One irritation leads to another, then another, and suddenly like a wildfire, your emotions are out of control and you can’t find your way back to just feeling “good” again.
People who struggle with this on a constant basis know how hard it is to stop the momentum of negativity once it has started, and how dangerous it is to your health, happiness, and well-being to let it continue. So how can you quickly and effectively stop negative emotions from overwhelming you?
The key is to essentially interrupt the thoughts and emotions going on in your head before they gain control. This is easier to do, of course, when you nip the negative thoughts in the bud before they have gained enough strength to really dig in. Very often, however, the speed of emotion is faster than the speed of wisdom, and once we’ve experienced a strong negative reaction to something, it feels nearly impossible to rein in those exploding thoughts and think about something else. It’s like trying to focus on a single, untouched flower in a chaotic raging inferno of fire and brimstone. The flower, no matter how serene and beautiful, just isn’t all that interesting compared to the fiery rockets shooting around your head.
So what do you do when you’ve let the negative energy storm get a little too big to just shoo away? Here’s some good interrupters for those tougher situations:
1.) Breathe and Quiet The Mind
“Pay attention to the gap — the gap between two thoughts, the brief, silent space between words in a conversation, between the notes of a piano or flute, or the gap between the in-breath and the out-breath.When you pay attention to those gaps, awareness of ‘something’ becomes — just awareness.”
-Stillness Speaks by Eckhart Tolle
I hesitate to use the word meditation. For some people, it might elicit thoughts of peace and quiet. For others with active brains like mine, it might round up some fear about struggling fruitlessly for ten or more minutes trying to shut the brain up. If you’re already battling an active whirlwind of negativity, being told to just “stop thinking” might seem a little obnoxious. However, while meditation is included in this, there are more ways to shut thoughts off than just sitting in silence. Yoga, or exercise in general, can also do the trick. Actively moving is effective at shutting thoughts down while you are concentrating on the motion and exertion of what you are doing. The thing that meditation and exercises such as yoga and jogging have in common, of course, is breathing. Breathing deeply is a known way to fight anxiety and stress because it releases endorphins and gets more oxygen flowing throughout your body, allowing for more natural energy. When you’re doing something like jogging, you have to breathe deeply, and you have to pay attention to where you’re going, and you have to focus on your balance and your muscles, and suddenly there’s very little head space for your negative thoughts to gain traction. Whether you choose to exercise or meditate, I highly suggest finding a way to do it outside or in a spot of sunshine if possible. Not only does nature also calm the mind, but sunlight gives you that good vitamin D and is also believed to release serotonin in your body, a mood-boosting hormone.
Tip – Starting your day with a small walk or jog outside on a regular basis may help stop you from falling into a negative funk in the first place.
2.) Actively Build Positive Momentum
This method is taught by Abraham Hicks (Esther Hicks). The idea is that just like negativity creates momentum, you can also switch tracks and generate positive momentum with mindfulness. If you force yourself to think about something else (other than the things that are perpetuating your negative thoughts) for even just a minute or two, your thoughts will gain traction in that direction instead. The key to this method is to avoid thoughts that you feel resistance too.
An example of feeling resistance to a thought is like when you’re feeling bad about not having enough money, and then to feel better you repeat affirmations to yourself in the opposite direction, things like: I am rich, I am wealthy, I am abundant. These are perfectly fine manifesting affirmations when you are in a good mood, but in a bad mood you’re most likely going to feel resistance to them, especially if you don’t have any money and can’t do the things you want to do. It’s going to feel like a lie, and because your entire mindset is negatively spiraling around money in the first place, you’ll just be perpetuating the negative momentum.
So, what do you do? Avoid thoughts that have to do with what you’re so upset about and keep the positive thoughts general instead of specific. The reason you shouldn’t worry about being specific is that it can lead to more negativity and insecurity. For instance, let’s say you starting thinking about something else you enjoy in your life, like… going to water parks. That sounds great, but if you’re in a negative landslide because of money, thinking about water park adventures and all the things you love about them might also make you think, “…but now I don’t have the money to go, and I don’t know when I’ll be able to do it again, and I’m such a loser, and I hate myself.” There goes that negative momentum again. When your brain is in that type of mood, it wants to feel sorry for itself, and if it can find a way, it will.
To keep it general instead means to focus on things that are not so conditional, like having to have money to do the things that make you happy. Shaping your general thoughts into a form of gratitude also helps to build the positive momentum even more. It’s very dependent on the situation and mindset of each individual for what kinds of thoughts you should build, but a good example for our imaginary money-less worrywart who loves water parks would be, “I love the feeling of cool water, I love the feeling of the sunlight, I love the air on my bare skin, I love the feelings of excitement and joy, I love laughing, I love feeling free, I love feeling abundant.” Now we’re talking about things that the person might feel grateful for, in terms that don’t require them to currently have those things to feel good, and now we’re building momentum in the right direction.
Abraham Hicks has many more suggestions for stopping negative momentum that I highly recommend looking up, especially if you are interested in the law of attraction and manifesting things in your life.
3.) Fix Your Body to Fix Your Mind
This concept is along the same mindset of those people who say that organizing your room is a good way to organize your head–the outside-in approach. I find it excellent for those times when your brain is such a muddle that you don’t even know where to start, like with depression. Tony Robbins talks about this best, referring to the link between our emotions and our bodies. Usually we think of the emotion coming first, and then the expressions/postures following. But what happens when you reverse that order? The simple answer is, your brain tends to follow. So what better way to interrupt a negative thought tirade then to literally puff your chest out and laugh it off?
