Have you ever noticed those threads of spider webs that brush across your face when you walk through the woods? Those barely visible strings of silk that come out of nowhere and wrap themselves across your skin?
After encountering several, they become annoying. Distracting. Your quiet nature-walk turns into an epic battle with a gang of hidden spiders shooting silk bullets at you.
Our negative thoughts are much like those pesky silk webs. Our fears and resentments wrap themselves around our psyche. Soon, a day that started out good gets tangled up in negativity.
“You idiot,” we silently shout at ourselves when we make a mistake. “I’m such a jerk,” our inner critic proclaims. “That driver’s going ten miles under the speed limit,” we grumble as road rage rears its too-familiar face.
And like those pesky spider webs, we wonder, “How can we swipe away negative thoughts?”
To discover how others deal with negativity, I asked several people how they do it. Here are their responses.
“Awareness. That’s the first step for me,” a co-worker said. “When I recognize negative thoughts whirling in my head, I shift my focus to gratitude. I stop and make a mental list of three things I’m grateful for in that moment.”
A friend reported, “I use humor to swipe away negative thinking. When I catch myself grumbling like a grumpy old man, I chuckle—there you go again, you old fart. Can you look at what’s good about your life and get your happy face back on?Then I smile and restart my day.”
“I read a lot,” another person responded. “During the day, I chew on the spiritual books I’m reading to keep my mind occupied. The book Untethered Soul taught me our thoughts are simply energy moving through our brains. Because we’re mind, body, and spirit, we can choose our thoughts. So, I choose to focus on the beauty around me—blazing fall colors, a majestic blue sky, or the realization that I am good, safe, and loved.”
“I refocus my negative thoughts by becoming aware of my body,” a gym enthusiast told me. “When I’m anxious, I take several deep breaths and feel the life-giving oxygen within my lungs. Or I touch my hand to my chest and feel my heartbeat. Centering myself in my body grounds me as I recognize how lucky I am to be alive and healthy.”
“Much of my negative self-talk comes from a bad self-image,” a colleague reported. “When I don’t like myself, I slip into judging and whining. I’m learning to use positive affirmations to rebuild self-respect. ‘You’re a good person,’ I tell myself. As I bask in the gift of self-love, I treat others with more compassion.”
There are a lot of ways to retrain ourselves to think positive. The next time you notice yourself wrapped in the negative-thinking-web, try one of the practices mentioned above. Ask yourself, how do I swipe away negative thinking?
—brian j plachta