The ADHD Guide to Controlling Negative Thoughts
Updated: Mar 23
Some people are negative thinkers. But for many of the rest of us, negativity is just the default mode for our brains. Those of us with ADHD tend to fall into this category. With this reality in mind, let’s consider the implications and consequences of negative thinking, and maybe even how to overcome it.
Implications of Negative Thinking:
Viewing a glass as “half empty” is to start with the empty. Those with negative thinking often only see and feel the void. Trying to go from empty to full can feel overwhelming. It requires motion where there was none. That requires energy (remember the law of inertia- an object at rest remains at rest unless there is a force applied). As they say, getting started is half the battle, but for ADHDers, “starting” is an even bigger hurdle. And when we add negative thinking to the mix, we put ourselves back at the starting gates over and over again by not recognizing how far we have already come and just picking up there.
Consequences of Negative Thinking:
Unless we can summon the energy to “start,” we are stuck with our empty glass. Oh wait, it was only half empty? Didn’t notice. 🤦🏼♀️
So, what is the difference between a positive thinker and a negative thinker?
As you might guess, positive thinkers start with the glass half full. They see the progress they have already made and use the positive energy from that to stay in motion (an object in motion, stays in motion). There is no need to summon energy, it’s already there. They focus on the “full.”
My young niece is working on a growing experiment for first grade. She has taken seeds for beans and for sunflowers and planted some of them in four cups each. Some seeds will get no water or sun, some will get only water or sun, and the rest will receive all the good stuff. Even at her age, she suspects pretty strongly that the ones she has focused on by watering them and giving them sunlight will be the ones to thrive. Which is exactly what we in coaching remind our clients: “What we focus on, grows.” Positive thinkers focus on what they have, and it grows. Negative thinkers focus on what they do not have, or what is wrong with what they have, and it stays.
A.A. Milne, the English author of Winnie the Pooh, said, “You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
Starting today, how might you shift your thoughts away from the negative and take hold of that which is positive?
Overcoming negative thoughts can’t happen overnight, yet it is possible! Remember: Negativity is an emotional response that may or may not be based on fact. If you have ADHD, and negative thinking is your default mode, pausing to breathe will give your brain time to explore other possibilities.
Call a Friend
Many of us have a friend with whom we can share everything. Be it that friend, someone from the family, or a coach, connecting with someone is good therapy. The lagging emotional regulation skills that come with ADHD can get you off track and into feeling overwhelmed unnecessarily. But verbally processing those thoughts with a good listener and friendly “questioner” will allow and empower you to challenge them.
Get Up and Go Out
If a negative thought crosses your mind or hangs around (rumination), leave whatever you are doing, and go out! Go to your favorite café and have that muffin you love. Take a walk and enjoy the warmth of the sun for a while. Have you heard of taking a nature bath? In short, find something that has more power than the negative thoughts and ruminations and which will reduce those thoughts’ power over you.
Make Yourself Coffee
Famed poet T.S. Eliot once said, "I have measured out my life with coffee spoons."
It is a fact that low neurotransmitter levels can make you feel down. So try indulging in a hot cup of coffee or tea, something that feels rewarding and gives you a little dopamine boost. Simply brewing fresh coffee at home, smelling the aroma, and indulging in a little mental break may shift your focus for a moment, and sometimes that’s all it takes.
Kill Negativity with Positivity . . . from Above
What is more positive than God?.... um.. absolutely nothing.
What would happen if you brought your negative thoughts to Him in prayer? Why not try it right now. Throw every problem you have at Him. He won’t throw it back.
And maybe you’ll find yourself thriving in the sunlight with those beans and sunflowers my niece just planted, your thirst quenched and your spirit renewed.