journalling

How to Interrupt the Cycle of Obsessive, Negative Thinking

Have you ever found yourself ruminating on your faults or fixating on a mistake? Have you noticed that you carry every piece of criticism you’ve ever received with you like a broken record player in your brain, yet are quick to forget or dismiss compliments and positive feedback? Have you noticed that you rarely take time to celebrate good news, but bad news can set you off on a spiral of negativity for days?

We’ve all been there. The spiral of negativity you think you’ll never escape from. This is all a very normal part of having a human brain. Our brains have what is called a “negativity bias,” which basically means that our brains have been programmed to notice and linger on negative impressions more so than positive ones. 

There are some evolutionary reasons for this that support our baseline survival. But, when we decide that we want to move beyond our survival brain into a way of being that is more evolved, the negativity bias can block our ability to see and understand the big picture. When we ruminate on only what is wrong or “not good enough,” we are only seeing half of the story.

If you struggle with mental health and stress (which is quite honestly every single human being I know, to some degree or another), it’s important to strengthen and build your “positivity” muscles. Let’s not confuse this with using blind positivity to bi-pass our struggles and negative experiences, but rather look at this as strengthening our ability to see the big picture, rather than just the flaws.

When you find yourself in a spiral of negativity and worry, here are some practices to bring in a bird’s eye view. The result is less rumination, more growth, and more acceptance toward what is (without added judgement or labels).

  1. Awareness journalling

    • Grab your journal and pen. Set a timer for 10-15 minutes. Journal on everything you are aware of in the present moment. For example, “I am aware of feeling really embarrassed about what I said last night. I am aware of tightness in my belly. I am aware of the way the ink looks on the paper. I am aware of the sound of the birds outside…”

    • The point of the practice isn’t to be logical, but to just continue to write and write until the time is up. Do you best to not pause even for a moment.

  2. Gratitude practice

    • Gain a new perspective by asking yourself and journaling on: “what is good and right in my world right now?”

    • Make a list of 30 things that are going well for you in this moment. Make your list really simple, like the fact that you have clean water and abundant food.

  3. Celebrate your wins

  • When you are complimented, say thank you and take a moment to really bask in the words that we’re shared with you.

  • When you achieve something, or make any progress in your life, take a moment to celebrate yourself! These can be small things (like getting to work on time, or waking up 5-minutes early to meditate), or bigger things (like getting a promotion, or achieving a health goal). The point it to make space in your life to celebrate your achievements, however big or small.


Please share your balancing experiences below and if you found this article beneficial, please spread the love and share it with your friends!


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