Imagine you just came home from a relaxing weekend getaway with your spouse. You anticipate a peaceful week, but a foul smell welcomes you as you open the door. As you try to find the source of this nasty smell, you find a puddle of water by the fridge. The freezer door was slightly open.
As you read that, what’s going through your mind?
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We came home to that scenario a few weeks ago when my hubby and I returned from a short getaway.
To be honest, my initial feelings were ones of anger and frustration. I thought, how could my spouse be so careless and not pay attention? After putting our bags away, we both worked on cleaning up the mess. Outwardly, I was quiet, but inwardly, I was upset and mad.
Now, you might think this is a minor event. Just let it go.
I agree, but if we don’t bring intentionality to how we let it go, this one event can wreak more havoc than good if we allow it to fester.
Ephesians 4:26 reminds us to be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger. How do we do that? How do we get angry but avoid sinning? You and I can do so by slowing down and processing our thoughts and feelings.
5 Steps to Getting Rid of Negative Thinking Patterns
- What are you thinking because of what happened?
You may find it helpful to use a journal to process your thoughts. We usually think that we are angry or frustrated because of what happened. But the truth is that it’s usually our thoughts. So, for our smelly incident, I wrote down all my thoughts about the situation, but the one that bothered me the most was “he doesn’t care.” In my mind, I was thinking if he cared enough, he would have paid more attention and closed the freezer door before we left home. This one thought was at the root of my anger and frustration.
- Is it true?
Is it true that my spouse doesn’t care because he forgot to close the freezer door, or did he just make an honest mistake? Will this incident matter a year, three years, or five years from now? As I pondered these questions, I was able to look at the situation from a different perspective and diffuse the negative thinking.
- How does it make you feel to believe this thought?
I feel frustrated and angry when I think my spouse doesn’t care. But these are just feelings, and I get to evaluate those feelings in light of my thoughts and what happened. It’s important to recognize that my thoughts are what’s causing the anger. They are the hurt beneath the emotions of anger and frustration. If I don’t take time to slow down to get in touch with myself, my thoughts, and my feelings, I may say something I would regret later. For me, I realized that It’s important to process my feelings and thoughts before speaking if I don’t want to cause more hurt and harm others with my words.
- Is this the way you want to feel?
I don’t know about you, but staying angry and negative is toxic and emotionally draining for me. There are times when you want to be angry about stuff, and that’s ok. But you can choose how you want to feel… choose disempowering thoughts or empowering thoughts. This question helps me check in about the situation and decide how I want to feel. I chose to feel good, see the situation for what it is, and let it go.
- Find a believable thought that helps you stay calm to replace the negative thought.
In this freezer incident, I chose to believe that my husband cared and that he made a mistake. This allowed me to extend grace to him and made me feel at peace. Later, we had a good conversation about the incident with grace without blaming and being negative. I chose to extend grace because God gives me grace each moment and each day. We all make mistakes and sometimes miss the mark, yet God forgives us.
So you can get rid of negative thinking patterns by slowing down to process your thoughts and uncovering the thoughts behind the hurt feelings, finding a believable thought you can get behind, and choosing to extend grace. The truth is my spouse cares, and he loves me.
Maybe your situation is not with your spouse but with yourself. Perhaps you struggle with negative self-talk and say things like, “I’m a failure, or I’m not good enough.” Use these 5 steps to process your negative thinking patterns and get beneath the lies. Your thoughts have the power to transform your life either positively or negatively. They affect your mindset, including your beliefs, emotions, and attitudes. These, in turn, determine your behavior and results.
Two scriptures I’ve found helpful for dealing with negative thinking patterns are Romans 12:2 and Philippians 4:8.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then, you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.Romans 12:2
Focus your thoughts on what is true, noble, righteous, pure, lovable, or admirable, on some virtue or on something praiseworthy.Philippians 4:8
The good news is God loves you deeply (Ephesians 1:3-14).
Are you willing to work with him daily to renew your mind with his Word and choose to let go of negative thinking? You’ll transform your marriage and find freedom from fear, anxiety, and negativity as you pay attention to your thinking.
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