By Megan Hicks
Pessimistic thinking can really throw a wrench in the inner-workings of a perfectly good life. It leads to fear and frustration. You can start to get your life back by learning to identify and eliminate the irrational patterns that make you feel like everything is doom and gloom. These writing tactics can supplement anything else you’re already doing to fight negative thinking and help you feel more in harmony with the Universe. Some of these exercises will feel like a chore at first, but you will find, after you start taking action, you will feel the weights of your defeatist mind lifting, making room for more positive ideas to flow through you.
1. Tally Your Pessimistic Thoughts On Index Cards
Try either carrying a set of index cards with you, or use a notekeeping app in a handheld device to write out your negative thoughts and keep a tally of every time you catch yourself thinking them. You do not necessarily have to write out each thought, although it can be more helpful, at least just tally them to keep track of how many times throughout the day they are coming up. This helps with admitting and understanding the problem. Thought patterns are not easy to break, and recognizing them is very helpful in the process of making measurable changes to them. After this step, identifying, you can start finding viable solutions.
2. Make Gratitude Lists
A gratitude list is one of the most popular writing techniques to combat negative thinking, and it starts with you recognizing, acknowledging what good is already in your life. Sometimes, when someone is really down and out, having the hands to write the list is one of the only things they can thing to be grateful for. Once you get started, you should be able to find many things to appreciate. Try starting with a list of five things to be grateful for. Make a new list each day. Eventually, your lists should get longer, and you will start to feel much better. Gratitude breeds more gratitude.
3. Compile an Achievements Inventory
Similar to a gratitude list, an achievements inventory is a list of the achievements you have made. This can consist of short daily record of what you have accomplished, or a longer list of the achievements you have made this month, this year, or in your lifetime. An achievements list helps you refocus on what you have done right rather than the things that are going wrong. Daily lists are reminders, each day, that you are moving forward.
4. Keep a Reframing Journal
Reframing is taking one thought and putting it into a different perspective to change the way you think and feel about it. By keeping a reframing journal, you can reframe your problems. This exercise can be used with the biography writing exercise below to change the way you perceive events from your past. In this case, just think about it as a simple practice for changing current problems. Reframing is not finding solutions out in the external world (which can also be helpful), but only in the way you think about current problems.
See an example:
Problem: “I have too many responsibilities – they are stressing me out.”
Reframe Statement: ”I am very responsible – my duties get accomplished without too much stress.”
Think of the reframed statements as mantras you can use to help you see stressors and hurdles from a lighter-feeling standpoint. It is like downloading updated software into your mind.
5. Write a Positive Narrative Essay
Hopelessness is the disbelief that anything can ever get better. Use a narrative essay about a very positive experience you have had to help eliminate the hopelessness you’re feeling right now. Immerse yourself in the details of the joyous experience you had previously to recreate the feelings right now. Use descriptive language to explain each detail of the event. Joy breeds more joy. The essay that is born from this exercise is something you can keep for reference. Read it as many times as you need to remember what the event felt like when it was happening. Repeat this exercise as many times as you want with as many happy events from your past that you can remember.
If you start feeling hopeless while you read, longing for your past, this exercise is not working. If this happens, remind yourself of the purpose, and see if you feel a positive shift.
6. Start an Anonymous Blog
Blogging can be a great way to get your thoughts out into the world to release them. By maintaining anonymity, you give yourself the freedom to be more vulnerable and honest in your writing, but you still have the opportunity to share your words with the public. Get on WordPress and start writing. You can look up methods to get your writing visible if you choose to take this path. Although it may sound intimidating, it requires no less commitment than the rest of these exercises, and it’s completely free.
7. Send a Letter to a Loved One
Sometimes, writing a letter to someone who is important to you can be a way of letting go of the negative by replacing your thoughts with the ideas of someone that you appreciate. If you send this letter to the person, it will make him or her feel good as well. You get to decide whether you send it or not. Sending the letter might be uncomfortable for some people. The point of this writing exercise is not to build relationships, but foster positive thoughts. Looking at the appreciation you have for your loved one in writing, whether it be a partner, child, other relative, or friend, helps brighten these thoughts, and helps enhance other areas of value in your life.
8. Write Your Biography
You can discover the root of your depression by journaling about your life. There are no rules when writing this biography, since it is a tool for you to better your life. Write it in any format you like, but start at the beginning and don’t stop until you have come to the end. When events are perceived as horrible, it’s only because of the way you look at them. Once you have written out your biography, you can use the reframing journal (exercise above) to help you reframe any traumatic events as lessons or opportunities for forgiveness.