by Amy Morin, Contributor,
There’s a direct connection between the way you think and your emotional state. The things you think about affect the way you feel, and vice versa.
For example, during the times when you are feeling down about a bad day in the workplace, you may start to think gloomy thoughts about everything. You’re more likely to criticize yourself, dwell on negativity, and have a doomsday mentality.
At the same time, your thoughts also influence how you feel. When you happen to start thinking about something gloomy—like a former boss who mistreated you or that promotion you were passed up on—you’ll start to have those sad feelings come up again.
And the more you think about them, the worse you feel. As your mood plummets, the more likely you are to keep thinking about even more sad things. It’s a circle that can be hard to break out of.
Dwelling on one bad day, or other negative thoughts about work, can seriously affect your mood. This in turn will affect your productivity, and can lead to more bad days or a series of bad days. Bad days at work will spill over into bad evenings at home, which can affect your personal and family life.
The only way to stop this cycle is to take control of your thoughts. You have to be determined to change the channel in your mind, so that you don’t get stuck in a dark place.
1. Change the channel in your mind.
Telling yourself, “Don’t think about what happened,” probably won’t do any good. Your brain will mostly likely be quick to revert back to that day and those unpleasant thoughts.
You have to be proactive, and change the channel in your mind (just like you’d change the channel on your radio).
Distraction is the key to doing this. Find something that requires some serious mental energy for at least several minutes.
Here are some ways to change the channel:
- Work out vigorously in the morning (the faster you work out, the less time you have to overthink)
- Turn on some music and dance.
- Organize or rearrange your office space.
- Call a friend and talk about something positive.
- Use your break to plan a company outing.
- Take up a hobby after work.
Just make sure to find something that works for you personally. You may need to experiment with a few different activities until you find the ones that best help you change the channel.
2. Know the difference between problem-solving and ruminating.
Feeling down or thinking about unpleasant things is part of being human. Oftentimes, it’s a necessary part of healing from something bad that has happened to us. It’s even possible to turn those feelings and thoughts into something productive.
But it’s important to differentiate between problem-solving and ruminating.
For example, if you’re behind on your bills, thinking about how to get caught up can be helpful. But thinking about how unfair it is that you got behind, or imagining yourself homeless, isn’t helping the situation.
So ask yourself, “Am I problem-solving or ruminating?”
If you’re actively looking for solutions to do your job more effectively, and prevent that bad day from repeating itself, you are problem solving. But if you’re brooding and dwelling on the problem, then you are ruminating.
Problem-solving can help you move forward. Ruminating will hold you back. If you catch yourself doing this, you need to change the channel immediately.
3. Seek out help.
If you are experiencing depression, anxiety, or another mental health problem, this can greatly increase how often you think unpleasant thoughts. The inverse is unfortunately also true—thinking about unpleasant things increases the chances that you might develop a mental health issue.
If you’re having difficulty getting troubling images out of your head, or you find yourself always dwelling on the negative, this could be something beyond what is troubling you at work. You may need to seek professional help. Talking to a therapist could help you think and feel differently.