In my early 20s, I have suffered from various negative thought patterns — anxiety, depression, fear.
We can often get trapped in patterns we don’t know affect us so much. I have compared myself to others. I have wanted to impress others immensely. I have lost myself. I have dealt with low self-esteem. I have chased perfectionism. I have sought approval from others. And I have not believed in myself.
There is something to be said for positivity—and often we forget that our minds control our lives. Let’s not forget that we can overcome negative thoughts and live joyfully. I have used several tools to overcome my negative thought patterns. Now, I can confidently say that I have changed my mindset in both small ways and big ways.
I also want to preface this post by saying I think there is a big difference between negative thinking, negative feelings and negative circumstances. There is always going to be some negative things in our lives. Negativity is here a reason and so we can grow. But there are ways to overcome some negative thought patterns that can hinder how we respond to circumstances around us. These tools can help reroute our thoughts so that they create us, not destroy us. I have used the following things to enhance my mental health and my ability to see things in a positive light.
How to Conquer Negative Thoughts and Change Your Mindset
1. Write an elevator speech for yourself.
Elevator speeches are often reserved for job interviews or when interacting in the professional arena. But that is not their only use. Create an elevator speech to tell to yourself — an elevator speech that shows your worth. Write down why you are good at meeting people, even though you are facing social anxiety. Write why you would be an amazing person to date. Write what makes you the best job candidate. Write down why you can give yourself break. Write down why you can start that business.
2. Live an organized life.
The best way to live without chaos is to get rid of it. This means putting structure in your schedule and your life. I completely failed at this when working from home last year. I had no set schedule. I had an unclear to-do list in my mind, and my priorities were misaligned. And to be honest, it felt like I didn’t have any priorities. I had to face the fear to speak up on the unhealthy environment I was living in—the unhealthy mindset and the unhealthy actions or inactions I was going through. I asked and prayed for organized life circumstances. For grounding and structure. I liked the freedom of my schedule and my life, but even boats so free are subject to the waves, and the only way to feel secure again after a journey is to come home and drop the anchor.
3. Make a reverse bucket list.
Similar to looking through your resume, make a list of all the things you have accomplished so far in your life. This lets you recognize how many blessings you have received and how many blessings you have poured out to others. Realize that your actions have purpose and you have made a change in the community around you. Here is part of my reverse bucket list I created a few months ago:
My Reverse Bucket List:
- I wrote for a bilingual magazine.
- I planned events for 700+ people.
- I became Executive Director of a nonprofit at 23.
- I have worked with 30+ brands in the area of design or creative strategy.
- I found an incredible sisterhood of women.
- I have traveled to 8 countries and studied in Spain for 4 months.
- I am published in the Elon Journal of Undergrad Research in Communications.
4. Make a bucket list for this season of your life.
Future planning is another important part of combating negative thoughts. Let’s get excited for the future. Your plans can be as small or big as you like. Give yourself a project. Do something you’ve always wanted to do. Take yourself on a date. Put it on the calendar. Make a list of what you are excited about in life. Thank God for all of these opportunities. Some of my bucket list items right now are:
- Buy a bookshelf (which means I need to move out so I have room for a bookcase!)
- Move out to a new apartment and live on my own
- Go to California
- Journal this season of my life
- Go on a road trip out west
5. Condition your mind.
Use photos and visuals as reminders of happy moments and positive thinking. Create an album on your phone and set your home screen as a reminder of the things that make you happy and positive. I love hanging travel photos around my room as well as pictures with my best friends. These visual reminders will help your mind associate your life with positive thinking.
6. Discover your voice.
Whether you write, speak, have conversations, sing, design, create art, your voice matters. But sometimes your voice is stuck in the deepest parts of you. I discovered that through working on assertiveness. Assertion is one of the best ways to bring out your voice. Read the newspaper and get a better feeling of what’s going on in the world and what your opinions are about issues. Find out what moves you, what you can speak about. Also, define your expertise that you can provide to your community. Everyone has experience like no other, and it’s best expressed through your voice only. Look at your resume, projects in college, hobbies, volunteer work, and work experience. Remember what your friends say are your best qualities. This is where you can develop thought leadership in your field. This is where your voice is. Your voice to yourself and your voice to the world.
7. Face your fears.
Almost all negativity derives from fear. Rejection. Loneliness. Pain. Humiliation. Loss. For me, exposure to my fears helped me fight them. Being in uncomfortable situations prompted many negative thoughts. But in those moments, I felt the affect of negativity in its purest form. I realized there was no place for that mindset. After facing some of my fears, I began to feel my outlook change. Put yourself in uncomfortable situations. They will make you stronger.
8. Meditate on God’s word.
I have found that God’s word is a foundation for positive thinking. His word is life and it’s truth. Negativity is not rooted in truth. God’s word is available and accessible to us so that it can tune our minds to a life of eternal grace and love.
Sometimes we dwell on our life problems so much that we will never see a solution. We will never see the light.
When I was battling depression, I would meditate on a couple verses, asking God to send forth his light and his truth (Psalm 43:3).
A verse that spoke to me was Philippians 4:8:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.”
– Philippians 4:8
Whatever is pure and truthful and lovely — here is some truth to take with you today:
You are loved by the Creator of the universe. He loves you. That means he loves every part of you. Smile knowing that you have someone who understands you, your pain, your joy, your dreams. His presence is freedom. His presence is positive. He wants to lift our moods and change our attitudes. With this comes the perfect context for positive thoughts in our life. He makes our life positive. He is the good news.