One Mindset Shift 20-Somethings Can Make to Break the Cycle of Negative Thinking
These past two years haven’t been easy for anyone but for young adults, it’s been especially hard, and it has been so easy to fall into negative thinking patterns. Instead of being able to walk across a stage with your family cheering you on, you were handed your diploma through a car window. After years of fighting for that promotion you finally got it but there was no fanfare or a lunch out with friends. You spent your entire life imagining your wedding day only to realize you either have to compromise on your big day or wait it out.
Young people are learning one of life’s hardest lessons: the only certainty is uncertainty. But there is one thing in life you have complete control over: your thoughts.
While at times it may feel like your negative thoughts control you, it’s actually the other way around. It’s you that has the power to change what you think. You have complete control over your perception of yourself, other people, and the world around you.
Therefore it’s your choice to see the events of your life as things that are happening to you or happening for you. When things are happening to you, you’re giving your power away because you believe you have no control. When you see events as happening for you, you feel less like a victim of circumstance and more like the author of your life.
Now is the time to start breaking bad habits and focusing on what’s within your control.
Now it’s one thing to recognize you have the power to control what you think, it’s another to put it into action.
One of the easiest ways to start the process of breaking the cycle of negative thinking is to start by simply acknowledging and accepting your thoughts which will subsequently change how you feel about yourself, other people and the world around you.
Changing a life-long pattern of negative thinking takes time, which means it’ll feel awkward at first but the more you practice, the easier it will become. You’re not trying to change or fix your thoughts; you’re simply allowing yourself to notice your thoughts and feel your feelings in a non-judgmental way.
When you have a thought, there is the thought itself and then there’s the judgment of that thought. It’s not the thought that’s bringing you down and making you feel bad about yourself, it’s your judgment of the thought. Whatever thoughts and feelings you have are completely normal and natural to have; what creates negative thinking is the judgment you place on those same thoughts and feelings.
The Key To Dealing with Negative Thinking: Acknowledge and Accept
When you acknowledge and accept, what you’re really doing is recognizing and practicing self-compassion for your negative thoughts and feelings and not getting into the weeds of thinking that you “shouldn’t feel this way” or telling yourself that you’re “too anxious” and that’s a bad thing.
For example if you start to feel anxious about a new career path, you might begin to think, “What am I doing? Should I be doing this? What if it doesn’t work out? What if it’s not right for me?”
The moment you notice yourself going down a rabbit hole of negative thinking, stop, acknowledge and accept:
“I acknowledge that I’m feeling really anxious right now about all of these changes. I accept that feeling anxiety is a part of this process. My anxiety is here not to tell me I’m wrong but to let me know this is new and anything new creates discomfort.”
You’re noticing your negative thoughts and feelings but you’re not judging them or yourself for thinking your thoughts and feeling your feelings. This allows you to move through the feelings as opposed to getting stuck, circling the drain about the “shoulds” or “What ifs.”
What this will do over time is help you shift your mindset around how you perceive your thoughts and feelings. Eventually the goal is to get so comfortable with this technique that you do it without even noticing that you’re doing it.
More resources for Millennials and Gen Z
6 Tips to Stop Negative Thoughts
How to Build Your Confidence and Quiet the Drill Sergeant in Your Head