First, take an inventory—what are the sources of negativity in your life? How much time are you spending with pessimistic people? Listening to or watching negative TV, movies, podcasts or music? Find ways to spend less time in these areas of your life.
Write down the harmful thought and physically throw it into the trash—especially when it’s playing on loop in your mind. If you’re plagued with toxic thoughts about a person or an event that happened, dump everything on your mind into a document. Leave it be for a few days; chances are you won’t feel like sending it and it won’t bother you much anymore.
Go for a walk in nature. If you’re here in Chicagoland with us, head outdoors to one of the many, many forest preserves in the area. (There are 70,000 acres of forest preserves in Cook County alone!) A 2015 study out of Stanford demonstrated that a short walk in the great outdoors had an immediate impact on obsessive, negative thoughts.
Assess if you’re making a mountain out of a molehill. We humans are pretty good at overreacting or magnifying our spiraling thoughts. Ask yourself, “Will this matter in three weeks? Three months? Three years?” Most of the time… probably not.
Grab control over your detrimental thoughts with distraction by focusing on seemingly mundane tasks mindfully. Meaning “awareness,” mindfulness is when you bring your attention to the present, which can have a relaxing and calming effect. To put this to action, try something simple like washing the dishes—except instead of rushing through the chore, think about how the warm water feels on your skin or breathe in and notice the scent of the soap.