How to Get Rid of Negative Thoughts?

One cannot avoid negative thoughts. They happen to everyone and that’s normal.

But dwelling on them isn’t.

We asked 22 experts, “How to get rid of negative thoughts?”

Below are their top insights.

Dr. Lori Whatley

Dr.Lori Whatley

Clinical Psychologist | Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist

Change our thoughts, change our lives

Keeping our mind free of negative thoughts is a pathway to peace. This is a path we all wish to be on.

But how? We do this by taking control of our mind.

Change our thoughts, change our lives. Negative thoughts only serve one purpose. To destroy us.

Getting rid of negative thoughts makes room for positive thoughts that uplift and make our lives richer in every way. There is truly power in positive thinking.

We have to be mindful of what we put in our mind because of garbage in, garbage out. Once we begin to replace our negative thoughts with positive ones, we will attract positive results in our lives.

We know that when thinking positively we can do everything better than when we are negative. As a man thinkers so shall he be. This is so true.

The way we act is directly related to how we think. Our brain is the most powerful tool in our body so using it in a positive way helps us have a better life.

Ginger Houghton, LMSW, CAADC

Ginger Houghton, LMSW, CAADC

Owner, Bright Spot Counseling

Negative thoughts can do everything from messing with our mood to disrupt our sleep to increase our pain or create issues in our relationships.

Negative thoughts happen incredibly quickly and can become automatic in our brains without us even realizing it.

In many ways, negative thoughts are like a bad habit. Once we’re mindful about how much we’re thinking the thought and the role it’s playing in our lives we can choose a course for correcting it.

Identify the negative thought

One approach I often use with clients is to first identify the negative thought such as “I’m such a failure” and to use a log to keep track of what instance it’s occurring in and what the impact is.

Begin to challenge the validity of the negative thought

Is there evidence to support it? Would a close friend or family member agree that the thought is accurate?

Next, it’s important to look at whether there is another thought that could replace the negative thought such as “This might not have been a success yet but I’m learning and will keep making progress.” This approach is closely aligned with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is helpful to work on with a therapist.

Not fighting the negative thought

Instead of fighting the negative thought, individuals work to give it a bit of time and space in their brain instead of spending all their energy trying to force it out of their mind.

A good analogy for this is instead of treating the thought like a ball you’re forcing underwater, when you know it’s going to tire you out and eventually pop back up, you let the ball float on the surface of water.

For some people, this approach and dealing with the negative thought mindfully instead of challenging it, letting them acknowledge it and move forward.

Nate Battle

Nate Battle

Coach | Speaker | Author

Let go, Live now, and Win

Ways I have used to get rid of negative thoughts are:

First and foremost

  • Remember that life, like this moment or day, does not last forever. In life, no one gets out alive.
  • We all have an expiration date; we just don’t know when it is.

This approach helps put adverse events into perspective. At best they are temporal. It teaches us to discard negative thoughts, beliefs, and feeling that don’t serve us and begin anew, at any moment we choose.

Challenges help you grow, builds character, be more grateful and live an authentic life.

Secondly, as a powerful weapon against negativity in pursuit of a fulfilling and meaningful impact, I use the following approach for wringing to good out of challenges and living life to the fullest! I call it: Let go, Live now and Win!

Details on my approach of Let go, Live now, and Win are:

#1 Let Go.

  • We need to start by letting go of the things we do no control. Be it the past, people or circumstances we cannot change.
  • The time and effort we spend worrying over or being distracted the past, or things we can do absolutely nothing about, causes undue stress, loss of energy and focus.

#2 Live Now.

  • By that, I mean we need to live in the present moment.
  • Yesterday, ended last night. The combined wealth of Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, and Jeff Bezos cannot buy 5 seconds of yesterday.
  • The future has not happened yet. When it occurs, it happens in the present moment. So in reality, all we ever have in now, this very moment. We are wise to make the most of it.
  • We need to stop trying to pre-live (what may or may not happen in the future) or relive (what happened in the past) and live now!

#3 Win.