This might sound silly, but it’s not as simple as just passively smiling and hoping your thoughts follow. Movement is key, because it’s your physical momentum that is going to break through your mental momentum. If you’re feeling depressed, how is your posture generally? It’s probably something like slumped shoulders, lowered chin, down-turned lips, eyes on the ground, right? To force the emotion in the opposite direction, you need to force your body in the opposite direction. In this case, that mean pushing your shoulders back and up, raising your chin, pulling your mouth into a grin, raising your eyes up. Tony doesn’t suggest just looking the part either–you need to truly act it out. Stand up. Mimic the way you sound and move when you’re happy. Even if you’re just doing this alone or in front of a mirror, really act out how you talk when you’re happy or relaxed or excited… and your brain won’t be able to hold on to that negative emotion your dealing with because its used to feeling happy when you’re acting happy. This probably sounds a lot like “faking it till you make it,” but there is a strong psychological link between your posture and your mood, and mastering it can bring your emotions under control again.
4.) A Rampage of Ridiculousness
This is similar to #2 (Building Positive Momentum) but with a lot less mindfulness and intention behind it, and is a good counter-measure if you can’t manage #1 (Quieting Your Thoughts). This is a great little technique for anger issues or anxiety attacks in particular, because both of those moods tend to build up negative thoughts very quickly, and you need something just as quick to interrupt the momentum.
Pick a word or phrase that feels safe or that you can feel a positive alignment with… the sillier or more jarring, the better. It’s best to pick something that your riled up brain can’t latch onto with an emotional response. For instance, if your thoughts are in turmoil about love or relationships, words like “kiss” and “cuddle” probably aren’t helpful. I, personally, like to pick neutral silly words. The idea is simply to repeat them over and over until you literally drown out your thoughts and break the pattern. Keep it up for even just a minute and the momentum will be interrupted. If just one word or phrase won’t work, add to it to distract your mind even more.
It doesn’t matter what you say as long as it doesn’t add to your negativity. Stir your thoughts up with inanity and let the momentum carry you out of your negative whirlwind and into a neutral zone… or maybe even better. You might find yourself laughing at the things that pop into your head, and then the negative thoughts really won’t stand a chance.
“Sprite, sprite, sprite, sprite… oreos. Bananas. Cinnamon toast. Calamari. Tangerines. Buffalo. Pancakes. Princesses. Pandas. Penguins.”
What was I worried about again?
5.) Keep a “Monkey Mind” Journal
The monkey mind is a buddhist term that refers to the part of your brain that is unsettled, restless, and confused. You know that voice inside of you that’s all over the place, blames and criticizes you for everything you do, is full of fear and anxiety, and generally won’t shut up? Hello, monkey mind. It’s the thing that’s probably building your negative momentum in the first place, and according to Buddha, it’s because the monkey wants to be heard.
That’s where the journaling comes in. If you have the time to sit down and do this, especially on a regular basis, I have found it to be one of the most successful and therapeutic techniques to keep my anxiety and negative thoughts down. You don’t have to use a physical journal either–I like to use my laptop and my phone, just in case I have something I want to get off my chest on the go.
This is not like a regular diary entry though–we’re talking pure, nonstop regurgitation of your inner thoughts. Think “stream of consciousness”, or “word vomit”. Yes, the gross references are going to continue, because I really need you to understand how similar it is. Just keep writing everything and anything that’s on your mind, good or bad or mediocre, until you have flushed it out of your system. This isn’t the same as ranting to a family member or friend, either–no one else generally wants to hear all your brain mucus, and you usually aren’t totally honest when talking to other people anyway, but monkey brain journal? Hey, you can delete or burn it after if you really want to. In fact, I highly suggest not sharing it with anyone. Often just the thought of sharing something personal literally gets us to reword or change what we were going to say (because we as humans are obsessed with appearances and what others think of us, hence the monkey brain in the first place) and worrying about how you sound doesn’t help when you’re just trying to get it out of your head. Don’t steer away from any thought, no matter how silly or frustrating or dumb it is. You don’t have to be right. You don’t have to make sense. Just let the monkey screech for a moment.
You may notice that this particular technique is the exact opposite of some of the others, which have to do with changing or ignoring your thoughts rather than embracing the negativity. I’ll admit, when I first approached doing this journal, I thought I was going to end up building the negative momentum even more because I was concentrating on it. However, I’ve found that expressing your emotions isn’t the same as holding them inside yourself, and it doesn’t garner any terrible backlash, like it would if you let it out on the people around you instead. Just the act of bringing your fears and worries into the physical world has the effect of putting you at ease, because you have done yourself a great service–you listened, and now the monkeys can relax because they feel heard. I have not hit a single situation yet where I did this and didn’t feel better afterwards.
Tip – I often like to do a palette cleanser of a gratitude journal entry afterwards, where I acknowledge the things around me that I’m thankful for in my life, filling up the empty space left from getting all the chatter out with good, warm thoughts that really cement the mood in a positive direction.
I truly hope this article helps give you some ammunition to curb the negativity stampede before it rampages through your day. If you have any other suggestions that have helped you break down the negative cycles, sound off in the comments below!
Shine bright, my friends.