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5 Ways to Greet Challenging Thoughts

You know those days when you wake up on the wrong side of the bed feeling grumpy and pessimistic? We all have them occasionally, but it can bring you down if you find yourself stuck in a rut of hard and painful thoughts. The good news is you have more influence over your outlook than you might realize. Research shows we can help our brains to cultivate different thoughts, which can help create more ease and joy in our lives.

Here are 5 ways to help you shift your mindset.

1. Practice Awareness Around Thinking

The first step is noticing the thoughts that run through your mind daily. These can come from doubts, fears, criticisms, or worries. 

Some common challenging thought patterns include:

  • Expecting the worst possible outcome, even though it’s unlikely. For example, “If I make a mistake at work, I’ll get fired.”       This is called forecasting.
  • Seeing things in black and white. For example, “If I can’t do something perfectly, it’s not worth doing at all.” Also named dichotomous thinking.
  • Making interpretations without actual evidence. For example, “My friend didn’t return my call. She must be mad at me.” And this is a combination of mind reading and jumping to conclusions.

When a thought pops into your head, you can work on greeting it in a kind and curious way and then offering a more rational alternative. For example, if you think, “I’ll never finish this project on time,” try replacing it with something like, “What is my thought right now? How is it making me feel? What’s a new way to think about this? And you can say to yourself something like, “I’ve finished projects on time before, and if I make a good plan, I can do it again.” 

Remember, recognizing and reframing thoughts is a skill you can improve with practice.

2. Surround Yourself with People Who Build You Up

Surround yourself with people who can help shift your mindset when challenging thoughts come up. Our thinking can be affected by those around us so be mindful of who you are around, especially when you are struggling with difficult thoughts.

Other people’s outlook and uplifting spirit can brighten your mood and open your mind to more rational thinking. When difficult thoughts creep in, reach out to your support network and let their care, support, and love influence you.

The people you spend time with and the media you consume significantly impact your mindset and thought patterns. 

3. Seek Joy and Purpose

Create time for activities that boost your mood and give you a sense of meaning or accomplishment. Do things that make you smile and laugh. Listen to upbeat music. Call a friend. Help someone in need. 

Having a purpose and maintaining an attitude of gratitude will help shift your mindset.

4. Practice Mindfulness

Spend a few minutes daily focused on your breathing or the present moment. Mindfulness meditation helps bring awareness to stressful or challenging thoughts and makes it easier to be objective around those thoughts. When your mind wanders to difficult places, gently bring your focus back to your breath. Over time, this can help break the habit loop of worry or rumination. We can also practice just observing our thoughts. When we have a challenging thought, we can practice just noticing it and letting it fade, instead of going doing the rabbit hole of thinking.

Consistently implementing these techniques can help rewire your brain and create new neural pathways that lead to more rational thinking. Stay patient through the process, as it can take continuous practice to overcome a lifetime of ingrained thought habits.

5. Be Grateful and Practice Loving Self-Talk

When you think something shaming, worrisome, or overwhelming about yourself or your situation, work on reframing it. Say it out loud if you can. Repeating rational messages will strengthen them in your mind.

Practice encouraging and praising yourself. Say things like, “I can do this,” “I’m working hard and making progress,” and “I believe in myself.” Repeat phrases to build self-confidence and motivation. Your mind will follow your lead. 

Keep a gratitude journal and write down a few things you are grateful for daily. When you start to feel worry or overwhelmed, read through your journal to help remind you that you are a good, kind, and loving person. Gratitude can help us significantly shift thinking.

Closing Thoughts

A final key is to be patient with yourself. We all find ourselves in hard times and experiencing challenging thoughts at points in life, so don’t beat yourself up if you feel like progress in a situation or overall is slow. The important thing is to remember that you are learning tools to support you when times get tough and that you are helping to build new pathways in the brain and add practices to your life and that takes time. Psychedelic therapy helps us to access the places inside that contribute to these challenging thoughts and gives us more access and ease in creating positive sustainable changes in our lives. If you need help with this process, we are here to help. Reach out to Elument today to see how therapy, and especially psychedelic therapy, can help you work with your thoughts and beliefs in a supported environment with trained professionals.

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