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Getting Stuck in a Negative Loop

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One of our themes this February has been to look at simple, transformative ideas to help improve mental health. It’s incredibly easy to feel overwhelmed if you are going through periods of anxiety, unease, low mood and other emotional rollercoasters. In our experience, starting with the small things and paying attention to the small things can make a huge difference.

Here’s an important and intensely useful idea. Be aware of the times when you get stuck in a negative thought loop. This is often called by psychologists ruminating on the negative. You get a sad or painful or bad idea in your head and it feels as if you can’t let it go. Round and round it runs, and with each round you feel worse. There’s quite a lot of neuroscience to show why this is and how pernicious it is for mental ease, but we won’t go into that now. Just know that it’s something to look out for and something you have it in your power to change.

Every time you find yourself in a negative thought loop, or dwelling on disaster and catastrophe, or otherwise running a horror movie in your head, stop, and breathe, and step away. We like to ask ourselves two brilliant Occam’s Razor questions – ‘Is this useful and is this true?’ (The answer almost always is no.) Then, the next step is not to start scolding yourself for falling into the hamster wheel of doom, but simply to choose to think about something else. Send your thoughts in a more humane, kind, hopeful, easy, pleasurable direction. If you can build this habit, you will rewire your neuronal circuitry, and then you become less likely to tumble into the tiger trap of desolation. The more you practise a thing, the better you get at it, so if you tend to dwell in the negative or the sad or the desperate a lot of the time, your brain will become terrifyingly good at that. This is why gently building new mental habits is so liberating.

We hope that idea gives you a little lift on this Monday. We love it, because it really works and because it is not that hard to do. Take it and play with it and see how you go.

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We do not rely on government funding so any donations will greatly assist with the running of our charity.