Suffering. We all feel it at times. But what if your thoughts are the thing causing you to suffer? Well, It’s more likely than you think! The power of our minds is so strong that they can produce mental images that don’t even exist. This is wonderful when we want to be creative and express our imagination, but it gets in the way when we have that one negative thought that gets caught in a loop. We share examples of what thoughts can be toxic, and how to reduce the suffering that accompanies them.
Everyone experiences negative thought patterns. Toxic thinking is focusing on the negative, having black and white thinking, and only zooming in on one perspective. Major issues arise when we are unable to stop these nagging, toxic thoughts in their tracks and replace them with more positive thoughts.
Some examples of toxic thoughts are:
- Thinking you are the victim.
- Thoughts that resist “what is”.
- “The grass is always greener on the other side.”
- Worrying about what other people think.
- Worrying about or feeling unprepared for the future.
Whenever we are having thoughts like this, it is important to have awareness over your thoughts. To do this, you need to take a step back for a moment and really investigate your thoughts. What is the evidence for and against whatever belief you have at the moment? What are the costs and benefits of certain thoughts you have? Could you be thinking more flexibly about the situation?
There is a DBT skill designed just for moments like these called “checking the facts”. This will help you step back from the toxic thoughts you are having, and investigate them, seeing if there are any judgments you may be having, or extreme thinking. This helps you walk the middle line and access your wise mind. Your wise mind is not so rational that it stays in black and white thinking, but also not too emotional that it fluctuates from one extreme to the other. Accessing the wise mind helps you step back from your thoughts and observe them like you would a leaf floating down a river. If you’re worrying or ruminating about something, or having judgemental thoughts, you will be able to see them more clearly, and you’ll be able to figure out your next steps.
When you are having these negative thoughts, it is important to stop that negative thought pattern right in its tracks. You can do this by going on a quick walk, splashing cold water on your face, doing some sun salutations, inhaling and exhaling for a count of 4 each time, or repeating these mantras to yourself:
Nobody can hurt me without my permission.
I am exactly where I need to be right now.
Joy is right here.
I am free from worry about what others think of my plans and goals.
My thoughts don’t control me, I control my thoughts.
I am on my own unique journey and opportunities will arise when I am ready for them.
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Alli Cravener is a social media coordinator and writer who is passionate about connecting people through words. Alli studied English at Arizona State University and has found her niche uniting concept and content in the realm of mental health and the expressive arts. Alli’s interests include painting, history, learning about other people, and wearing the color pink. She likens herself to a “mouse in a palm tree”, and she loves it that way.