If you’re bogged down by negative thoughts, you’ll often find yourself in a mental swamp that prevents you from moving forward. If you’ve been feeling more down in the dumps lately, it may be time to turn those negative thoughts into positive actions.
Let’s explore why negative thoughts arise and what you can do about them.
The Balance Between Positive and Negative
We often think of negative thoughts as something we should squash and erase, but in truth, that’s not very healthy. Life in itself is a balance between positive and negative influences. Very rarely do we find ourselves in situations where literally nothing goes wrong, nor do we find ourselves in positions with zero hope.
Because life is always a mix of positive and negative forces, it’s essential to have a mindset that considers both. If someone only views the positive, they have a “head-in-the-sand” mindset that ignores all the troubles and issues in their life. If someone only views the negative – as we’ll cover here – it forces people to ignore the fact that there’s a chance something good may occur.
Let’s cover three negative thoughts that people have and see how we can extract a positive action from them:
- “I had hoped to get more work done, but I keep falling short of my target.”
- “I’ve been missing deadlines a lot recently; I’m really clumsy.”
- “I’ve sent out so many job applications and haven’t received a single interview yet.”
Learning Not to Ignore Negative Thoughts
When you have a negative thought pop up, you should never try to shut it down or ignore it. Your mind is pointing out that something is wrong, and you need to find a positive-negative balance within that problem. Ignoring it or fighting it off will only worsen things.
Imagine, for example, someone in deep financial debt. When they receive a bill telling them how much they need to repay, they immediately shred the letter and do nothing about it. Do you think this is a good way to get this person out of debt?
In another vein, imagine if that person looked at the bill, recognized that there was a problem, and began making steps to repay it. This is a good example of accepting a negative thought and finding a positive solution for it.
Using Negative Thoughts as Signposts
Much like that person in debt, you can’t afford to ignore or fight off the negative thoughts. Doing so is ignoring a very real problem, which may come back to bite you.
Instead, like the person in debt, you should use negative thoughts as signposts that something needs to be done. By creating a plan of action, you’re converting that negative emotion into a positive force in your life.
For the three negative thoughts we discussed earlier, you can use all of these to find an internal desire you can base a positive action on.
“I had hoped to get more work done, but I fell short of my target” shows that you want to create a stable working life.
“I’ve been missing deadlines a lot recently; I’m really clumsy” shows that you’re forgetting things easily, and need a solution to remember deadlines.
“I’ve sent out so many job applications and haven’t received a single interview yet” is a weird one. In this case, you can’t make a solution that directly fixes this problem; you can’t force a company to interview you. In this case, you need to consider what you can control and base a goal off of that.
So, if you’re feeling down because you haven’t received an interview yet, it’s a sign that you need to step up your job applications and make a better plan for landing a job. While you can’t 100 percent ensure that you will get an interview, you can do your absolute best to make one happen.
Using Negative Thoughts to Fuel Positive Actions
Now that you’ve found the solution for the negative thoughts, it’s time to turn it into a positive action.
The first thing you need to remember is that your first plan of action won’t be perfect. There’s a good chance that problems will arise and your plan will fall apart a little bit. When this happens, it’s crucial not to fall back into the original negative thought. Instead, take what failed and change it to make a new plan.
With this in mind, it’s time to create the plan. It won’t be perfect, and it may (or even should) evolve over time. However, it’s a good start and better than nothing.
“I had hoped to get more work done, but I keep falling short of my target” showed us the need for a stable working life, so why not use a weekly schedule to keep on top of things? Make a plan to do a set amount of work every week and hold yourself to it. Once you’ve made a schedule, you can change the negative thought to the following:
“I keep falling short of my target, but now I have a schedule to keep me on track.“
“I’ve been missing deadlines a lot recently; I’m really clumsy” showed a need for reminders. So, why not use a reminder and calendar app on your phone to constantly prod you about incoming deadlines? Once you have a solid reminder plan set up, you can change the thought:
“I’ve been missing deadlines, but now I’m using reminders to prompt me to work.”
“I’ve sent out so many job applications and haven’t received a single interview yet” was the odd one out because we couldn’t force employers to give us an interview. However, you can influence the chance that you’re interviewed by creating a job application submission goal, as well as learning how to improve your resumé or hiring someone to do so. Once done, you can instead think:
“I haven’t received a single interview yet, so I’m going to submit more applications and tweak my process to better favor the odds of getting one.”
Note that the above sentences are still a balance of negative and positive feelings, with the positive one in bold. We’re not blinding ourselves to the problem and causing further damage, nor are we dwelling in a no-hope scenario. There is a negative aspect of the problem, but there’s a positive action to balance it out.
Forging Positive Actions from Negative Thoughts
Negative thoughts are distressing and may cause you to hunker down or fight back. This is particularly so if you are a perfectionist. The best way to tackle it, therefore, is to make a plan of action that you can mention at the end of the negative thought to remind yourself that you’re doing your best to improve.