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Mastering negative thoughts - acknowledge, validate, and cope

Negative (and positive) thoughts float in and out of our thought processes without a care; some can be easily managed, whilst others seem to take over every waking and sleeping moment.

Old habits

Our thoughts and feelings are connected to our minds and bodies via our central nervous system. When we were children, we naturally reacted to others' behaviour in the best way we could, based on our genes and environment. As we grow up, we continue this pattern of behaviour, as this is learnt behaviour and serves us well at the time. Perhaps we then feel that we want to change how we behave and how we deal with our thoughts and feelings to ourselves and others. The key is to investigate how we react to other people’s actions and whether we choose to change our reaction to their actions. How do we learn to manage these negative thoughts? Through the process of AVC - acknowledge, validate, and cope.

Acknowledge

Perhaps we try to ignore our negative, niggling feelings. Do they always come back? Or come back at an inappropriate time? Do the thoughts keep flowing back and forth in your mind, and you aren’t sure where one starts and the other ends? Do the feelings trigger mental and physical symptoms? Headaches, tiredness, mental and physical exhaustion, brain fog, panic attacks, sweaty palms, aching limbs, feeling (and being) physically sick? These may be reactions to stress, nervousness, and anxiety (always see a doctor if you are unhappy with your symptoms). The first step is to acknowledge these symptoms. If we bury or fear them, they will appear again. They may appear as anger, sadness, low mood, or frustration. They may affect your relationships (personal and professional), your standard of work, and generally feeling negative about yourself.

Validate

It is OK to feel whatever you feel. We feel these emotions for a reason. We need to be kind to ourselves and focus our thoughts on our achievements and things in our lives that have gone well; and steer ourselves away from our perhaps, more natural, negative thought processes. By thinking negatively, we encourage the neurons in our brain to join together and continue to think negatively. Our brains see this as an on-going goal. Our brains are wired this way so that we can focus on learning and achieving better things.

Cope

If we begin to include positive thoughts every day, the positive neurons will work together and help us to think more positively. We can all think of positive things every day, even if it is that 'we got up this morning'.

As part of this stage, we also want to work with our parasympathetic nervous system and allow ourselves time to relax, encourage our bodies to be calm, and enjoy activities that make us feel happy. This will, in turn, encourage our sympathetic nervous system to be calm and help our bodies to return to their normal resting rate. Healthy eating, regular exercise, listening to music/podcasts, petting animals, seeing friends, enjoying hobbies and seeing something positive in every day (e.g. the birds singing, sun shining, the sound of the rain) will help.

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Written by Heather Shipley CBT & Emotional Therapy Ad Dip MFETC MNCS (Accred)

Heather Shipley is a CBT and Emotional Therapeutic Counsellor (DipFETC MNCS MFETC). Her style of counselling is person-centred and includes talking and creative therapies for children, adolescents and adults.… Read more

Written by Heather Shipley CBT & Emotional Therapy Ad Dip MFETC MNCS (Accred)

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