  • We should celebrate every win along the way. The big ones as well as the small ones.
  • By acknowledging our victories, we encourage ourselves and build momentum toward achieving our goals.
  • By realizing our visions, we become the best version of ourselves.
  • It never fails to lift our spirits when we begin to list out the things we are thankful for by shifting our perspective to one of gratitude.

Jennifer Burkhardt, LPC, LCDC

Jennifer Burkhardt, LPC, LCDC

Counselor in League City, TX specializing in Anxiety and Postpartum Care

At times, we may not feel good about ourselves or have doubts about our abilities, which can lead to negative thinking.

For someone looking to stop the negative thoughts, the first step would be to become more aware of how often you are doing this.

I would start by making a note every time you use or think a negative word such as “dumb” when describing yourself or something you did. Once you become aware of how often you are doing this, you can start to look at changing it.

Thought distortions are ways in which people think that can lead to negative thoughts.

If you often use negative words when you make a mistake, such as “dumb” this is called labeling. You are assigning this word to a person or behavior. When used over and over, it starts to reinforce this thought in your mind.

Another distorted thinking style is when you use words like “should” or “must”. These can put pressure on yourself and may lead to feelings of guilt when you don’t succeed, making you feel worse.

A third type of thinking style is when you jump to conclusions.

This is when you automatically assume you know what others are thinking or try to make a prediction about the future.

If you’re looking to make these changes, I would suggest seeking out a counselor or mental health professional who can help you with learning more about the various thinking styles and how making changes in this area.

Roselyn G. Smith, PhD

Roselyn G. Smith, PhD

Licensed Psychologist/Hypnotherapist

Most negative thoughts are driven by fear, an emotional response that is hardwired into our brains and needed when circumstances are truly life-threatening.

But the fear response can get triggered by misinterpretation of circumstances and by situations that aren’t truly life-threatening due to our family and societal “programming” as we go through life.

People of all cultures, backgrounds, etc are ‎programmed to respond with fear and/or anger and agitation to certain things.

Without realizing it, people’s programmed interpretations of (ie, thoughts about) events, other people’s actions and intentions, what the future may hold, etc, can trigger the fear response, usually without awareness that it is one’s interpretations/thoughts that are triggering the fear/anxiety and more negative thoughts, rather than the event or situation itself.

Therefore, the first critical step in eliminating or even just reducing negative thoughts is to become aware that they begin with and are generated by our interpretations of what is happening, has happened, or may happen. Usually, the interpretations that trigger the fear response are the “worst case” scenarios the mind comes up with.

The second critical step is to acknowledge that an interpretation is not necessarily accurate, that in most cases we don’t really have all of the information necessary to know exactly what is happening, why it is and what the outcome(s) will be.

Awareness of how those thoughts drive our physiology is also critical because when those fear and anger neurocircuits get triggered the feelings circle back around and reinforce the thoughts. But again, just because someone feels a certain way doesn’t mean their interpretations and thoughts about the situation are correct.

Along with the above, developing a meditation or other calming practice to amp down reactivity is also crucial.

Part of one’s practice must include affirmations to self essentially stating, “I‎ choose to remain or regain my state of calm, to reduce my reactivity, and to replace my negative thoughts and automatic interpretations of people and events with tolerance, peaceful reflection, forgiveness of self and others, and belief in goodness and the ability to transcend my negativity.”

This is not a one time or short-term practice…it is a lifetime practice and commitment to work on this and pick oneself up and return to the practice when as humans we slip up and revert to what has been hard-wired and programmed into us.

When natural and normal human feelings do wash through us, it is important to remember that they are essentially electrochemical “waves” coursing through our brains and to not define ourselves by them or feel trapped into feeling like they will be there forever because that can generate immense quantities of negative thinking.

Instead we can breath deeply, lean back into our conscious awareness that it is just a “wave” passing through, visualize observing the wave like we would watch a wave going by as we are sitting on our favorite beach, and know that like any other wave, it too will eventually peacefully dissolve into the sands of the shore and reverse itself into the beautiful ocean of our existence.

George Alonso

George Alonso

Mental Health Coach

I have a very simple yet very powerful technique to deal with negative thoughts.

Discrimination of thought

We are not in the habit of controlling our thoughts and that’s exactly why problems like anxiety and depression find their breeding grounds in our minds.

