
  • “I am a failure, I am useless and I will never be able to find a job”
  • “It ended with me because I am getting old, I have cellulite and I am a very boring woman”
  • “Sure … nothing works out for me, why did I think this time would be different?”
  • “Forget it, you can’t…. “
  • “I am a fool and there is nothing I can do I have to accept it”
  • “I should have made that decision, I am such a coward”

The good news is that the problem is within ourselves and changing that terrible habit is in our hands.

Important note: If you consider that your negative thoughts affect your daily life, it is better that you go to a professional so they can help you closely.

If you already read that little note, you will understand what follows next.

Your mental hygiene is also important

A weeks ago, I twisted my little toe (yes, that one that hurts horrible …)

I went to the doctor and as a first aid they placed ice on the area. Luckily it was not a fracture, or anything serious.

But this little anecdote left me 2 great lessons:

First lesson: Your emotional health has to be just as important as your physical health

When we feel pain in any part of the body, we ask for help immediately, we want to know what it is and solve the problem as soon as possible.

But, when something is affecting us emotionally or mentally, we just let it go.

We rarely stop to find out why we have these thoughts, and sadly, hardly anyone asks for help. It is something social and even cultural.

Think about this: when a person is depressed or has low self-esteem, it is normal to hear external or internal comments such as: “time heals everything”  , “try not to think about it”,  “ let it go is nothing serious” …

But if you break your leg, do you think the same comments will appear? …

Something like: ” don’t worry it’s just a broken leg, walk around a bit to see if it goes away” 

Of course not!

Which brings us to the second lesson learned.

Lesson two: Negative thoughts are an emotional injury

It’s funny how something that seems so insignificant (like a tiny toe) can completely affect your entire routine.

This minor injury affected the way I walked, the way I put my shoes on, and even the way I slept.

The same goes for “emotional sprains or injuries”, they seem very insignificant, but they affect all areas of your life (even without realizing it).

Emotional injuries such as failure, loneliness, rejection or depression can also become chronic if they do not receive first aid and especially if we do not give them adequate attention.

Emotional injuries can become chronic if we don’t give them the importance they deserve

And I’m not saying it, there really is very impressive scientific evidence in this regard. In fact, as soon as I started investigating, my jaw dropped.

For example, speaking of loneliness.

Feeling lonely ( as an emotional condition of disconnection with your environment) increases blood pressure, cortisol (stress hormone) , cholesterol levels and suppresses the immune system, which makes you more susceptible to all kinds of diseases1

This feeling of loneliness increases the risk of death by up to 14% .

As a point of comparison: smoking is estimated to increase the risk of dying from pulmonary emphysema by 12% in women. 5 . If that doesn’t surprise you, take into account that loneliness has twice the impact on health than obesity6

And what about failure? …

We all know that failing hurts (even before you really fail)

Our own negative thoughts convince us that we are incapable of achieving it and then we begin to live below our potential.

A mind convinced of failure won’t bother trying, right?

The same happens with rejection … do you remember the story of the lady at the beginning?

Rejection literally hurts too. The physical effect is so clear that a study showed that it can be relieved with a pain pill (the same as you would take for a headache)7

By this I do not mean that taking a pill is the solution, but that the pain is real, it is felt and is not imaginary as we thought.

What’s even worse: constant negative thoughts make any emotional injury that much more painful. 

It is as if suddenly seeing my little twisted and purple finger, I decided to take a hammer and give it a few more hits (it should be noted that I never would).

But that is precisely what we do when we decide to listen and believe our own negative thoughts. We hurt the wound, instead of helping it heal.

But then where did these negative, recurring thoughts come from in the first place?

Having negative thoughts is a habit

The habit of having recurring negative thoughts is known as rumination.

“Rumination refers to the tendency to think repeatedly about the causes, factors, and consequences of a negative emotional experience” 

The word is not at all pleasant, it literally refers to a process in which livestock animals chew their food, swallow it, and then regurgitate it to chew it again.

(Imagine a cow eating)

This process makes it easier for these animals to digest, but it certainly doesn’t do the same for people’s mental health.

This is where rumination gets really troublesome:

If this thought makes you sad or in a bad mood, constantly thinking about it (swallowing it and spitting up) will keep the emotion or feeling alive for days, months, or for life.

Staying like a broken record and repeating the same negative thought over and over again is a habit that damages your health in many ways  :

  • Increase your stress and anxiety
  • Lower your self esteem
  • Increase the risk of suicide
  • Aggravates depression
  • It promotes eating disorders and serious addictions.

Like any other habit in your life, the habit of rumination was formed by repeated action over time .

For example, suppose you had a wrong Terrible day at work because you got fired.

You came home with all the mixed emotions, sad and angry at the same time.

In a desperate attempt to find an explanation, you were left “chewing” your thoughts on the couch. So you put the “I’m a failure” label on your forehead.

The funny thing is that the simple fact of giving an explanation (even a negative one) to your mind, you managed to feel a kind of temporary relief, which only strengthens the negative thought.

Negative thoughts make us feel rejected, failed or lonely, which makes us believe in them more and strengthens that destructive habit.

Together this forms a cycle that repeats endlessly, forming a destructive habit.

