Breaking the cycle of toxic thoughts

Breaking the cycle of toxic thoughts | HealthSoul

Although we are supposed to always be on our side, rooting for ourselves, it seems that our brains don’t always work like that. In fact, pretty much everyone has occasional problems with negative and toxic thoughts that invade and often overwhelm their mind space, and make them feel insecure, anxious, frustrated, or depressed. Even highly-confident people face such thoughts from time to time, so no one is immune to them. That is why it is very important to know what to do when they suddenly pop up into your head and start affecting not only your mood, but also, potentially, your behavior and even your actions. If left unchecked, toxic thoughts could spin out of control and cause you to do things that you are guaranteed to regret later. 

A classic example is an insecure person checking the messages on their partner’s phone, because he or she is worried that they might be getting cheated on. Checking the messages of one’s partner without the knowledge and consent of the latter is pretty much always a recipe for disaster and the main reason why so many people still do it is the insecurity and uncertainty that comes with toxic thought patterns.

In the following paragraphs, we will go over a couple of simple, yet very helpful techniques recommended by psychologists, that can help you break the toxic cycle of negative thought patters and get you back to a more balanced state of mind, where you can act rationally and logically.

Analyze the validity of the negative thought pattern

Emotions can quickly reduce your ability to think rationally and logically, and make it difficult to see things as they truly are. This is especially true when talking about negative emotions such as fear, anxiety, insecurity, etc. Those can skew our perception of reality and make us all but convinced of the existence of things that are probably not there. That is why, the moment you start having those negative thoughts, you must take a mental step back to allow your logical mind to examine and scrutinize the thought pattern. The goal is to see if there’s any actual logical or empirical proof of the thing that your toxic thoughts warn you about. What you’ll usually find is that your negative thought patterns are more likely a projection of your own insecurities and fears rather than an objective representation of reality. 

Back to the example from the previous paragraph, if you are afraid that your partner might be cheating on you and this tempts you to check their phone, first ask yourself if there’s any hard proof that this might be truly happening. Is your partner acting suspiciously and being secretive, or are you simply feeling insecure because he or she has a new and very attractive colleague? Those are some very tough questions to ask yourself, and answering them requires very high levels of honesty towards yourself. However, this is also one of the first and most important steps towards learning how to break toxic thought cycles.

Act confidently (even if you don’t feel confident)

Whenever a toxic thought pattern occurs, and you get tempted to act in a way that you know will probably make things worse, there’s a simple question that you need to ask yourself: “Would I do X if I was more confident in myself?”. Asking yourself this will help shift your perspective for the better and show you what the best course of action would be in the given situation.

For instance, if your partner is currently taking a shower and their phone is left open on the table, you may be tempted to have a quick look at their messages. However, if you ask yourself what a more confident version of you would do, you’ll realize that the best course of action would be to turn around and busy yourself with something productive that will benefit you, rather than waste any more time feeding your insecurities.

Similarly, if you fear some of your colleagues may dislike you, you could spend time and mental energy ruminating over this, trying to think of ways to make them like you. However, if you were to act confidently, you would focus on improving yourself in ways that you think are important, rather than concerning yourself with what others may think of you.

Acting with confidence is obviously not an easy thing to do, but realizing what a more confident version of you would and wouldn’t do in a certain situation, and then taking that approach and view point, will help you make the best decision in a situation and thus break your cycle of negative thoughts.

Accept yourself and work on self-improvement

One of the most freeing ideas you can focus on when you are feeling overwhelmed with toxic thoughts of insecurity, incompetence, self-doubt, and lack of confidence, is realizing that perfection is unreachable, and that that’s okay. There will always be people who don’t like you, there will always be someone better than you at something, or someone who is more attractive, wealthier, smarter, etc. 

This, however, doesn’t diminish your own worth, because, at the end of the day, the only person you should be measuring yourself against is you from the previous day. If today you’ve done something to better yourself, then it doesn’t matter if someone else is more handsome, or successful, or competent. All that matters is that you are becoming a better version of yourself with each day. Giving more importance to how you measure up against others, instead of how you measure up against your past self, is one of the main sources of toxic thought patterns and is, as a whole, a very flawed approach. All people are different, so the only reliable metric of measuring your progress is to look at who you were yesterday and then compare yourself to that person, with the aim to become better than him or her.

Becoming your better self

The path towards self-improvement is steep and laid with many obstacles, but if you truly want to break free of the perpetual cycle of negative thoughts, then this is the way to go. The first step is to look deep into yourself, identify your behavioral patterns, acknowledge the ones that are sabotaging you, and find out what triggers them. You can learn how to do that from books written on the topic of behavior modification or from life coaches and psychologists. A lot of people also rely on behavior modification classes – a perfect method for those who prefer to go at their own pace, while also having quick access to the exact pieces of information that will give them practical results.