A few years ago, James Altucher taught me something that helps calm dark and anxious thoughts.
Life wasn’t easy at the time. A cruel twist of fate had me walking past my new ex-girlfriend’s road almost every day after work. Grim visions of mistakes and arguments would envelop me as I passed, blackening my mood for the rest of the evening.
To stop this, James told me that every time I caught myself thinking negative thoughts, stop and ask, “Is this helping you right now?”
Almost always, the answer is ‘No.’
It takes some effort to remember to do this when we’re swept up in a storm of thoughts, but it becomes easier with time. To create a bigger gap from the tempest, we can follow up with, “What is useful to think about right now?”
Every time we do this, we save ourselves from a little unnecessary suffering and we train our brain to be more positive in future.
Do it enough, and eventually you’ll barely need to do it at all.