Mental Swaps: How to Turn a Negative Into a Positive

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Once negativity sets in, it can be hard to overcome. It relentlessly grabs hold of your thought processes and holds on tight. And if you aren't careful, it can turn into an endless cycle: Stress brings negativity, and negativity brings even more stress.

While no one is immune, most people linger in negative thoughts only for a short while. They shake off those destructive patterns and return to more positive thinking. But for some, that's not always an easy thing to do. If negativity has you in its harmful grip, learn ways to break that destructive cycle and improve your physical, mental and emotional health.

Getting Stuck in a Rut Can Affect Your Whole Health

When negative thoughts get stuck in your mind and become the routine way of reacting to the stressors of life, your health diminishes, your happiness fades and your relationships can falter. Every life event gets blown out of proportion — and it can be a struggle to see the good in things or people, always expecting the worst.

This pessimism leads to a lack of hope and confidence in the future. Stress causes your body to trigger its natural fight or flight defense mechanism. If triggered for too long or too often, this repeated physiological reaction can lead to problems with your physical, mental and spiritual health.

Effects on Your Mental Health

Long term negative thoughts lead to chronic stress and can cause:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Difficulty Communicating
  • Feelings of Doom
  • Problems With Relationships
  • Sadness

Effects on Your Physical Health

Constant, routine stress is harder to notice than traumatic stress because it happens slowly over time. However, it's just as harmful to your health. Chronic negativity promotes physical stressors on multiple body systems:

  • Brain and Nerves: Headaches, Fatigue, Memory, Concentration
  • Cardiovascular System: Heart Disease, Stroke, High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol
  • Immune System: Decreased Immune System Lowers Your Ability to Fight Infection and Slows Recovery
  • Musculoskeletal: Muscle Aches and Pains, Tension in Neck, Shoulders and Back
  • Reproductive System (Men): Impotence and Low Sperm Count
  • Reproductive System (Women): Irregular and Painful Periods
  • Stomach: Nausea, Weight Gain, Heartburn

Effects on Your Emotional Health

Personality changes are common when you're constantly under stress. Speak with your primary care physician if these feelings are interfering with your emotional well-being:

  • Defensiveness
  • Despair
  • Difficulty Making Decisions
  • Feeling Overwhelmed
  • Feelings of Aggression, Frustration, Anger and Hostility
  • Irritation
  • Isolation and Becoming Socially Withdrawn

Ways to Swap Your Negative Thoughts for Positive Ones

Old habits don't die easily, but here are a few ways you can get a start at swapping your negatives with positives.

Become Self-Aware

Catch yourself being negative and make an effort to replace that thought or action with something positive. Try closing your eyes and actively trying to change your perspective. Could there be a perfectly logical explanation for what's upsetting you? Even if you don't agree with someone, can you acknowledge their good qualities? Taking this time to reflect can soothe your nerves and remind you why you're adopting a healthier way of thinking. Chances are you won't be the only one to notice the change.

Don't Give Up on Yourself

Change is hard. Be persistent. When negativity strikes, take a deep breath to reset yourself and don't resume your activities until you're ready to let it go. Picture it coming into your body and then flowing away from you until it fades entirely. Continuing to replace negative thoughts and actions with positive ones will soon become your new normal.

And the changes you see in your life will have a ripple effect, impacting those around you as well. Your relationships with loved ones will flourish, your confidence will grow and your overall health will improve.

Find Ways to De-Stress

There are many ways to relax. Keep trying until you find one that works for you. Try a relaxing activity such as gentle stretching exercises, deep breathing, quiet reflection or visualization to picture yourself sweeping negative thoughts under the rug. Envision yourself in a peaceful setting and let its calming effect surround you. If you need help resetting your mind to be optimistic, your primary care physician may be able to help you find classes that teach relaxation techniques.

Take Control of Your Thinking

How you respond to life's stressors and your outlook on life is entirely in your hands. Take a leap of faith into positivity and watch your life transform. If at any point you feel overwhelmed by your negative thoughts, talk to your primary care provider about a wellness plan that can help. Learn more on how to receive health content that’s right for you, and get it delivered right in your inbox.

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