10 Proven Ways To Help Stop Negative Thinking

“I’m not going to get it right;” “everything always goes wrong” “I always have such bad luck…” Happiness can be elusive with this kind of negative thinking, and thinking negatively can impede your progress in all areas of life. It’s normal to have those moments of negativity when going through some hard times, but if you let those negative thoughts get to you at just a hint of a hard time, they can eventually start to become habits. Constantly thinking negatively can lead to low self-esteem and can make you more susceptible to depression and anxiety.

1. Write your negative thoughts down

The first step to ditching negativity and becoming a more positive person is realizing when you’re having negative thoughts throughout the day. If you’re aware of when and why you have these kinds of thoughts, you’ll be more able to reflect and change them.

What can you do? Keeping track of when you fall into this bad habit is a great way to learn about it. Keep a notebook with you and write down when you’re having one of these negative thoughts. You can simply write down the negative thought that you’re having, but you can also write about the event that caused you to start thinking negative thoughts, how it made you feel, and what you did afterwards.

2. Find an alternative thought

Writing down when you have negative thoughts will help you become more conscious of when you have them, which will help you recognize when you’re having an “unrealistic” thought. When you notice one of these, you can think of, and write down alternative positive thoughts, which will help to enhance positivity.[1]

What can you do? If, for example, you’ve thought “This job interview is going to be a disaster. There’s no way I’m going to get the job. I’m just not qualified and there are tons of people who are better than me”, you can change it to: “Maybe I’m not the perfect candidate, but I’m going to do the best that I can.” As soon as you notice yourself having a negative thought, turn it into something positive.

3. Don’t try read minds

Many negative thoughts come from “reading people’s minds”. We think we know what others are thinking, but how can we really be sure? For example, if we see someone we know and they didn’t stop to say hi, we might start to think “it’s because they don’t like me”. No one has the ability to read minds, so don’t let yourself try to tell you that you do.

What can you do? Since we know that you’re not a mind-reader, think like a scientist. “Do I have any evidence to why this would be true? Can I be sure that my colleague doesn’t like me? Has he ever told me?” Rather than thinking that you’re the problem, remind yourself that maybe it has nothing to do with you. Maybe he is having a bad day, or maybe he was lost in thought… it happens to everyone!

4. Throw away negative thoughts

A study from the University of Ohio and the University Autonoma in Madrid says that writing negative thoughts down and throwing them in the trash can be a good way to get rid of some of these negative thoughts.[2]By doing this, it helps you relate these negative thoughts with useless objects that you throw in the trash.

What can you do? It’s easy. Like the first tip, write down each time you have a negative thought that you want to get rid of (you can also do it on the computer). When you’re done, throw it in the trash, or drag it to the recycling bin on your computer. Each time you do this, you’re saying “Goodbye, negative thoughts. I don’t need you”.

5. Surround yourself with positive people

Just like negativity is contagious, so is optimism and happiness. Stay away from negative people, as they can end up dragging you down with them. By surrounding yourself with people who see the good in situations, you’ll pick up the “vibes” and end up being happier, too![3]

What can you do? Try to spend as little time as possible with negative people. If need be, think about cutting these people out of your life all together. It may seem like a daunting task at first, but cutting down on the negativity around you will have a positive impact on your thoughts.

6. Enjoy the positive

Often our negativity makes us unable to enjoy the good things that are happening around us.

What can you do? Recognize your accomplishments; be happy when you achieve something. Enjoy present. Practicing mindfulness can help you get there.

7. Be thankful

It’s easy to get carried away by the negative experiences that we’ve gone through throughout the day and forget all of the good things. There’s always a silver lining, even though it may be hard to see sometimes. Be thankful and acknowledge the good things that you experience every day. If you can do this, you’ll see that it’s harder to see the negative.[4]

What can you do? Keep a journal and write down the good things that happened that day. For example, rather than focusing on the fact that you got to work late, write down how nice it was to get a full breakfast, or how those 10 minutes could have been 30 if you hadn’t gotten to the bus on time.

8. Stop complaining

Complaining about a certain situation or event can help us vent, and it’s alright to do every once in a while. However, if you constantly complain about everything, you’ll focus on the things around you that you find upsetting, rather than the good things. Complaining doesn’t help improve the situation, so rather than waste energy complaining, put it towards finding a solution.

What can you do? Whenever you find yourself in a situation where you want to complain, think: “Is there a solution?” If there is, start working on it. If there isn’t a solution, try to see the situation as positively as you can. Accept it. Mindfulness meditation also helps you accept the less-than-great things that happen throughout the day. Nothing lasts forever.

9. Don’t generalize the negative

Are you one of those people who says “it’s always me”, “I have such bad luck!”? Generalizing the negative not only makes us feel bad, but it’s usually pretty far from reality.

What can you do? When you notice yourself starting to think things like “it’s always the same” or “bad things always happen to me”, take a minute to stop and think. Does it really always happen to you? Make a list of the good things that have happened in your life. It’s true that you will have some negative experiences, and you’ll probably go through some hard times, but these are the times when you need to take a look at the good things and give them the value they deserve.

10. Distract yourself

Sometimes you know that whatever negative thought you’re having is just silly and isn’t true, but you’re not able to shake it. When this happens, the best thing to do is distract yourself. Think about something else, immerse yourself in an activity or conversation; actively use your brain to do something else.

What can you do? Tell yourself to stop. Say it out loud, hit your hand on the table, say it like you mean it. You need to act out against your negative thoughts and control them, rather than the other way around. You can also put your mind to doing something else, like making plans for the weekend or imagining a relaxing vacation.
Negative Thinking Infographic

Image Source: Happify

About The Author

Andrea Garcia is an author and psychologist at CogniFit, a major vendor in psychological assessment batteries. Andrea is continuing her studies as a sexologist and psychologist, and she enjoys helping people improve quality of life through clinical practice and communication.