Negative Thoughts: 10 Tips to Stop Negative Thinking

 

Negative Thoughts. “I will never reach my goals” “Everything is going awry” “I have such bad luck”. If we maintain a negative attitude towards life, it will be strange that something goes right for us. Everything we see will seem bad and unattainable. Negative thoughts, unconsciously, take us away from the goals that we really want to achieve. We all have times when negativity takes hold of us. However, if negative thoughts become a habit, it can destroy your morale, your self-esteem, your ability to do things, make you more prone to depression and anxiety symptoms, and have a very harmful effect on your social relationships. Do you feel like you have negative thoughts constantly? Do you have friends that always see the dark side of everything? In this article, you will find out what are negative thoughts and tips to overcome them. 

Negative Thoughts

Negative Thoughts

What are negative thoughts?

Negative thoughts are those thoughts about oneself, others and the world that appear in our minds involuntarily. They are often irrational and make us feel very bad. However, how to identify them?

  • All-or-Nothing Thinking: “I have to do things perfectly, and anything less is a failure.”
  • Focusing on the Negatives: “Nothing goes my way. It feels like one disappointment after another.”
  • Being overly judgmental: “The world is falling apart. I don’t like what I see around me.”
  • Negative Self-Labeling: “I’m a failure. If people knew the real me, they wouldn’t like me. I am flawed.”
  • Catastrophizing: “If something is going to happen, it’ll probably be the worst-case scenario.”
  • Excessive Need for Approval: “I can only be happy if people like me. If someone is upset, it’s probably my fault.”
  • Mind Reading: “I can tell people don’t like me because of the way they behave.”
  • Should Statements: “People should be fair, and when they are not they should be punished.”
  • Disqualifying the Present: “I’ll relax later. But first I have to rush to finish this.”
  • Dwelling on the Past: “If I dwell on why I’m unhappy and what went wrong, maybe I’ll feel better.”
  • Pessimism: “Life is a struggle. I don’t think we are meant to be happy. I don’t trust people who are happy. If something good happens in my life, I usually have to pay for it with something bad.”

Negative Thoughts: 10 Tips to Stop Negative Thinking

Consequences of negative thoughts

Negative thoughts, specifically all-or-nothing thinking is the most common type of negative thinking, and it is a common cause of anxiety, depression, and addiction.

Anxiety because you think that any mistake is a failure. You worry about criticism or judgment. This just initiates a cycle of tension and never letting your guard down.

Depression because you end up trapped in your own unrealistic standards of being perfect. This trapped sensation makes it hard to not to be disappointed constantly causing sadness.

All the anxiety and depression can eventually lead to addiction if the person has a tendency to turn to drugs or alcohol for comfort.

Self-appraisal is important however to self-change we need less negative thoughts since they can only lead us to unhappiness. Stuck with negative thoughts can lead you to see obstacles as huge, making the smalls steps to solve them harder to see and not having the energy to take big steps.

Emotions modulate your thoughts, particularly negative thoughts. Therefore being aware of your negative emotions is very important. Once you have a grip on those emotions, letting go of negative thoughts will become easier.

10 tips to stop negative thoughts

1.Write down your negative thoughts

The first step to stop being a negative person is to be aware of the negative thoughts we have throughout the day. If we are aware of them, we will be able to reflect on them and change them.

How to do it? Keeping a record of the bad habit you want to get rid of (or self-register) is a very effective way to learn about it. Carry a notebook or folded paper and pen with you at all times. You can only record the thought you have had, but you can also record more information, such as the discomfort that this thought has caused, what has led you to think like that and what did you do afterwards. This is a task commonly done by Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

Negative Thoughts Notebook

Negative Thoughts Notebook

2. Seek an alternative to that thought

Once you’ve jotted down several of your thoughts, they have become more conscious and you realize that those so-called “realistic” thoughts only make you feel bad, think of an alternative to them.

How to do it? If you’ve thought, for example,”This job interview is going to be a disaster, I’m not going to make it, I’m not qualified enough,” you can change it, for example, to:”I may not be the perfect candidate, but I’m going to do my best”. You can record alternative thoughts in the same notebook. Little by little, with practice, the alternatives will come to you automatically.

3. Don’t try to read other people’s minds

Many negative thoughts come from our determination to read other people’s minds. We think we know what everyone else is thinking. For example, if we see our co-worker and he hasn’t greeted us, we can think,”It’s because he doesn’t like me”. Are you a fortune-teller or a mind reader? The truth is that no one has yet developed that capacity.

