As human beings, it's natural to have negative thoughts at times. These are thoughts that make us feel anxious and worried, or sad, or angry, upset. And it's normal to be experiencing even more negative thinking than usual during a stressful time period like this one. Now, it's an important life skill to be able to spend some time, with uncomfortable and challenging thoughts, because they can help us to solve problems. For example, thinking about an upcoming math test might make me feel worried, anxious, but it could also help me to make a study plan. Or thinking about a time that I didn't really react the best way to my daughter's tantrum, it might make me feel sad and disappointed in myself, but I could also use those thoughts to help me make a better plan for the next time she has a tantrum. Sometimes though we find ourselves spending lots of time thinking negatively about ourselves and about things that have either happened in the past, or that might happen in the future. And we're not using that thinking strategically, to solve problems, instead our brains are just focusing over and over on these thoughts that are causing us to feel badly about ourselves and about our lives. That's called rumination. And the first step in combating these thoughts, is just be mindful of their thinking patterns, to take a step back and realize that you're ruminating. And it's important not to judge yourself for that, because having negative thoughts, is just a part of being human. Next, consider whether there was something that triggered, your negative thinking. For example, looking at too much news and social media about coronavirus in particular, it might trigger some negative thinking about your life, the way that your life has been impacted and worries about the future. If you know your triggers, then you can try to either avoid them, or approach them more carefully. So in that example you can make sure to limit your news consumption, to several times a day, and only from trustworthy news sources. Another useful thing that you can do when you find yourself having negative thoughts, is to ask yourself three questions about those thoughts. Number one, are they true? Number two, is it helping me to think about them right now? And number three, what do you tell a loved one who is having these same thoughts? Let's take those one at a time. The first question to ask about your negative thoughts is are they true? Remind yourself that just because you think something, doesn't mean that it's true. Our brains have certain ways of thinking that help us to quickly make sense of the world, but those same thoughts could also lead to negative and untrue thinking. Some examples of this are black and white thinking. For example, if I lose my temper with my daughter, that must mean that I'm a horrible parent. That example is also what's called filter thinking, because in labeling myself a horrible parent I'm filtering out all the times that I sang her lullabies, dried her tears, made her favorite breakfast. Once you realize that your negative thoughts aren't true, remind yourself of why, and then shift your focus to something different. You can also try writing down the negative thoughts and why they're not true. And then you can crumple up that paper and throw it right in the trash. The second question to ask yourself about your negative thoughts is, even if they're true is it helping me to think about them right now? Is it helping me problem solve or make any positive changes to come up with solutions, to address these negative things I'm thinking about? If the answer to that is no, write down for yourself a plan for when and with whom you'll talk about what's on your mind, so that you can then do something productive about it. Once you do that, then focus yourself on something different. If your brain starts thinking those thoughts again, remind yourself of what your plan is. The third question to ask yourself if you're still having trouble thinking in a more balanced and positive way, is, let's say you had a good friend or a loved one who came to you and told you that they were experiencing, they were having the same negative thoughts that you're having. What would you say to them, to help them think more positively and to feel better? Then say that same thing to yourself. You deserve the same compassion that you would give to someone else. Now, I've mentioned about shifting your thinking to something different, after you've asked these questions and worked this process through. Once you've addressed your negative thoughts involve yourself in activity that takes lots of focus. That can include doing something active, taking some time outside, even ideally in something with a little bit of nature in it like a park, and maybe connecting with a friend or a loved one. Finally, meditation is a wonderful practice that helps focus the attention and calm the mind. Book online for free apps and classes.