The One Question I Ask To Stop Negative Thoughts From Ruining My Day

I like to think I’m an unofficial expert on negative thinking
. It’s not unusual for me to start and finish the day ruminating on something that could
go wrong–but most likely won’t. And I typically take my lunch with a side of worry, too.

I’m far from alone in experiencing negative thoughts: The average person has 60,000 thoughts per day, according to the Cleveland Clinic
. Of those thoughts: 95% repeat each day, and, on average, 80% of repeated thoughts are negative.

I’ve tried numerous tactics to cut the negativity
, including but not limited to: Shouting “stop!” in my head when a negative thought appears, softly singing “Oops!…I Did It Again” to drown out the thoughts (thanks, BritBrit!), writing down all my negative thoughts to see my irrational thinking, and meditating.

Today, thanks to a variety of tactics and professional help, I’ve learned to better manage my anxiety. But that doesn’t mean I’m “negative thought-free.” I’m still human–so I’m always on the lookout for new strategies to check my negativity. Recently, I found an easy trick that’s helped. It doesn’t involve a 10-minute meditation or setting aside time to journal–all it involves is asking yourself one simple question: “Is this useful?”

Related: How To Ditch The Bad Habits That Will Hold You Back This Year

I learned about this mindfulness hack from popular self-help blogger Eric Barker, who runs the blog
Barking Up the Wrong Tree

. In a recent post
about emotional strength, Barker explains that we can’t control which thoughts “bounce around” in our mind. What we can control: the thoughts we focus on. “You’re the thing that decides which thoughts are useful and should be taken seriously,” he writes. And he shared a perfect analogy to better explain this: “You’re not your brain; you’re the CEO of your brain. You can’t control everything that goes on in ‘Mind, Inc.’ But you can decide which projects get funded with your attention and action.”

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