Young adult woman holding balloons to reduce anxiety and get out of a negative headspace

How to Get Out of a Negative Headspace & Reduce Anxiety

Knowing how to get out of a negative headspace is beneficial for preserving emotional wellbeing and mental health. If you struggle with anxiety, you know that it is not easy to turn off a busied and preoccupied mind. 

Learning How to Get Out From Negative Thoughts

The mind is capable of producing both negative and positive thoughts. The types of thoughts we have greatly influence our mood, emotions, attitudes and behaviors.

As it pertains to anxiety, most thoughts that lead to worrying, nervousness, and distress do tend to be negative in nature. And the mind focuses on what can go wrong instead of what can go right or in our favor.

Sometimes worried thoughts contribute to feeling down on yourself, being self-critical, or feeling frustrated and more anxious. Because of this, It’s important to figure out a way to deal with these negative thoughts when they customarily arise. 

Below are some strategies on how to get out from negative thoughts as a way to reduce anxiety and improve mood.

Ask: What’s Another Way to Look at This?

One way to go about this is to allow yourself to consider alternative explanations and perspectives. When you are bogged down in negative thinking, consider shifting perspective for a moment. Ask yourself, “What’s another way to look at this situation or problem?”

Coming up with various responses to this question and from different angles helps to unblock your mind. It also keeps you from narrowly focusing on something that is negative or unhelpful. 

Stick to the Facts

young adult woman of color with hands on her face may be thinking how to get out from negative thoughts

Not everything that crosses our mind is based in truth and facts. Sometimes a worry is simply a worry.

It is a fearful thought that something unfavorable, uncomfortable, or awful may happen. But, having a worried or anxious thought does not mean that it will occur. 

Moreover, we can bring our assumptions, interpretations, projections, and opinions to current situations based on previously learned experiences. This is when sticking to the facts can help to get you out from negative thoughts.

For instance, instead of taking every thought at face value, evaluate the facts of the current situation. What facts can you observe about the current scenario? 

Is there anything that makes you think the thoughts are true? Anything to indicate that maybe they are not completely or all the way true? Teasing out facts from assumptions, worries, and negative previous experiences can help reduce associated stress and worry.

Ideas on How to Get Out of a Negative Headspace

Get Up and Get Moving

One of the symptoms of anxiety is muscle tension. When you feel anxious, your muscles automatically tighten, acting as signals to the body that you are not relaxed.

Engaging the body in movements that can relax and loosen up the muscles will help your body feel calmer. As your body moves, the blood and oxygen is able to flow through and release tension. 

The release of tension helps ease feelings of restlessness, reduce sensations of nervousness, and balance the system. Moreover, you may find that it makes it easier to clear your mind and get out of a negative headspace.

This is because your mind is actively engaged, tuned in, and focused on physical actions and movement. It helps redirect the brain into something positive.

Even small movements are helpful! So you don’t have to do a whole lot in order to reap the benefits. Physical movement can range from a full body workout to small changes in body position, stretching, or a short walk. 

Some Ideas Include:

  • Change your physical environment: This can be as simple as getting up and walking into another room. If you live with family members or roommates, go check on what is happening around the house. If you live with pets, take a moment to play with them or refill their water or food bowl. These brief physical breaks help to snap your brain out of negative or futuristic thinking and into the present moment.
  • Practice small or large body movements: such as as raising both hands in the air in a slow motion or moving your head from side to side and then up and down
  • Get some fresh air: Change positions and go open a window, taking a few deep breaths to center yourself. Go outside for a 5-15 minute walk or sit outside taking in a different scenery. 
  • Temperature change: Go from hot to cold or cold to hot. For example, drinking a cold cup of water or taking a warm or cool shower can contribute to relaxation.

Remembering Past Successes Helps to Get Out of a Negative Headspace

When we are in a negative mindset, we may feel that everything is terrible all of the time. It’s important to highlight moments of positivity to combat this tendency.

To get started, take out a piece of paper. Then make a list of positive things that have gone well for you in the past. It doesn’t matter how simple or small it may sound in the moment. 

Everything counts. Be careful not to discount or diminish your previous successes and accomplishments in light of today’s failures or disappointments. 

