We’ve all been there. Some of us more than others. The tightening in your chest, the heart pounding faster and the voice, that menacing voice from within. The one telling you you’re not good enough, smart enough, sexy enough, strong enough.
It’s easy to get into a cycle of negative thinking and it can be hard to break through the wall of darkness when you do. So, whether you’re having a temporary crisis of confidence or you’re struggling through a long, dark tunnel, here are nine simple ways to kick negative thoughts to the curb this year.
1. Watch Your Vocabulary
You may subscribe to the school of thought that actions speak louder than words, but that doesn’t mean that words are innocent. In fact, words can easily transform into actions and shape the way you think. Words matter.
Before calling the guy who brushes up against you in a store by accident a “jerk,” or an “idiot,” stop yourself. Instead of lashing out with negative labels, why not extend a little courtesy? Maybe he was just having a bad day. Being nicer to the people around us makes us feel better about ourselves.
And while we’re on that topic, there really is no need to call yourself fat or ugly, or hideous, or old. Some days you wake up with zits. Sometimes your hair won’t go right and your cellulite shows through your leggings. That’s just the way it works.
2. Break The Cycle
Does your partner drive you crazy? Does your Mom make you spit? They may be the ones name-calling first, but why not try taking the upper hand and breaking the cycle? Yes, you have every right to answer back to their not-so-flattering comment. But, why not take a breather and change the subject, or better yet, adjust your behavior towards them?
Let them off for having a bad day. Offer a gentle foot rub, or keep an even tone when they yell. Eventually, they’ll adjust their behavior to you. And if they don’t, at least you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you have the moral high ground.
3. Don’t Buy Jeans One Size Too Small
This point needs little elaboration. If you want to keep negative thoughts at bay, stop trying to force yourself into your skinny jeans. You’ll feel much better about your figure and self-esteem if you buy well-fitting clothes, rather than squeezing your folds into a too-tight zipper like a tube of toothpaste. Nothing good ever came from that.
4. Stop Comparing Yourself to Other People
Seriously, stop. There’s a world of difference between what you see on people’s social profiles and reality. Especially with Snapchat airbrushing features. That college buddy with the perfect life? She probably hates her children. That white sandy beach your ex is on? He doesn’t post pictures when it rains. No one knows what it’s like to live someone else’s life, so stop assuming it’s better than yours.
If you want to do a productive exercise, start comparing yourself to yourself. It’s far more effective to take stock on where you were this time last year and what goals you’re accomplishing than bemoaning the fact that you earn less than your peers.
A word to the wise on this practice, though. Be prepared to give yourself some slack if you don’t like what you see. We’re all a work in progress. Go back to point one and be kind to yourself as you start to address what you don’t like about your life in a positive way.
5. Hit the Brakes
If you’re like 60 million other Americans and your mind races on the pillow each night preventing you from sleeping, it’s time to hit the brakes. When your brain chugs along with the speed of a freight train, get out of bed and do something else.
Worrying about not sleeping while you’re trying to sleep is really not a healthy habit. You may as well put the time to better use. Paint a picture, bake some brownies, rearrange your closet. At least you’ll have some nice surroundings to look at the next day.
6. Indulge Yourself
Let’s be honest. Sometimes it just feels good to be miserable. Wallowing in our own misery can be pretty satisfying. So, yeah, your life sucks. You’re not good at anything and everyone else is having a better time than you. When you’re having a day where nothing other than Krispy Kreme will do, indulge yourself.
Write down every negative thought that creeps into your mind. Don’t hold back. It can be a cathartic exercise to get it all out. Then destroy it. Preferably burn the paper. Bye, bye negative thoughts.
7. Affirmations at Hand
A good friend of mine got me into the practice of this. Try telling yourself just a few positive sentences, or affirmations, every day. “I am a wonderful mother,” “I’m amazing at my job,” “I am loved and cherished,” or even, “I really don’t give a fuck.” Whatever works for you to keep things in perspective.
8. Look for the Positive
It can be hard to find something positive to come out of a day. Let’s face it, some days just suck. You fell flat on your ass in the snow, you got rejected for that promotion, our country’s future lies in the hands of a stable genius… Remember the little things. Somewhere in the world a baby’s being born or a new flavor of ice cream being conceived. There’s always something worth living for.
9. Crank Out the Tunes
When all else fails and the negative thoughts just won’t quit, get ready to play your favorite songs. There’s nothing like a little Taylor Swift to put a smile back on your face.
And while you’re focusing on kicking negative thoughts to the curb, keep one thing in mind. It’s normal to have them and having them isn’t the problem—it’s how you deal with them that counts.