So, this is the first thing that must change in order to defeat negative thoughts.

Discrimination of Thoughts is simple. Instead of mindlessly allowing our minds to drift aimlessly into negativity, we must separate them in two categories:

Is this a useful or a useless thought?

We must ask ourselves constantly, to displace the habit of negative thinking and replace it with Mindfulness. This will allow us to easily identify detrimental thoughts and to correct them with practice.

Negative thoughts are not only useless but hurtful too.

The fictitious scenarios we create when we engage in what-if thinking leave us all stressed, worried and nervous. Or they can damage our self-esteem and confidence.

When we practice Discrimination of Thought we are enabling ourselves to not only identify but eliminate negative thoughts as we increase the awareness and control we have over our minds.

Tie a red thread to your pinky and throughout the day ask yourself:

  • Were those thoughts useful or useless?
  • Are the thoughts I am having right now useful or useless?

Your thoughts will be much more under your control if you practice this technique. Negative thoughts won’t have much impact on your mind and emotions if you are mindful enough.

Rebecca Pine

Rebecca Pine

Resilience and Empowerment Guide

All too often, we play a seemingly endless loop of negative thoughts. Critical messages aimed at ourselves.

The good news is, even when this negative inner critic is ingrained in our subconscious, we can re-train ourselves to replace these messages with more positive ones.

It will take a while of making the effort to pay attention and notice negative thoughts before the new habit of positive thinking is ingrained.

Be patient with yourself and keep at it! Any new muscle takes an effort to develop.

As soon as you recognize a negative thought, such as, “I messed up again,” take a breath and choose a more compassionate response, such as “I am learning,” ” I am doing the best I can,” or, “I am good enough exactly the way I am.”

My tips:

Celebrate wins of any size

Human beings are scientifically proven to respond to positive reinforcement. Besides…we’re throwing out the negative thinking, right?

Look for an overall trend of improvement

Even noticing negative thoughts sooner is a step in the right direction.

Pretend you are a friend of yours

Although we tend to berate ourselves for our mistakes, if a friend was overheard struggling with negative thinking, chances are you would encourage them. Make the commitment to befriend yourself!

Make a list of common negative thoughts and a positive list to counter these

Choose responses that feel realistic and truthful to you now so that you can begin to substitute these new responses.

The more you read your list of positive thoughts, the easier you will be able to begin to draw upon them. You may want to read this list a couple of times a day until it gets easier to come up with positive replacements for common negative thoughts in the moment.

Set a timer on your phone to go off hourly or a few times throughout the day

When it rings, find three positive things to focus your attention on. The more you can train yourself to focus on the positive, the more naturally your mind will begin to gravitate there on its own.

Jacqui Olliver

Jacqui Olliver

PsychoSexual Relationship Specialist, End the Problem

Choose a clear direction of where you want to go in your life

It’s important to note that ongoing negative thoughts are the result of an undisciplined mind and focusing on what you don’t want.

Negative thoughts make you feel isolated and lonely. They can lead you to a need for addictions, to depression, to relationship break up to thoughts of ending it all because life is just too hard to navigate.

Scientific researchers are now saying that loneliness leads to heart disease, diabetes, and a shorter life-span. Much of our loneliness results from indulging in negative thoughts which isolate us and keep us feeling separate.

There are two fixes required:

  1. Stopping negative thoughts from controlling (or destroying) your life.
  2. Getting rid of negative thoughts at the moment you notice them.

To stop negative thoughts from controlling your life, you first need to choose a clear direction of where you want to go in your life.

How do you want to feel in your relationships with others? Be specific. There’s your intimate relationship if you have a partner, your relationship with your kids.

Your relationship with your work colleagues, your family, and your friends. How you relate to strangers. Most important of all is your relationship with yourself.

What values and principles are important to you? If you’re straying from these, you’re going to start judging yourself which will lead to a negative thought process.

You need to align your thoughts, words, and actions with the outcomes you want to achieve in life.

Everything you want to achieve in life is ultimately connected to a feeling you want to experience.

