When negative thoughts keep us frozen in place, it is because our fear and uncertainty keep feeding on themselves.
We worry about saying something foolish during a meeting, so we choose not to speak up. We fear failure, so we choose not to make a big career move. We
keep thinking of the mistakes we’ve made in the past, so we choose not to tackle the obstacles standing before us.
These negative thoughts can keep us locked up in a self-imposed prison: once we’re caught in the loop, it can be difficult to break free. In this situation,
we often need a tool to help us pry open the bars to escape. One such tool is mindfulness.
A mindful approach to negativity
In a Forbes article entitled “The Science Behind How Mindfulness Can Help Break Negative Thought Patterns”,
author Jeena Cho speaks with scientists and academics to learn about research into how mindfulness can impact our thought processes.
The article’s overarching message is that mindfulness can be a useful tool for helping us break free from a vicious cycle of negative thoughts. This can
be broken down into three broad steps:
- Start with awareness. In the article, Cho notes that since mindfulness brings our thoughts firmly into the present moment, it can
help us become aware of the pattern of negative thoughts running through our head. Why does this matter? As Cho writes, “Once we identify the patterns,
we know what to target”.
- Take action quickly. Negative thoughts affect all of us differently. For some, they lead to anxiety; for others, anger or hopelessness.
Mindfulness can help us recognise the early warning signs (e.g. cold sweats or an elevated heartrate) and act quickly with proactive steps to counteract
our body’s response to these negative thoughts.
- Break up the cycle. Negative thought patterns tend to plague us with a never-ending cycle of “what if” scenarios
and self-doubt. However, Cho explains in the article that the aim of mindfulness is not to avoid these negative thoughts entirely. Instead, mindfulness
teaches us to acknowledge and accept those things beyond our control and then to move forward.
Becoming vulnerable to move forward
When our mind is focused on the present moment and our breathing is calm and controlled, we can see our negative thoughts for what they are: not an
inescapable burden, but simply a pattern of thinking.
In this moment, we cannot change the external factors causing our negative thoughts. However, we can choose to embrace vulnerability and accept the situation as it is. In this way, mindfulness can help us to change our views and imagine a new path forward.