How to do it? Since we know you’re not a fortune-teller, think about the facts and act like a scientist. “Do I have any evidence that this is so? Do I really know for sure that my co-worker dislikes me? Did he tell me?” Whether it’s true that you have evidence, or whether you don’t, but you still think he dislikes you, why don’t you check it out and ask him directly? If you can’t collect the objective data, you don’t have enough evidence that this is the case. Then think of an alternative explanation that doesn’t cause you discomfort:”He didn’t see me”,”he is having bad day”. You can make a list of the most plausible explanations for that situation.

4. Throw your thoughts away

According to a study by the University of Ohio, in collaboration with researchers from the Autonomous University of Madrid, writing negative thoughts on paper and then throwing them away, really helps us get rid of the thought. This mechanism helps us to label the negative thoughts as invalid, useless, garbage object.

How to do it? It’s simple. Just write on a piece of paper the negative thoughts you want to get rid of. Wrinkle or break the piece of paper and throw it in the trash. It also works if you do it  from your computer and drag it to the recyling bin. If you don’t have any of these materials handy, you can try to visualize your negative thoughts and throw them in an imaginary trash can. Thought may come back, in that case, you can try again. With time and practice, the negative thoughts will take longer to come back.

Negative thoughts in the garbage

Negative thoughts in the garbage

5. Surround yourself with positive people

Just as people can infect you with their negativity, so can optimism. Avoid people who only see the negative in everything and surround yourself with people who bring you happiness and good vibrations.

How to do it? Try to spend as little time as possible with those toxic people who release negativity. Spend more time with positive people. Learn from them how they see the world, ask them for advice. When you have a negative thought, ask them how they see it.

Negative Thoughts-postive

Negative Thoughts: Be with postive people

6. Enjoy the positive

Many times our negativity comes from an inability to enjoy the positive things that happen in our lives.

How to do it? Don’t underestimate your accomplishments, congratulate yourself on them. Enjoy the present, practice mindfulness meditation, yoga, etc. might help you achieve this.

7. Be grateful

It is very easy to let ourselves be carried away by the unpleasant things we have experienced during the day, and we don’t stop to think that there have also been positive things. There’s always something positive, the problem is that it’s hard for us to see it sometimes. Be grateful for the good that happens to you every day. In this way it will be easier for you to stop guiding your life from the negative.

How to do it? Keep a diary in which, at the end of each day, you write down the things that have happened to you that you should be thankful for.

8. Don’t complain so much

Complaining about misfortune can help us to vent it at any given moment and it is all right in a timely manner. However, by continually complaining we are again focusing on the negative. Moreover, we are not doing anything to solve the situation that bothers us so much.

How to do it? Whenever there is an unpleasant situation and we go to complain, think first,”Is there a solution?” If there is don’t complain and get to it. If there isn’t try to see the situation as best you can. Accept it. No situation lasts forever. They’re like clouds that come and go.

9. Don’t generalize the negative

Are you one of those people who says,”it always happens to me,””what bad luck do I have”? Generalizing the negative things that happen to you, besides making you feel terrible, is usually quite far from reality.

How to do it? When you think or say things like “this always happens to me”or “I have the worst luck”, stop for a moment and think. Is it really always? Make a list of the good things that have happened to you in life. This way you will realize that it is not always true that bad things happen to you. Negative experiences are inevitable, and there are always bad things to deal with, but we also experience wonderful things that we don’t give enough importance to.

10. Distract yourself

Sometimes we know perfectly well that these negative thoughts that have come to mind are foolish and have no place, but even so, we cannot help but have it. In these cases, it is best to distract yourself, think of something else and let that thought disappear.

How to do it? The technique is called stop thinking. When those negative thoughts appear, we have to mentally shout “enough” if the situation allows it. You can try anything that helps you break the chain of thought. You can also try to think of something else, something nice, like the plans you have for the weekend or imagine yourself in a relaxing scene.

Learn more about negative thoughts and how to get rid of them in the following video.

Have you had any negative thoughts? Do you practice other strategies? Let us know in the comments below.

This article is originally in Spanish written by Andrea García Cerdan, translated by Alejandra Salazar.

Psicóloga General Sanitaria y sexóloga. Deseosa de mejorar la calidad de vida de las personas mediante la práctica clínica y la comunicación a través de la red.