To get rid of negative thoughts and stop them from taking you on a downward spiral: notice when it starts feeling uncomfortable being you.

This is an indicator that your thoughts have become focused on what you don’t want and have triggered an emotional response. This feels momentarily uncomfortable as the neurochemicals flood through your body.

This is a normal biological process which completes within seconds if you don’t analyze it with your mind. The complete Emotional Reset Technique leads you to empowered thinking and achieving what you want, especially in your relationships with others.

It takes an effort to moderate your thoughts towards focusing on what you want but ultimately you will feel better because of it.

Due to the nature of how your brain works, you cannot focus on what you don’t want without noticing more of those things. Likewise, by focusing on what you want and how you want to feel, you rewire the neural pathways in your brain to start noticing more of these things.

Vikki Yaffe

Vikki Yaffe

Certified Life and Relationship Coach, Vikki Louis Coaching

Getting rid of negative thoughts sounds simple enough – let’s just think about something else or distract the mind away from it.

We are almost conditioned to avoid negative thinking thanks to technology, unhealthy food, alcohol, and many other things. Long term, this won’t change your thinking. Avoiding our thinking can actually create more negativity this way.

As a coach, I work with people to reprogram their brain, teaching clients how to get rid of your subconscious negative thinking.

It is important to recognize that difference – there are times in your life where you will choose to consciously think negative things, and that is part of the human experience for everyone.

It is the subconscious negative thinking that you can work on – unnecessary worry, high self-doubt, judgment of yourself and others.

This is how you can do it:

  1. Grab a pen and piece of paper and write down all your negative thoughts, even the ones that don’t make sense to you and the ones you don’t really believe. It is just about sharing with your conscious brain what your unconscious brain is thinking.
  2. Read over what you wrote and circle all your negative thoughts.
  3. Pick one of your negative thoughts, write it down and write next to it the positive thought you wish you believed but you just don’t. For example, “I hate my legs” and “I love my legs”…

The truth is, saying a positive thought 100 times isn’t going to help you if you don’t believe it.

In fact, attempts to convert negative thinking into something positive that you don’t believe will just cause more frustration. So let’s not do that.

This is where I recommend moving to neutral thoughts. Neutral thoughts are thoughts you already believe, they don’t feel amazing but they do feel better than your current negative thoughts.

So “I hate my legs” becomes “I have legs”.

Convert all your negative thoughts to neutral thoughts.

Now, here is where we want to focus on making lasting change. Remember, your brain is wired to think negative thoughts about that person, part of your body or whatever it is you are thinking negatively about.

So we need to reprogram your brain. How? Look for evidence. Your brain has spent so much time looking for evidence to prove the negative thought right, it is time to use it to get neutral.

What evidence do you have to support your neutral thought? Get specific. Write it down. Repeat it daily until the negative thought has become a neutral thought.

From this place, you can start moving to more positive thinking but be certain you are neutral first. Remember, jumping to positive when you are not ready will just leave you more frustrated and disappointed. This work takes time, but it is effective.

Tim Toterhi

Tim Toterhi

TEDx Speaker | ICF Certified Coach | Founder, Plotline Leadership

For many people, negative thoughts are anchored to our brain by staples and rubber bands.

Sure, we can try to push them away, but once the meditation is over or the mindfulness class concludes they snap back into place. Negative thoughts are sticky and often can’t be ignored or willed away.

Instead, face them directly, get used to their presence, and then take over the storyline playing in your head.

For example, I had a client that was terrified of public speaking. She pictured blanking on stage, tripping on the way to the podium, a series of technology mishaps filing her presentation, and so forth.

So instead of hiding from those negative thoughts, we made them bigger. We pictured all of this and more happening at the same time. We imagined the audience throwing tomatoes, gathering sticks and torches, shouting for villagers to join them on their hunt to topple the terrible speaker. Soon the scary scenario seemed laughable.

Then we got to work. Preparation to counteract the blanking fear.

Scenario planning for besting technology concerns. Most importantly, she came to realize that the presentation was about the audience, not her.

If a blooper happens and you roll with it, then everyone enjoys a laugh and you come off looking like a pro who has seen it all.