Young adult woman sitting down and writing in a journal as a way to get rid of negative automatic thoughts

Doing this writing exercise helps shift your mind from what you can’t do, or can’t get out of, into times when you did succeed. If you were capable then, you are capable now. 

If things somehow worked themselves out for the better back then. It’s still possible now. Good things do happen. It’s important to remember this when you are trying to figure out how to get out of a negative headspace.

Mindfulness Practice

Mindfulness means bringing awareness to the present moment without judgment. It can be helpful when stuck ruminating on past situations or focusing on future problems. You can also use this technique to recenter yourself and feel more grounded.

With mindfulness practices, you allow your mind to focus your awareness only on the things in your present moment. It helps to get out of a negative headspace because it brings your attention to the “here and now”. 

Some examples of how you can incorporate mindfulness include:

  • Mindful walking: take off your shoes and touch the ground with your bare feet. Take a few steps around the room. Bring your attention to the sensations of your feet as you touch and lift them off the floor
  • Mindful breathing: bring your attention to your breath. Notice your breath as you inhale and exhale
  • Using your 5 senses: With this exercise, you can use your five senses (hearing, taste, vision, touch, smell), to notice your present and current surroundings. 

As with all mindfulness practices, it’s important to remember that the mind will wander and it’s normal to experience distraction. When this happens, bring your attention back to your breath and the present moment.

Practice Adaptability and Flexibility

We don’t always have solutions and the ability to manage life’s circumstances. Sometimes it is the case that things actually do go wrong and we do feel down because of it. It can be especially hard when we don’t have a choice in situations and feel frustrated or helpless. 

Being able to adapt, adjust, and move forward prevents us from getting stuck in a negative funk for too long. This can look like adjusting your mindset to lessen the stress. For example, “I hate going to the gym” can turn into, “Exercise helps reduce my cholesterol”.

Or adapting to a new schedule. For example, waking up 20 minutes earlier to get ready for work. The extra sleep will do you good, but getting a head start prevents feeling rushed and overwhelmed.   

Small adjustments in our thoughts and behaviors can help alter our emotions and reduce anxiety and stress. Consider ways to incorporate adaptability and flexibility to situations that seem insurmountable.

Take a Break: Address Burnout

Taking a few deep breaths and stepping away from a stressor can make a big difference in your mood. A break allows you to reenergize, regulate your emotions, and develop new strategies to approaching difficult issues or tasks.

If the opportunity allows, you may even put aside the issue or concern for a predetermined amount of time. This can be a few hours, a couple of days, or until you can return to it with a clearer mindset.

Participate in Positive and Pleasurable Activities

Young adult woman sitting down touching the paw of a cat

Participate in activities that are fulfilling to you and bring fun, joy, and entertainment into your life. Occupying your mind with enjoyable things helps redirect you away from anxious and stressful thoughts.

Take a moment to think about some activities, hobbies, or social events or places that you enjoy. Engaging in positive activities will make it much harder to stay in a bad mood for too long. 

Focus on What You Can Control in the Moment

Predictability helps us to feel safe and secure. When we know what is going to happen, we can prepare and adjust our lives and behaviors to fit the occasion. But there are things in life that are simply by nature out of our control. 

Take for example, a heavy downpour of rain on your outdoor wedding day! You can’t control the weather, but you can control switching to indoors and still marrying your significant other. In other words, control what you can control and try to let go of what you cannot.

A lot of anxiety and suffering comes from worrying about things out of our control. Focusing on things we would like to happen, wish wouldn’t happen, believe should happen, etc. But some of these things are quite out of our hands. 

When uncertainty and doubt wants to get the best of you, try redirecting your thoughts to what is possible. What can you do right now to make things better? After you’ve done all you can, try your best to let the other stuff go. Imagine positive scenarios in which it will work itself out.

Create a Self-care Plan and Stick to It

You may feel less capable to emotionally tackle daily challenges when you are overwhelmed and in a negative headspace. Moreover, uncontrolled stress can make you more susceptible to developing anxiety and depressed mood.

It is important to have a way to manage stress and implement self-care strategies into your daily routine. You can quickly assess your current self-care strategies by asking yourself a few questions.

For example, are you eating nutritional and balanced meals, consuming adequate water, sleeping enough hours? Are you taking care of your hygiene, regularly following up with medical visits, exercising? 

