Everyone has negative thoughts. Everyone. But with the toxic positivity and messages spinning around the internet, it may feel like you’re the only one who feels something other than happy. But you’re not. If someone is human, they have negative thoughts. (This is different from anxiety, and you can read about that here.) It’s part of the deal. But, there’s a difference between having negative thoughts, and not having joy. If you feel your joy has been limited, or nonexistent lately, you aren’t alone. The good news is that you can learn how to embrace negative thoughts and turn them into joy.
#1 | Why You Need The Positive… And The Negative
Before we get to how to turn your negative thoughts into joy, you first need to understand why both are important. To insist that you want to have only positive thoughts limits your ability to respond. And keep in mind, it is our thoughts that cause our emotions. So, in order to truly feel the spectrum of the positive emotions from contentment to joy, you also need to be willing to feel the spectrum of negative emotions. When you practice limiting your thoughts for one side, you by default practice limiting your thoughts for the other side.
#2 | It Isn’t Always About Being Happy
The point isn’t to always be happy. There are times when thinking negative thoughts, and feeling negative emotions is exactly what you need to feel: the death of a loved one, the breakup with your partner, the loss of an income. These are all circumstances that most people would want to have negative thoughts about. Why? Because the resulting negative emotions during these events are human. This is exactly why you should not push away negative thoughts. To be human is to have a range of both positive and negative thoughts. Trying to prevent them is denying part of your humanity.
So how do you embrace and turn negative thoughts into joy? It sounds simple, but it isn’t always easy.
#3 | Embrace The Human Negatives, Not Obsess
Many people resist allowing the negative thoughts and the resulting feelings because, well, they feel bad. It goes something like this: you think a negative thought about your partner forgetting to do something for you that they said they would do. The thought elicits the emotion of annoyance, or maybe even rejection, and then you continue thinking negative thoughts about it. (If he loved me, he would remember to do it.) See, what started as one negative thought becomes a negative thought loop.
There is a strong difference between thinking negative thoughts, and having negative thought cycles.
#4 | Negative Thoughts vs. Negative Thought Cycles
We keep saying the same negative thought to ourselves so often and for so long that we believe them. And we find a lot of evidence to support our belief. Like when your friend doesn’t return your text quickly. So you tell yourself that you knew you were unlovable and she’s finally come to her senses and decided to ghost you. You then make sure you remember all the other times someone has rejected you: you didn’t get into your top school, you didn’t earn the promotion, all the things. You are practicing the loop of unlovable-ness. If you do this long enough, you’ll actually manifest it into being. You’ll choose friends and partners who do not value you.
#5 | Stop Getting On A Thought Loop
To stop the loop, you need to turn the brain on for something else. When you have the first negative thought, instead of believing it, be curious. For example: when your partner forgets to do something for you, you think “I’m annoyed that they forgot.” Then maybe you think the follow-up thought, “If they loved me, they’d remember.” Stop the loop here. Instead of believing your first thought, be calmly curious about it. Ask yourself if there is possibly another reason your partner forgot: they are busy, they are juggling a full-time job and virtual school with the kids. Or even, people forget things sometimes.
#6 | Practice Looking For The Good
Our brains are magnificent analyzers. They love to find evidence for everything. So if you practice asking your brain to find evidence of the negative, then it will get really good at it. But the great news is, it can also learn to find evidence for the positive – this is where the joy comes in.
If you practice finding evidence of good things in your life: you always get a close parking spot when it is raining, your partner can tell when you need to go for a walk alone, fisherman sweaters make you happy. The more you practice noticing your positive thoughts and letting your brain find evidence of positive things, the less practice you’ll give to following negative thoughts. That part of your brain will atrophy. And your negative thoughts will have less control over your emotions.
You will never rid yourself of those thoughts. But you don’t want to. Stop the cycle of negative thoughts that aren’t serving you. Practice finding your positive thoughts and the evidence that supports them. Lean into the expansive energy of your joy. And live the life you want.
What fills you with joy? Share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear from you!
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