Lauren Fonvielle

Lauren Fonvielle

Spiritual Mindset Coach | Reiki Practitioner, Enlighten with Lauren

When you’re in the midst of a downward spiral of negative thoughts, it’s important to remember you have the power to change those thoughts. Different techniques work for different people.

Here are a few of my favorite approaches:

1. Flip It – When you recognize a negative thought, immediately flip it and begin thinking the complete opposite of that thought.

2. Observe It – Label your negative thought. Acknowledge it, and then label it by saying to your self “negative thought”. Don’t beat yourself up or judge yourself about having the thought, but simply label it and detach any associated emotions from the thought.

3. Exaggerate It – Take the negative thought and exaggerate it to a point of silliness. The key here is to make the thought completely over the top. If you only exaggerate the problem slightly you risk increasing the overwhelm and anxiety associated with the negative thought.

4. Swap It – Replace the negative thought with a completely unrelated thought. Give your mind something different to focus on.

It’s so important to remember that you control your mind. Don’t get caught in the trap of allowing your mind to control you. Shifting your mindset is a practice. It takes time and dedication, but it is absolutely possible.

Helen Godfrey, MA, NCC, BCC, LPC

Helen Godfrey

Counselor, The Authentic Path

Take a walk

Physical activity can give your mind a break. If you find yourself in an endless negative thinking loop, do 30 minutes of cardio.

Getting your heart rate up is a great way to relieve stress. If you can’t do cardio, take a walk outside and listen to some uplifting music to change your mood.

Journal to find the deeper meaning

Write down all of your negative thoughts. Is there a common theme? If so, what is this trying to tell you? Is there 1 thing you can do today to solve at least 1 of the issues?

Use it as clarity

Your negative thoughts are showing you what you don’t want. Turn that around. What DO you want? What steps can you take to get what you want?

Ostap Bosak

Manager, Marquis Gardens

Talk it out with someone you know

Sometimes we have negative thoughts because you might have a dilemma or emotion that needs to come out. It’s never a good thing to keep things bottled up.

Have someone be there when you have issues that need to be addressed. Don’t forget to also actively listen to their problems; two heads are better than one. Not only will you find solutions for your friend, but they will also help you in return.

Furthermore, putting your thought into words helps you put things into perspective.

This method is an effective way of understanding and finding better solutions for your problems. There is always a solution to a problem; it is up to you to find that answer.

Carrie Krawiec

Carrie Krawiec

Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Birmingham Maple Clinic

One way to reduce the impact of negative thoughts is to not assume they are bad. Do not work to minimize or exaggerate them.

Our emotions and associated thoughts are really just a part of our body’s messenger system with the environment to make us aware of the information we need to know.

Replace negative thoughts with adaptive alternatives in a ratio of 5:1.

Think of your brains neural pathways are like highways. The road most traveled is the road quickest traveled.

In order to reshape our brain, we have to carve new paths. Research shows too that happier people don’t just think “happy thoughts” like “unicorns and rainbows.” Instead of replacing with unrealistic happy thoughts happy they actually accept their negative circumstances with thoughts of gratitude.

Instead of thinking “I’m up all night with this crying baby I’m going to be exhausted tomorrow” they think something like “I’m so fortunate to have this baby and hear her sounds that she can communicate when she needs me.

Diviya Lewis

Diviya Lewis

Registered Psychotherapist | Speaker | Founder, Choose Gratitude

Psychologists have studied humans’ patterns and psychology as it has evolved over time, acknowledging the important place that some of our actions have had in our survival.

For years, this kept us out of danger, and it impacted the way our brains evolved.

Today, it continues to impact us, as it makes us more attuned to negative stimuli than positive stimuli. Coined by researchers as the ‘negativity bias’, it continues to inform our thinking.

Cognitive therapists (one of the first being Aaron Beck) have noticed different patterns of thinking that they called ‘distorted thinking’ and it includes numerous patterns.

For example, a tendency to ‘discount the positives’, to ‘catastrophize’ or blow negative things out of proportion, and they have observed individuals to have a ‘mental filter’ or a tendency to only notice certain types of evidence (in many cases, the negative).