The real problem to be solved is knowing how to stop this cycle of negative thoughts? 

I myself put into practice the following 3 strategies, and gradually managed to overcome my worst negative thought.

I’m sure they can also be useful in your life, read on to find out what they are about.

3 Quick Strategies to Overcome Negative Thoughts

It is time to pay attention to your mental hygiene.

Changing this destructive habit of negative thoughts is critical to your health and well-being.

Before putting any of the strategies into practice, it is important that you first identify those negative thoughts that are affecting your life.

You just have to identify them (without trying to remove them ).

A good option is to write them. It’s probably just a negative thought that comes up frequently, or maybe it’s more than one.

The important thing is that you are aware and realize when they appear in your mind. My advice is that every time you think about it, write it down.

From here on, everything else is a piece of cake, you just have to try the strategies and see which one works best for you.

The good news is that they all take very little time ( maximum 5 minutes ) and the results can be seen from the first days.

# 1 The deviation strategy

Imagine that your negative thoughts are like a strong river flowing.

If you decide to stop it suddenly by placing a concrete wall in the middle of the riverbed, the water is likely to overflow and cause damage to the surroundings of the river.

Stopping the channel only causes other problems, it is also likely that the force of the water with which the river runs, destroys the wall that you built to stop it. Which will only make him run harder and harder later.

The best way to decrease the intensity of this flow of water is simply to give the channel a new direction, but without trying to stop it, simply let the water run in another direction.

And the same goes for negative thoughts.

The strategy of deviance is to give a new direction to those negative thoughts, but in a realistic and objective way.

We don’t have to be extremely optimistic, but we do have to be honest and objective. For example:

  • Negative thought: “I’m fat, nothing suits me”
  • New address: “I’m fat, nothing suits me but … I’m already walking to work”
  • Negative thought: “I am a failure, I will never be able to get a job”
  • New address: “I will never be able to get a job, but I have finished writing my CV”

Every time this negative thought appears, give it a new direction. If it reappears in your mind, repeat the exercise.

Turn this small action into a healthy habit and little by little your negative thoughts will stop being rivers and will become small peaceful paths.

# 2 The question mark strategy

This is without a doubt the easiest strategy of all.

The goal is to give yourself time to think the negative thought (yes, think twice). To have time to see it objectively, question it and not take it as true immediately.

All you have to do is put a question mark at the end of your thought.

In this way, your negative thinking ends in the form of a question and not a statement (or fact). For example:

  • Negative thought: “I’m a cow, nothing suits me”
  • With the question mark: “seriously, nothing looks good on me 
  • Negative thinking: “I’m very lazy and I don’t do anything right”
  • With the question mark: “Am I seriously lazy 

This helps you analyze your thinking, rather than just blindly believing it.

# 3 The distraction strategy

This last strategy is very simple, and it is also scientifically proven. It has been repeated in many scientific studies giving the same good results.

When a negative thought appears, you just have to distract yourself

Directing your attention elsewhere is another way of diverting the course of that river polluted with thoughts. For example:

  • If you are looking at yourself in the mirror and you immediately think negatively about “your big hips” why not direct your attention to your beautiful hairstyle or your beautiful eyes?
  • If you have a bad day at work and immediately blame yourself, why not put on your favorite song?
  • If you had a fight with your partner and hurtful comments appear inside you, why not take a shower with a soap that smells good?

Obviously these are just examples, but the goal is to divert your attention to something else that makes you feel good and find the emergency exit from that vicious circle.

The only rule is that this activity to distract your mind is 100% healthy (smoking or eating sweets, for example) 

Extra strategy! Learn to meditate

Starting to meditate does not mean that you necessarily have to change your hairstyle and move to live in a temple, nor does it have to do with religion.

In fact, you can approach this practice in a neutral and objective way.

Meditating is an exercise routine for your mind .

It has been seen that when we meditate we learn to think our thoughts. Being aware of your own mind is different from just thinking. Thinking is something we do every day, all the time. But thinking your thinking is a skill that develops, it is a habit.

Your own thoughts can be unpleasant, they can lower your self-esteem, they can hamper your productivity, and they can even affect your well-being. Or on the contrary, they can help you achieve what you set out to do, increase your confidence in yourself, keep you focused, and in general they can help you feel better.

It all depends on yourself and your ability to direct your attention to certain thoughts and ignore the rest. Having this extraordinary skill in your life is in your hands, and an easy way to achieve it is by meditating14

I don’t want to lie to you, it is probably difficult at first to sit and not think about anything without the correct guidance.

Therefore, he usually has an online course for you to learn to meditate .

You will discover the best meditation techniques from the comfort of your home. If you want to give your mind a well-deserved rest and receive all the benefits of meditation, save your place here

I want your life to be better every day, and that is why I encourage you to put into practice at least one of these strategies, what is the worst that can happen? …

Remember that negative thoughts are like a bad joke – don’t take them seriously!

If all of the above is not working in your life, it is likely that the problem is a little more severe, and that is why it is very important that you consult a professional who will evaluate you closely 

And you, what thoughts are you going to fight? What strategy did you like the most? Write me your comment below.

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