5 Tips to Break Free from Negative Thoughts

We all get lost in thought from time to time, but
sometimes those thoughts feel downright overwhelming. If we don’t take specific
action to stop the thought loop, it can throw off our whole day. Whether you
suffer from anxiety, mild depression, or you just woke up in a funk,
mindfulness can help. Try one or all of these tips for yourself and see what a
difference mindfulness can make.

  1. Become
    an observer:
    Slow down
    and notice what is arising. “Oh, that’s anger in my chest,” or “That’s anxiety
    in my stomach.” Labeling the emotion gives you some space from the intensity of
    the thoughts and feelings you’re experiencing, allowing you to observe them
    instead of being hijacked by them.
  2. Try
    Even if
    you’re not an experienced meditator, there are so many ways to dip your toe in
    these days — including trying meditations that are just a few short minutes
    long. Meditation slows you down and calms you down. You can get started with some of my free guided
    meditations here on the Insight
    Timer App
    . (Learn more
    about the benefits of meditation in published research in the Journal of the American Heart
    . For an
    exploration of brain changes when studying meditators, see this 2013 study and this research from the early ’90s.)
  3. Offer
    yourself a gentle touch:

    Placing our hands where we find them most soothing releases oxytocin and
    opiates, helping us to regulate the cortisol and adrenaline stress hormones
    that flood us when we are upset. You can place your hands wherever on your body
    you observed feeling an intensity of emotion in Tip One, or you can just place
    them anywhere that feels calming for you, such as around your arms, on your
    cheeks, or on your stomach. (For a general discussion of oxytocin release with
    various types of touch, see this study.)
  4. Get
    Drop your
    attention to the soles of your feet; notice if they are warm or cold, moist or
    dry. Pay attention to your feet for a couple of breath cycles. Then focus your
    concentration on your breath, if breathing feels comfortable for you. Feel
    and see your body breathing in for four counts and out for six. When
    your exhale is longer than your inhale, your heart rate and blood pressure will
    go down, and you will feel calmer.
  5. Change
    the channel:
    yourself to change your channel of thought. Focus on something you are grateful
    for, perhaps going so far as to write a letter of gratitude to someone. (You
    don’t need to send it to get the mental health benefits.) You can also pull up
    a wonderful memory and marinate in those feelings to install the goodness in
    your body and mind, pushing the mental state into a neural trait so the happy
    bridge gets reinforced in your brain.

We are more than the content of our thoughts, but it sure can feel like they have power over us when we experience them as all consuming. With these mindfulness tools in your back pocket, you’ll have an option on hand to help you shift out of unhelpful thought patterns and feel more grounded and at ease. You’ve got this!

About: Mindfulness expert and author Julie Potiker is an attorney who began her serious study and investigation of mindfulness after graduating from the Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction program at the University of California, San Diego. She went on to become trained to teach Mindful Self-Compassion, and completed the Positive Neuroplasticity Training Professional Course with Rick Hanson. Now, she shares these and other mindfulness techniques with the world through her Mindful Methods for Life trainings and her new book: “Life Falls Apart, but You Don’t Have To: Mindful Methods for Staying Calm In the Midst of Chaos.” For more information, visit www.MindfulMethodsForLife.com.

Erin shows overscheduled, overwhelmed women how to do less so that they can achieve more. Traditional productivity books–written by men–barely touch the tangle of cultural pressures that women feel when facing down a to-do list. How to Get Sh*t Done will teach you how to zero in on the three areas of your life where you want to excel, and then it will show you how to off-load, outsource, or just stop giving a damn about the rest.


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