Ironically, when we try to get rid of or control our negative thoughts, it makes it much harder, and actually increases our likelihood to have these thoughts.

Sometimes, we use distraction or avoidance with everything from TV, games, social media, alcohol or drugs, or social connection to distract our mind.

This works really well in the short term, but in the longer term, it might be really hard to avoid completely. Instead, what many researchers and practitioners have found to be a more effective approach is to allow them, notice them, and focus on something else. In a mindfulness practice, your focus might be directed to your breath.

Sometimes, cognitive therapists might use reframing techniques, to:

  1. bring awareness to your thought patterns, and
  2. use a strategy (e.g. examining the evidence) that resonates with you to practice when you observe yourself engaging in the same pattern of thinking.

For example, if you are catastrophizing, you might look at the tangible facts (i.e. not your thoughts, but what might be admissible in a court) to affirm whether your thought pattern is valid.

From my work as a therapist, this is helpful for some clients, but many are still so frustrated that they are continuing to have these same thought patterns, and can’t stop them.

So, recognizing, allowing, looking curiously inwards, and not attaching to the negative thoughts can be the most effective way of addressing negative thoughts.

This practice, called RAIN, has been popularized by Tara Brach, a clinical psychologist, and therapist. Does this get rid of negative thoughts? No. It does not, however, it can change our relationship to them, reducing the impact it has in our lives.

Caleb Backe

Caleb Backe

Health & Wellness Expert, Maple Holistics

Sometimes you have negative thoughts because you have feelings that need to be let out.

The only way to release all of the emotions is by talking to someone. Putting your thoughts into words will give them shape and form, allowing you to get to the root of the problem.

Take A Walk

Sometimes thoughts are based on the environment, so if you leave the environment, you’ll feel instantly better. Taking a walk alone and away from your usual atmosphere will give you peace of mind.

Dawn Burnett, CSA

Dawn Burnett, CSA

Divorce Coach | Wellness Strategist | Founder, A New Dawn Natural Solutions, Inc

One of the key expressions that turn around any situation in life is gratitude, the more thankful we are for where we are at, the more blessings and healing come our way.

Keeping a gratitude journal listing, the things you are grateful for on a daily basis shifts your mind from expectations to the realization that you already have what you need. This draws you to the source of abundance.

Understanding that existence is a gift and not a promise.

You can’t have a negative thought and a positive thought at the same time and what you focus on is what you get more of.

Uma Alexandra Beepat

Uma Alexandra Beepat

Intuitive Consultant | Metaphysical Teacher | Speaker | Owner, Lotus Wellness Center

If you are having a negative thought, your mind is calling your attention to something unresolved within you.

Address it before attempting to move on. For example, if you have a thought, “I am so fat, I need to lose weight.” Ask yourself why am I thinking this? Are you trying to address the discomfort you feel in your clothing as it is tight? Problem solved! Buy bigger clothes.

Are you trying to address the health issues you are facing? Problem solved! Consult a physician about the issues or seek a nutritionist/trainer for help in losing weight.

Whatever the reason, learn to redirect your mind from what it is saying in a negative way to what you can do in a positive way.

Many times when we think something unkind, it is because we have been ignoring a problem far too long and need a bit of a wake-up call to address it.

Sometimes you might have a negative thought about someone else, “Why does she get all the attention and I don’t?”
Again your mind is calling attention to the fact that you have gifts and talents to share with the world but you may have been denying them or too afraid to.

Using the redirect method, it will allow you to shift the focus from “her” to you and have you think of ways you can impact people just as or more than “she” ever did.

Ana Santos

Ana Santos

Design Consultant | UX Career Coach

I found the easiest way to get rid of negative thoughts is to actually stop trying to fight against them.

When we try to remove a specific thought, we end up thinking more about it, which is overwhelming.

Letting them come and go, naturally, is usually the answer. Write about them if you must.

Two habits which improved my lifestyle and overall well being were journalling and meditating. With journalling I’m able to write about everything that is bothering me at the moment and letting it go once I’m done.

Meditating allows me to be okay with the constant thoughts running through my head, simply letting them come and go.

