Marla Vender, LCSW
ACT Now to Break the Grip of Anxious and Negative Thinking
Most of us are wired to have negative thoughts, and to think the worst, looking for proof that things are really as terrible as we think. None of us can control our thoughts, but we don’t have to keep focusing on, listening to, embracing the negative narrator in our heads. For some people, the voice is so constant and intense, it keeps all of the good things they already have or believe they want, out of reach. If this is you or someone you know, here are some techniques adapted from CBT, and ACT, to try right now to break the grip of negative thinking.
Ask yourself, IS IT TRUE?
A date that didn’t go well, a job offer that didn’t come through, a plan with friends that got cancelled, a post on social that didn’t get likes, can send you into a tailspin of self-loathing thoughts about yourself. Whether your thought is “I’m a loser” or “I will never find love” or “I’m ugly” ask yourself, IS IT TRUE? Just because you have a thought, it doesn’t make it true. You don’t have to listen to lies.
If the answer is YES, now you have to prove it. It is rare that anyone I’ve done this exercise with has been able to prove it. However, sometimes, it is true. If this is the case, try the next step.
Ask yourself, HOW DOES THIS HELP ME?
Maybe it’s true you’re overweight, or your job isn’t interesting, or you’re not as creative as your sister. How does thinking about this make you feel? I’m sure it’s not very good. So why pay attention to those thoughts? If they push you to a positive action, keep listening to them, otherwise, you don’t have to. Just because you have a thought, even if it’s true, you don’t have to pay attention to it.
Try to MAKE IT RIDICULOUS.
The next time you have the same unhelpful thought that makes your feel bad and keeps you stuck, take away its power. Say it in a cartoon voice, hear it coming from an adorable kitten (try the app, My Talking Pet), sing it in the tune of the Macarena or Happy Birthday or Highway to Hell.