8 ways to get out of a negative rut
Maybe you just haven’t been happy at work lately (ugh, why did she get that promotion over you?!). Or your relationship with your BF has become seriously stale and that’s gotten you feeling really down. Left alone, those thoughts can multiply faster than rabbits. And then, before you know it, you’re in this major negativity rut and it feels like you’ll never get out. Luckily, there are a few easy things you can do to step right back into the light. Follow these positivity-boosting tips straight from the pros:
1. Acknowledge the Rut
While you can’t reasonably expect every day to be filled with sunshine and Beyoncé, the first step to hoisting yourself out of a rut is to acknowledge you’re in one in the first place. A negative feeling is like a floating pool toy—”it won’t stay underwater, it’s going to pop up again,” says Andrea Brandt, Ph.D., a therapist in Santa Monica, California. Instead of trying to bury that feeling, examine it—but do so mindfully. “When you stop overanalyzing, you can think more clearly,” says Brandt. Then, you might be able to figure out where the problem stems from and work from there.
2. Get Writing
Keep a gratitude journal, and every night before you go to bed, write down three to five things you’re grateful for—your mom’s hilarious texts, new episodes of Scandal being added to Netflix, your adorable cat—anything, really. Try it for two weeks, and you should start to feel a difference, says Barton Goldsmith, Ph.D., a psychotherapist and author of 100 Ways to Boost Self-Confidence. Writing can also help you get the negative thoughts out of your mind and onto paper, which can help with the acknowledgement process. “It will show you what’s in your head,” says Goldsmith.
3. Incorporate the Word ‘Some’
Add the word “some” before the blah thoughts in your mind. It can transform ‘things don’t work out for me’ to ‘some things don’t work out for me,’ for example. “The thing about speaking in absolutes is that they take on this authority that they don’t really deserve,” says Tamar Chansky, Ph.D, author of Freeing Your Child from Anxiety. “When you start to see that it’s more of a mixed picture, you begin to feel like the light is breaking through.”
4. Go for Neutral
“Research has found that people who are not depressed don’t have more positive thoughts, they just have fewer negative thoughts,” says Chansky. So if you can cut the gloomy thoughts’ supply line, you can more easily break out of the rut. To put this into practice, make a list. In the left column, write out three negative thoughts and in the right column, write three less negative, more-neutral versions of those ideas, says Brandt.
5. Shift Your Focus Outward
Making someone else feel good will have a ripple effect. So go ahead, make your grandmother’s day and send her a letter, or send out some thank-you notes. Being positive for someone else often leads you to reap those benefits, as well (score!). “Just by shifting that focus outward, it opens up another realm in your mind that’s much more positive,” says Chansky. “When we are generous and compassionate, the first people who benefit are ourselves.”
6. Invite People in
Being open with your closes confidants about what is bothering you, from a messy house to financial troubles, will make you realize you’re not flying solo, says Chansky.
7. Only Compare Yourself to Yourself
Listen for when you’re comparing yourself to others, and then realize that you’re comparing a hyper criticized version of you to an exaggeratedly optimistic version of them. Okay, done? Now stop it! “When you compare yourself to other people, you’re not having a realistic view of the other person,” says Chansky. “A lot of times, negative ruts happen because we set ourselves up for failure…because our goals are way too big or not framed in a way that they are something we can control.” To set yourself up for success, compare you to you in terms of goal progress. Identify small steps so you’ll get that feeling of accomplishment several times along the way.
8. Get Dressed Up
Even if you have nothing to do or you work from home, slipping on an outfit you feel good about can lift your spirits. “Then, at least you’re ready for whatever happens,” says Goldsmith.
The bottom line: Everyone gets into a slump from time to time—but it doesn’t have to be that way forever. Making a few small changes can have a huge impact on your outlook. (Just remember: If the blues persist for more than a few weeks, you may need to consult a professional for help.)