Robert S. Herbst

Robert S. Herbst

Personal Trainer | Weight Loss and Wellness Coach

As an athlete, one must get rid of negative thoughts and be positive.

Henry Ford was correct when he said: “whether you think you can or you can’t you are right.”

For example, in lifting weights one must have the confidence that they will lift it. If one attempts a lift with the thought they won’t make it they are predetermined to fail as the brain sees the thought as reality and the body will live it.

Over the years through visualization, I have imagined success.

Every time a negative thought creeps into my head I have banished it and replaced it with the thought of a positive outcome. Over time this becomes a habit and one maintains a positive outlook.

The brain does not know the difference between the real and the imagined. If one visualizes the positive, the brain will see it as the reality.

If one then does the action, the thought will become reality and they will have a positive outcome. This carries over to all things in life such as writing a great essay, giving a speech, asking someone out, etc.

Kelly Hayes-Raitt

Kelly Hayes-Raitt

Founder, House Sit Diva

I usually am not very successful about getting “rid” of negative thoughts, so I’ve developed a few strategies for working with (and through) my negative thoughts:

#1 When I find my mind looping around a negative thought, I stop and try to clarify the thought itself and the feeling beneath it. Am I afraid of something? Am I angry at someone? (Perhaps I feel they hurt me?) Do I wish I’d handled a situation differently?

#2 Once I understand the thought better, I address the underlying feeling. Do I need to apologize for something I did or said? Do I need to tell someone they hurt me? Do I need to address my fear head-on? Do I need to give myself a pep talk?

#3 Often, I will do something to “clean up” any residue of the negative thought — perhaps EFT tapping on it, or meditating on it.

If all that fails, I call a friend I can trust to put my negative thought in perspective — or give it some deeper clarity.

Shel Horowitz

Shel Horowitz

Author | Green/Transformative Biz Profitability Expert, Going Beyond Sustainability

My 11th book will be selections from the public daily gratitude journal I began in March. I’ve had a daily gratitude practice for a long time, but putting it in writing and posting it on Facebook every day has taken it much deeper and vastly strengthened my positive attitude (especially since I decided to turn it into a book).

I had to find good things to say on some pretty tough days, especially the day my stepfather was killed by a careless driver (I devoted that day’s journal to the amazing growth having that wild and creative spirit in my life for 50 years had meant to me) and the day that we lost a day of our precious Peru vacation when our flight was canceled.

Both of these were an exercise in reframing negative thoughts into positive ones, something I’ve done for more than 35 years–and something I credit to finding my life’s purpose: showing businesses how they can go beyond mere “sustainability” ( keeping things the same) to “regenerativity” (making things better): for example, fixing huge problems like hunger, poverty, war, and catastrophic climate change by creating and marketing products and services that make a difference in these areas and also make a profit.

Frequently Asked Questions

How can I identify negative thoughts?

Negative thoughts often start with phrases like:
• “I can’t.”
• “I’m not good enough.” 
• “It’s impossible.” 

They also often focus on the worst-case scenario, ruminating about past mistakes and self-criticism. To identify negative thoughts, try to pay attention to your internal dialogue and write down any thoughts that bring down your mood.

How do I control my thoughts?

Controlling your thoughts can be challenging, but it can be done with practice. Here are some ideas to kick off your journey:

Practice mindfulness: Pay attention to the present moment without judgment. Focus on your breath, body sensations, and the environment around you. 

Reframe your thinking: Challenge negative self-talk by reframing it into a more positive or neutral statement. For example, instead of saying, “I’m such a failure,” try saying, “I made a mistake, but I’ll learn from it and do better next time.”

Challenge irrational beliefs: Sometimes, negative thoughts stem from underlying irrational beliefs. Challenge these beliefs by asking yourself if there’s evidence to support them and if they’re helpful to your well-being.

Focus on the positive: Make a habit of noticing and focusing on the positive things in your life. This can help you develop a more balanced and positive outlook.

Get active: Exercise, dance, or do any physical activity you enjoy. Physical activity has been shown to impact mental well-being positively and can help reduce stress and negative thoughts.

Practice gratitude: This can help shift your focus away from negative thoughts and towards the positive aspects of your life.

