You can only think one thought at a time, so simply displace negative thoughts with positive ones.
“It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.”
So begins George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, an opening which regularly graces lists of books’ best first lines (along with other beauties such as “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife” and “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times”).
Written in 1949, Orwell’s story tells of a disturbing future where the Thought Police uncover and punish those guilty of committing “thoughtcrime” – the criminal act of holding unspoken beliefs or doubts about the ruling party.
Thankfully there’s still no proper way to read minds, beyond really quite basic work done using MRI scans, so you and I are free to think as we choose.
Or at least, should be. On a great day it probably feels as though your thoughts are entirely voluntary and self-driven, whereas on a shabby one it might seem as if some external malign entity is forcing you to occupy your mind with negativity.
The truth, though? You really do have much more control over your own thoughts than you may believe. And it’s worth remembering that despite some people apparently being able to juggle multiple thought-streams at the same time, it is only possible to think one thing at a time.
It’s almost impossible to stop yourself thinking about something. For instance, when I tell you not to think of a pink elephant, I can virtually guarantee that there will immediately be an image of just this in your mind, and pink pachyderms will keep returning to your consciousness for quite some time.
How to defeat this? One good way is to displace the unwanted thought with one which is more welcome. So instead of not thinking about pink elephants, you might choose to think of white bears, for instance.
Next time you find yourself drowning in negativity, therefore, why not try to train yourself to at least start thinking more positively?
Positive thinking is like a muscle, so building it up takes regular exercise and determination, but it’s surely a strength worth cultivating.
You can do it.
Finally – and I’m sure you already knew them – “It is a truth universally acknowledged” is from Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, while “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” is the opening line of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities.
Not a pink elephant in sight in either of those.