Question yourself

Stuck in a negative thought pattern? Stop to question yourself about what’s really going on.

I sometimes find myself in unhelpful or even destructive thought loops. For example, one morning last week I got annoyed about something and then every little thing that happened after that just added to the annoyance. Sound familiar?

As the day went on I couldn’t shift the feeling and my mood didn’t improve. At the end of the day I felt frustrated with myself for letting that first thing get the better of me and for allowing it to affect everything else that happened.

The next day I read a short post on Seth Godin’s blog titled Annoyed. He starts it by posing this question:

Does being annoyed serve any useful purpose?

It was one of those occasions where you believe the author is speaking directly to you. It was just what I needed and helped to jolt me out of the destructive loop I’d got myself into. Being asked to question how this negative emotion was benefiting me made me realise how unhelpful it is to hold on to both the things that annoyed me and the emotion itself. In short, it helped me to get out of my own head and gain some perspective.

Some other questions I’ve come across that could be helpful to ask in similar situations are:

  • Will I care about this tomorrow / next week / next year?
  • Am I ruminating or problem-solving? Read more about this on Thought Shrapnel.
  • What’s really going on here? Am I tired / hungry / in need of a break? See Cory House’s attitude checklist.

It’s too easy to get caught in a flow of negative feelings, but what if we choose to stop for a moment, question ourselves, and by doing so break the pattern?

What unhelpful or destructive loops do you get yourself into? And what questions could you ask yourself when this happens to help gain perspective?

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