Limit exposure to negativity: Limit your exposure to negative news, social media, and other sources of negativity. Instead, surround yourself with positive and uplifting content and people.

Engage in activities you enjoy: Do things that bring you joy and fulfillment, like hobbies, spending time with loved ones, or volunteering.

Develop a growth mindset: Adopt a growth mindset by embracing challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. This can help you approach life’s difficulties more positively and resiliently.

Seek support: If you’re struggling with persistent negative thoughts, consider seeking support from a mental health professional. They can help you develop a customized plan to manage your thoughts and improve your well-being.

How to clear my mind?

Clearing your mind can be a great way to reduce stress, increase focus, and boost creativity. Here are some tips that might help:

Take a break: Step away from your work or any distractions and engage in a physical activity like stretching, going for a walk, or doing some light exercise.

Write it down: Jot down any thoughts or worries that are occupying your mind. This can help you get them out of your head and give you a fresh start.

Find your calm: Engage in activities that bring you peace and relaxation, such as reading a book, listening to music, or taking a warm bath.

Connect with nature: Spending time in nature can help clear your mind and provide a sense of peace and calm.

Practice deep breathing: Take slow, deep breaths and hold for a few seconds. Inhale deeply through your nose, letting your chest and stomach expand as you fill your lungs with air. Make sure to inflate your abdomen fully. Then exhale slowly through your mouth or nose—whichever you feel more comfortable doing.

Get organized: A cluttered environment can lead to a cluttered mind. Take a few minutes to tidy up and get organized.

Disconnect: Turn off your phone, computer, or other distractions and give yourself some quiet time.

Try mindfulness exercises: There are many mindfulness exercises available, such as body scans, loving-kindness meditation, or guided visualization.

Use affirmations: Repeat positive affirmations to yourself, such as “I am calm and at peace.” This can help shift your focus and calm your mind.

What are some common triggers for negative thoughts?

People may have different triggers for negative thoughts, but some common ones include:

Stressful events: Deadlines, conflicts, and challenges can trigger negative thoughts and feelings.

Social comparison: Comparing oneself to others on social media or in real life can trigger feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt.

Negative self-talk: Chronic self-criticism and negative self-talk can lead to a negative thought pattern.

Trauma: Past traumatic experiences can trigger negative thoughts and emotions.

Isolation: Spending long periods of time alone can increase negative thoughts and feelings.

Physical health: Chronic pain, fatigue, and other health problems can trigger negative thoughts and emotions.

Imperfections: Focusing on perceived imperfections or flaws can trigger negative thoughts.

Unfulfilled desires: This can be in the form of a dream or an unfulfilled personal goal.

Lack of control: Feeling out of control or powerless in a situation can trigger negative thoughts.

Keeping a journal and paying attention to your thoughts and feelings can help you identify your own personal triggers.

Are there any negative thought patterns that I should look out for?

Yes, several common negative thought patterns can contribute to negative thinking:

All-or-nothing thinking: This involves thinking in extremes, such as seeing everything as either good or bad, with no gray area in between.

Overgeneralization: This involves taking one negative experience and applying it to all similar situations.

Mental filter: This involves focusing solely on the negative aspects of a situation while ignoring the positive.

Disqualifying the positive: This involves dismissing positive experiences and achievements as unimportant or irrelevant.

Can negative thoughts become a habit?

Yes, negative thoughts can become a habit if they are not addressed. 

If these negative thoughts are left unchecked for a long time, they can become deeply ingrained patterns of thinking that are difficult to break. This is why it’s important to recognize and challenge negative thoughts as soon as they arise.

Is it possible to entirely eliminate negative thoughts?

While it may not be possible to completely eliminate negative thoughts, it is possible to manage and reduce their frequency and impact. 

By developing healthy coping mechanisms, practicing self-care, and working with a mental health professional, you can learn to control your thoughts and lead a happier, more fulfilling life.

Can medication help with negative thoughts?

In some cases, medication can be a helpful addition to therapy and self-care for managing negative thoughts. Antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications can help to regulate mood and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. 

However, it’s important to talk to a mental health professional before starting any medication, as they can help determine the best course of treatment for you.

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