Alister Gray, life coach, mindset expert and founder of Mindful Talent, offers five ways to combat dark days.

It’s easy to get lost in a world of thought. When things feel overwhelming it’s not uncommon for thoughts to go into overdrive and we can feel out of control.

We begin to believe we are our thoughts and get sucked into a negative spiral. As someone who has suffered anxiety, I’ve navigated many dark days.

I’ve also experienced this first-hand in my own family with multiple members of my family suffering from dark depressions.

But there are ways we can help ourselves in these dark moments.

Here are five tips to inspire new ways of thinking, being and doing.

How To Cope With Negative Thoughts | Men's Fitness UK

1. Ask yourself a thinking question

This is an approach that was developed by David Rock, a neuroscientist and coach who recognised that wherever we place our attention determines our thoughts, feelings and energy.

Therefore, if we are thinking about a problem, drama or challenge in life, or if we are thinking negatively about ourself, then we can ask a thinking question to breakthrough our own thought patterns.

One great question to ask is, ‘Are my thoughts helping me or harming me?’

By asking a thinking question, you resume the position of the observer of the thoughts versus being caught up in them.

2. Imagine you were helping a friend – what would you do?

If your friend was experiencing what you were, how would you help them? What would you do for them that would help lighten their mood?

Maybe you would suggest a walk in nature, a nice cup of tea, or you would buy them a bunch of flowers to brighten up their day.

Whatever you would do for a friend, do it for yourself.

One idea is to write a list of things down that would make you feel better or impact you in a positive way, then when a darker day shows up, you have a blueprint of how to overcome it.

3. Focus on something else

Whatever we place our focus on expands, therefore if we are focusing on the negative thoughts and problems in our head, we will likely amplify and expand them.

Finding something else to focus your attention on, whether it is a task, a game or a hobby, will help distract your mind from the unwanted thoughts.

4. ‘Thinking’ meditation 

Meditation can be tough when you are over-thinking and in a dark place, however this meditation I’ve found incredibly useful.

Simply close down your eyes and repeat the phrase, ‘I wonder what thought I will think next?’

When practised for a few minutes, you will find that the mantra kind of acts like a circuit breaker for the negative thoughts. I’ve found this one incredibly useful over the years.

5. Write down your emotions

Writing down your thoughts, feelings and emotions can be a powerful way to release and process them more effectively.

In neuroscience, this is known as ‘affect labelling’.

Put simply, it’s the process of writing down your emotions, which helps curb the way they get expressed in the brain, the body, and your behaviour.