How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions
People have a distorted view of the world when they are in a negative state of mind. It becomes a cycle where negative thoughts reinforce negative emotions, which in turn produces negative actions.If the cycle is not broken, and left to run uninterrupted, it inevitably has a detrimental physical and mental effect on the person experiencing the spin. In addition, if these cycles spin often enough, they can lead to clinical depression and anxiety.
The key to avoiding this negative distortion and stopping the mental spin is to understand what initiates the cycle. Once mindful of the triggers, people can train themselves to avoid it, or stop it before it does any harm.
Thoughts, actions, feelings and sometimes even physical reactions can be triggers. On its own, a single trigger has little impact on your view of the world or emotional state. You can easily dismiss a feeling of frustration after dropping a dish on the floor, because there are no further triggers to escalate a cycle, it is an isolated incident.
However, if someone says, “I cannot believe you broke my dish!” then frustration can turn into anger and the cycle begins.
A Negative Thought as a Flame
Visualize a negative thought as a flame. A flame burning in an empty concrete parking lot cannot do much damage. These fires are left to burn out on its own or easily extinguished.
Put that flame in a closed room filled with combustible material and you have a potential disaster on your hands.
Unless quickly extinguished, the fire will use every piece of flammable material in that room to burn hotter, longer and faster. Left uninterrupted, that single flame will become an inextinguishable inferno that will burn until it has nothing left to fuel its flames.
People experience a similar situation when they are a host for so much negativity. By the time, it finally runs its course, all the anger, frustration, and blame has destroyed a person from mental, physical and spiritual exhaustion.
Example of a negative emotional cycle
A person is driving towards a business meeting when they take a wrong turn, which causes them to be 20 minutes late for a meeting.
This minor event has happened to everyone. Yet, in this case, the person experiences a wave of nausea and stomach tightening from stress.
The physical reaction triggers a negative thought. “I’m always late; I screw up like this all the time, and I’m going to lose my job.”
Without taking a moment to decide if these thoughts are rational, the cycle gains speed and initiates negative actions. Believing that the people in front of him are stopping him from making up lost time, our person begins a tirade of profanities and rude hand gestures at innocent motorists.
This entire scenario can be resolved with a simple and rational thought like, “Well I am usually early for these events, and everyone makes mistakes. I’m sure my associates will understand.”
Recognizing the triggers
In order to avoid a negative spin you need to recognize the triggers that set off the cycle and the environments that make you more susceptible to these triggers.
As well, being in a positive state of mind or in a secure and nurturing environment allows for a measure of protection from a negative cycle.
Also, add another layer of defence by being mindful of your work environment, the type of career you choose and the interactions you have with people.
Create an inventory of positive truths about yourself and your life. It takes a little bit of effort to remember the positive aspects of your life, but it is well worth the work.
Disarming triggers requires that you counter any negative thought with a relevant and equally powerful positive truth.
For example, if you think “Everyone hates me, I’m unlovable”, you can counteract this thought by thinking, “My wife and children love me and they are always happy to see me when I come home.” Extinguish the negative thought as quickly as it arises.
Be truthful and celebrate the good in your life. Take five minutes every night to write down all your successes, positive qualities and the things that make you happy. This creates a natural defence against negativity.
Disrupting the cycle by disrupting the pattern
There are going to be times when you are unable to recognize a trigger because you are in a weak mental state.
For example, you go to sleep in a positive state of mind and then unexpectedly wake up angry and grumpy. In these scenarios, breaking a negative cycle with positive thoughts is hard if not impossible to do.
In cases like this, starve yourself of any additional negative energy that might strengthen your state of mind. This requires you to break any established patterns.
If the usual routine includes having a coffee and reading a newspaper, then you have to catch your mind off guard and go straight to the shower.
The bathroom is a place of solitude and allows you to avoid any irritating interactions. Moreover, the shower gives you a moment to pause and reflect on your mood.
Avoid any negative local, world or economic news that might further irritate your mood.
The earlier you get out of the house the better. Allow yourself ample time to treat yourself to a coffee, breakfast and a leisurely drive to work.