Are you caring for emotional and social needs for connection by spending time with friends and family? If spiritual practice is important to you, have you been connecting with your personal spiritual beliefs?

Are you making time to do fun and enjoyable things and making space for laughter in your day? Overall, is anything missing for you in the area of self-care? If so, what is missing and what would you like to do more of?

How to get out from negative thoughts and into positivity involves exploration and evaluation of your current strategies. If you noted specific areas for improvement, create a plan to pay attention to these. 

You can reinstate old habits that were helpful to you in the past. You can also try new routines and habits in order to switch up the mundane. Overall, the essence of a self-care plan is to ensure that your mind and body needs are being met.

Whatever you choose, get into the habit of doing something positive for yourself and continue to do it. This will help to get out of a negative headspace when you find yourself in one.

How to Get Out of a Negative Headspace Using Self-Compassion

Staying positive when experiencing complex emotions like discouragement, anger, guilt, and rejection is difficult. Equally difficult is contending with critical self-talk or harsh judgments when they enter the mind.

In moments like this, the practice of self-compassion recommends that we switch up negative self-talk for kindness. To do this, we acknowledge our own pain and suffering in the moment and offer compassion to pull us through. This is different to ignoring emotional pain or criticizing ourselves for having difficulties in life.

In general, self-compassion offers an opportunity to treat ourselves warmly and kindly even when falling short of being our best selves. When considering how to get out of a negative headspace, using self-compassion is worth a try.

Steps to Using Self-Compassion:

Notice that you are in a moment of pain and suffering

The  purpose of this first step is to help draw attention and awareness to your personal emotional experience. This can be noticing that you are feeling nervous, worried, overwhelmed, sad, defeated, hopeless, weary, uncertain, etc. 

As previously mentioned, the ability to recognize you are in a funk is an important step to getting yourself out.

Use Kindness Towards Yourself

This step involves talking to yourself in a positive manner, with warmth and kindness. It means replacing negative and disparaging words with comforting and soothing ones. If kindness isn’t a typical response to your pain, it may feel awkward at first. 

If this is the case, consider what you might say to a dear friend or someone you care about. What might you say to that person when they experience pain, struggle, or are in need of your support?

Would you say something like, “I’m here for you in this moment”. “It’s ok to make mistakes”, “I know you tried your best”, or “You have strength and will get through this”.

Another suggestion to ease into the use of self-compassionate language is to say to yourself what you would like to hear. What do you wish someone would say to you during hard times that will help you feel better? And then say this out loud to yourself. 

Kindness goes a long way to transform a negative mindset or emotion into a positive, more manageable emotional state.

Common Humanity

Young adult women touching hands in a circle

Self-compassion also includes common humanity, which is the acknowledgement that we are not alone in our experiences.

The world is populated with billions of people. Someone out there is also trying to learn how to get out of a negative headspace.

No one is immune to pain and suffering. It is something all humans have in common. The truth is that everyone goes through heartache and struggles to get out from negative thoughts.

Being able to step back from our immediate situation to focus on our bond as humans is helpful. It reminds us that we don’t have to feel alone, ashamed or embarrassed by our shortcomings. 

We don’t have to have it all figured out and fine tuned. We can just do the best we can and keep trying our best to move forward. Looking to others and being in community is one way to be kind to ourselves and shift our mood.

Get Organized and Remove Clutter

A cluttered space can reflect your mood state. Take a look around your current environment. Is there anything that is out of place, needs to be put back? Disorganized and cluttered spaces can reflect stress, being in a time crunch, and the overall busy ongoings of life. 

Removing clutter from your space can invite a sense of calm and peace. It can help you organize your thoughts and ideas. An added bonus is that it will be one less thing to feel guilty or bad about.

Moreover, tackling a cluttered space can re-energize you and motivate you to do other things that need your attention. Seeing the progress of a cleaned space, can help you imagine progress in other areas of your life. 

It also promotes feelings of accomplishment and increases productivity. All of these things can alter your mood and help to get out of a negative headspace.

Therapy for Anxiety in the State of New York

For more support on managing anxiety, schedule an appointment to speak with a therapist in Rockland County, NY. Therapy for generalized and social anxiety, perfectionism, and other anxiety-related issues is available for all New York residents via telehealth.

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