Negative thoughts are one of the most common struggles people face. Everyone has battled with it at some stage! Luckily, with some time and effort, you can turn that around. Read on to find the best tips that taught me how to stop negative thoughts!
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1. Recognise that negative thoughts are feelings and opinions, not fact
Mental illnesses have a nasty way of making you believe that every negative thought you have is a fact. The key to a mindset shift, is recognising that they are just opinions and feelings!
This realisation is what really jumpstarted my healing.
I was talking to someone about the negative thoughts I had about myself, and they simply replied ‘that’s just your opinion.’ This stopped me dead in my tracks, I’d never considered that perspective, but the more I thought about it, the more sense it made!
They started correcting me by getting me to reiterate that I was feeling like (negative thought) instead of presenting it as fact. For example instead of ‘I am worthless’ I would start that sentence with ‘it is my opinion that…’ or ‘I am feeling…’
Initially I rolled my eyes and you will too, but trust me and stick with it! This will help set you up for addressing them, because opinions and feelings can be changed!
2. Find the cause
So once I realised that they are just opinions/feelings, I started to ask myself why I have them. Negative thoughts and opinions have to start somewhere. Your mission is to find out where that is. But how?
If you have ever worked in sales, you’ve probably heard of funnel questioning. This is where you ask a question and use the answer to drill down into more specific questions. I’ve found this to be surprisingly effective at addressing the root of negative thoughts!
When you’re thinking something negative about yourself, try asking yourself why you are thinking that. The cynic in you may respond because it’s true, but you need to dig deeper. What makes it true? What gives you the opinion it is true? Is it something someone has said or implied? Is it the way someone treated you?
This step really blew my mind. Basically, you become toddler, and start responding to everything with ‘but why?’ I had always accepted these thoughts as just simple facts that I knew, it never really occurred to me to question why that was. I was really surprised at where some of it had actually started!
Once you’ve figured out where it all started, you can start undoing it. This can be an emotionally draining process, you’re asking yourself to revisit trauma, so while it is key, please make sure you do this in a safe environment!
3. Challenge the negative thoughts!
This is really hard to do initially, and something I really struggled with. You’re asking yourself to question what may be years of thinking patterns! So how do you challenge it?
If you’ve figured out where it has come from, start asking yourself why it is so powerful. If it’s something someone has said, do they really deserve that headspace? Should it define your mindset? These critical questions can help loosen the grip these thoughts have over you.
Make it a habit that every time you have a negative thought, you stop and question it.
4. Rewire negative thoughts with affirmations
This is a tricky thing to do and it may be frustrating at first. Remember that what you are trying to do is reframe your entire mental state and that’s not easy!
Once you’ve addressed where your negative thoughts are coming from and why, you can start substituting them for more positive thoughts. I know it sounds cliche, but it’s important!
When it comes to affirmations, different things work for different people. Some people print out affirmations and stick them on their wall, some save them on their social media and some memorise just a few key phrases.
This is totally personal and you need to find whichever way feels right to you. The important things is that you don’t give up!
Tying it all together
The biggest step of all is putting it all together. This is the culmination of learning how to stop negative thoughts. Recognising that it’s an opinion, finding the cause, challenging the thoughts and rewiring with affirmations.
The end goal for myself was to go from a mind frame of
‘I have the opinion/I am feeling that I am worthless because of (reason), but that does not define me and I am worthy because (affirmation)
Make sense so far?
By doing this, I started to retrain what my brain considered a fact. Because I constantly pushed back against negative thoughts and constantly corrected them, affirmations started coming naturally instead.
You may feel in over your head and that’s ok! Learning how to stop negative thoughts is massive undertaking.
These were the 2 key resources that helped me, you may find some others!
- The people around you. I managed because I surrounded myself with people who lifted me up and reaffirmed positive thoughts until I could do it myself. If you are surrounded by people who reaffirm negative thoughts, that will reflect within you. Choose your circle wisely and don’t be afraid to cut negative people out of your life!
- A journal. This is a fantastic way to reflect on thoughts and feelings as you can have them on paper in front of you, as well as having somewhere to jot key affirmations. If you don’t know where to start with a journal, consider subscribing for a free 2 page template, or pick up a cute journal on Amazon. Alternatively, if you need something a bit more in depth, consider doing what I did and purchasing a workbook for some more in depth reflection.
You may need to engage some professional help you learn how to stop negative thoughts, and there is nothing wrong with that! Therapy is a fantastic tool and mental health professionals are professionals for a reason. (Which I am not, so please don’t ditch professional help for this advice).
Please remember if you are in a really dark place to reach out. I’ve compiled a list of resources here.
Above all, remember that this is a journey and you need to be patient and kind to yourself. This won’t happen overnight, but you ARE worth that journey.
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