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How Can I Banish “What If” From My Thoughts?

Some people have thoughts that propel them into a cycle of “what ifs” during every complex issue in life. While in recovery, this series of unknowns lingers in the back of most people’s minds. What if I relapse? What if I argue? What if I fail?

Negative thinking is the enemy in addiction recovery. What ifs are two scary words that could signal concern. Unfortunately, trying to push negative thoughts away can make them more persistent and significant over time, meaning the strategy of pushing unhealthy thoughts away makes matters worse. You can’t simply replace positive and negative thoughts; what needs to change is how you relate to what is happening in your thoughts and learn to redirect your thinking in positive and healthy ways.

What Causes Negative Thinking?

Your brain hears everything that you think, and it responds according to the emotion that goes with your thought. Consider it a defense mechanism. If your brain hears uncertainty, it wants to step in and prepare you to face it head-on. Every time your brain hears uncertainty, it jumps to defense mode to protect you from what you told it.

What Can Be Done to Look at Things Differently?

It is not necessary to stop negative thoughts, and trying to stop them only makes them more prevalent. Negative thoughts become a problem when you ruminate on them and stay hooked on the negative idea as though it is absolute truth. You can train your brain to operate from a different place, but it will take time and dedication. Here are ways to look at things from a different perspective:

  • Avoid looking at things in black and white with no gray area
  • Avoid all-or-nothing thinking
  • Don’t personalize every situation
  • Don’t focus solely on the negative aspect of anything
  • Don’t allow yourself to assume the worst
  • Disassociate yourself from the situation to have an objective view of it
  • Take a break for a few minutes daily from thinking
  • Spend time meditating or focusing on something positive
  • Get rid of judgmental thinking, identify your reaction, and let it go
  • Be thankful and live in a place of gratitude
  • Learn to focus on your strengths

Thoughts are mental events that are not necessarily the truth of a situation. Knowing that facts  — or spending less time tossing through scenarios that never have or will never play out in reality — will help shift your relationship with your thoughts.

Your brain is designed to be a survival machine. It questions everything, makes comparisons, and pushes you to explore all possibilities in an attempt to keep you safe. It is up to you to learn ways to reprogram your brain to get past survival mode. At The Guest House, we provide both conventional and holistic therapies to help you confront the internal and external challenges of everyday life. To learn more about our integrative programs, call us today at (855) 483-7800.