Can You Relate?
Have you ever tried to go to sleep only to be assaulted by a barrage of negative thoughts? Or what about when you say something and feel like it came out the wrong way. Do you find you just can’t stop thinking about what other people are thinking about you because of what you said? If this is you then you are in good company. And by that I mean company includes all of us. Every human on this planet has experienced times when negative thoughts overtake our minds and we feel like prisoners in our own lives. The good news is we have a loving God who cares and has given us practical help.
What does God say about our thoughts?
The verse Proverbs 3:4 says, trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. If we were to believe our negative thoughts and perceive them as true, then we would live in constant pain, confusion, and anguish.
In 2 Corinthians 10:5, we demolish arguments and every argument that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.
What does it mean to be obedient to Christ in our thought life? We take action and don’t allow just any thought to take up residence in our mind. The verse, Philippians 4:8, comes to mind when I think of ways to be obedient in my thought life. He says, MEDITATE ON THESE THINGS!! Finally, brethren, whatever things are TRUE, whatever things are NOBLE, whatever things are JUST (fair), whatever things are LOVELY, whatever things are of GOOD REPORT, if there is any virtue and if there is anything PRAISEWORTHY—meditate on these things.
Take every thought captive.
This does not mean to ignore the hurtful or harmful thoughts you may have. It does mean don’t these thoughts to control and overtake you. Challenge every negative thought by interrogating it.
But how; you may ask?
5 Practical Strategies
1. Become aware of your negative thoughts by writing them down and challenging them against the list of things in Philippians 4:8. Is this thought true? Am I being fair to myself or others by keeping this thought? What happened right before I had this thought? Have I eaten yet today? How is my sleep? Am I stressed?
2. Challenge the thought by asking, how will I feel about this in a week, a month, a year? Will my feelings toward this thought change? When you tend to personalize others emotions you can ask, maybe they were having a bad day? Maybe their mood isn’t actually directed toward me. Did I really do anything wrong? Is this REALLY my issue or is it theirs?
3. Sometimes we get so stuck in our negative thinking and we need something quick and abrupt to stop that cycle. Imagine yourself riding a bicycle and you are riding along a deep dark alley, heading toward death and doom. Your brakes aren’t working, you can’t stop yourself and you keep speeding up, but nothing seems to work so you grab a stick and throw it in the spokes of your bicycle wheel. This will abruptly stop your bike. Thought stopping works similar to that by saying out loud STOP!
4. Distract yourself from the negative thoughts by going outside, listening to music, or calling a trusted friend. If your negative thought cycle is becoming incessant and you are deep into the cycle, distractions can help give you the space to think of something different and positive. Then take some deep breaths and think of things that are good and true and noble and just.
5. Journaling is another great way to get negative thoughts out and give them a place to rest. Even tearing up the paper or safely burning it can release the anger or frustration behind those thoughts. Using positive journal prompts can help to remind yourself of the positive things in your life that represent Philippians 4:8. Make a list of things that are true, praiseworthy, lovely and of good report. Keep a list of positive things you can think on to replace those negative thoughts that like to creep in and then dominate your thought life.
Just Imagine What Life Could be Like
Initially it will take some effort to process and challenge your negative thoughts, but as you begin reframing them with thoughts that are good and true, you will notice a major shift in your mood and how you respond to others. You can feel better about yourself and how you think and respond to others. You are worthy of a healthy thought life and are more than capable of achieving one.
This is where you can absolutely get the help you need to make positive changes. You can read books on changing your thoughts to change your life, process your thoughts with friends for accountability, or go big and reach out to a therapist. If you are ready to make a change and want someone trained to help you with these issues they are here and ready to get started. You can go to NewVisionCounseling.org or call (405) 921-7776 to start your journey towards what better looks like for you today. We are here to help you and hope to hear from you soon.
Authored by Shae Gilbert, LPC and edited Shawn Maguire, LPC at New Vision Counseling and Consulting