When negative thoughts hit your brain, it’s tempting to struggle with them and try to shove a more positive thought in there. In the day-to-day reality of someone’s thinking, this doesn’t really work. Your emotions have a tough grip on these negative thoughts, so you’ll have the best results if you imagine yourself emotionally “letting go” of them. The letting go approach is used in yoga and meditation to help a person stay focused on the present moment.
Let’s return to our example from the last article, about your financial trouble. You are stressed and worried about your spouse losing his or her job, and your greatest concern stems from your loss of control. The constant stream of negative thoughts in your mind has prevented you from doing any creative problem-solving. Since you’ve now identified your worries about not being in control, however, you are now in the position to take the power out of your negativity.
Release Thoughts and Keep Them Moving Along
When you think about getting rid of your negativity, you might start by trying to push those thoughts out of your mind. But stop and consider a different approach, something that would go along with meditation and yoga. Fighting against something usually takes a lot more energy than avoiding a fight in the first place.
Imagine a sheriff in an old Western town who sees a known outlaw calmly stroll the main street. The sheriff remains polite but firmly encourages the outlaw to keep on walking, right out of town. He projects confidence and stays calm. That’s you, acknowledging those negative thoughts while calmly telling them to keep moving along out of your mind.
Instead of pushing and prying your negative thoughts out, you are acknowledging and releasing them. And when they come back (which they will, out of habit), acknowledge that they are still coming and release them again. Look them square in the eye like that sheriff and tell them what they need to do – keep moving along. You don’t try to wrestle them out of your mind, you simply let them go on their way.
Understanding Your Concerns and Releasing Negative Thoughts
Another day dawns and your spouse is no closer to finding a new job. As usual, the flood of negative thoughts and distressing emotions enter your mind. Remember that you know two things now. Your concerns stem from your lack of control. You also know how to acknowledge those thoughts and tell them to keep moving along out of your mind.
“I should have had this fixed by now,” and “We’re never going to get out of this mess,” don’t have the same power anymore. When you don’t hang on tightly to each thought, they don’t have much influence over you. They can come in and go out. You may still be concerned about your lack of control, but now the negative thoughts don’t clog up your mind so much.
By letting go instead of pushing, your mind opens up and stays more relaxed. This also keeps your mind open to receive different thoughts. In fact, it may take a little while for a newer, more positive thought to take root, especially if you have a long-standing habit with negative thinking. Have some patience as you gradually introduce your brain to more positive thinking.
Learning the Next Step: Thought Replacement
In another article, you will learn how to take the next step beyond thought awareness. Thought replacement can be a helpful tool for managing the negative thoughts that barrage a person with depression. Stemming the tide of negativity can help when someone is under the heavy weight of a depressed mood.
Thought awareness and replacement are just two parts of the depression recovery puzzle. But they can be so empowering because a person can do them anytime and anywhere. A person with active depression may need the help of a therapist to get started, but after some practice it can become more of a personal habit.
Check out the the next article for the final step of this process.
Krull, E. (2010). Depression and Letting Go of Negative Thoughts. Psych Central. Retrieved on May 20, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/2010/depression-and-letting-go-of-negative-thoughts/
Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 30 Jan 2013
Published on PsychCentral.com. All rights reserved.