Negative Thoughts – How to Change Them

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We as humans have the amazing ability to think and imagine. Unfortunately, a lot of the time we entertain negative thoughts that hinder us in life, rather than help us to move forward. Are you currently experiencing such thoughts? If so, below are some tips on how you can change them:

Challenging them

Negative thoughts usually are habits you’ve got into. Things happen in the outside world and you respond with certain thinking patterns. Similarly, you can have unhelpful thoughts in your mind and other negative thoughts in response to those. You can challenge these responses by asking yourself whether you have to respond to a particular situation with a negative thought. What would happen if instead, you used your power to choose your response, and chose an empowering thought to respond with?

Cease judging negative thoughts

When you have a negative thought, it gains power over you when you identify with it. If you label a thought as being painful or scary then it becomes so. By just allowing the thought to arise and bravely watching it from a distance, it loses its power over you.

Replace negative thoughts with positive ones

When you have a negative thought, you can quickly replace it for a positive one. This is a habit you can create. For instance, let’s say you have a meeting at work and you have a thought about not being confident during it. You can quickly switch this thought for one where you were confident in a particular situation. It might be of a time during another meeting, or it could be in another context. This will help to reinforce that there have been occasions in your life, when you experienced the very same emotion you currently think you will be unable to have.

Surround yourself with the right people

Negative people usually have negative thoughts, which then manifest in their behaviours. By hanging around with such people, their behaviour will rub off on you and impact your mood, along with your thoughts. Surround yourself with people who think well and are actually going places in life. It will help in changing your thoughts and attitudes, for the better.

Be grateful for what you have

Get in tune with what you already have. You’re living. You have a family, friends, work, clothes, and food and so on. These are things to be grateful of. Many people don’t have what you have. By being grateful for what you have, you will entertain thoughts of gratitude.

Apply an adult frame to the thought

Another technique you can use is to observe a negative thought from the position of being a resourceful and mature adult. Negative thoughts can be full or fear, worry or even helplessness. Now, when you look at such thoughts from the perspective of a fully grown adult, which you are, and as someone who has the ability to solve problems, how does it change the unhelpful thought?

Learn how to stop thinking so much

You can also learn the ability to stop thinking as much as you currently do. You can do this through meditation and focusing your attention on something else, such as your breathing so that you mind is occupied with doing something else, rather than thinking.

My friends, it’s over to you:

• What other ways can we use to change negative thoughts we may have?
• Please share your valuable views, experiences and thoughts in the comments box below.
• Please also share this post on your favourite social networks. Thank you.

 

Photo Credit: Sam Howzit

46 Comments
  1. Important topic selection Dr. Hiten , negative thought are really the killer elements . I appreciate and agree with the above tips mentioned by you here. In most of the cases understanding negative thinking is also difficult. I totally agree with the point that too much thinking can cause negative thoughts because it happens with me generally , I am trying hard to overcome it though. Thanks for the post.

    1. Hi Kumar,

      It’s wonderful to see you! I’m really glad you liked the tips in the post.

      Negative thoughts are an area which is quite close to me. I used to suffer from unhelpful thoughts for a long time until I learnt to challenge, doubt and replace them. You are right. They can be tricky to get over initially. What really helped me to learn to doubt negative thoughts is understanding that it was always I who created the thought and I had a choice about whether I wanted to entertain a particular thought, or not. Also, unhelpful thoughts are not really ‘real’ in the sense that we can’t hold one in our hands. If it’s not really real, then perhaps the thought doesn’t have to be given too much attention.

      Thanks for your great comment, Kumar. Have a good rest of the week.

  2. Hiten – I think it is easier said than done. Negative thoughts are very hard to overcome especially when it is concerned to your dear ones.

    The points mentioned by you are worth a try, especially getting amidst like minded and well wishing people, that is what I liked the most of all. It builds an energy of positiveness in our life when surrounded by such people, and can reduce the negativisim to an extent.

    Sadly though, once under the wave of such thoughts, I personally feel that nothing else matters, none of the techniques will work, i would opt for meditation and cleaning of my own mind by opening it up to being NULL and VOID.

    Nice thoughts, and some nice tips. Thanks once again.

    1. Hi Praveen,

      Sorry for the delay in replying your comment.

      What you wrote in your comment is very true. Negative thoughts can be very challenging to overcome and when they are about our loved ones, it is even more difficult due to the bonds we have with people.

      Indeed, I’ve included the approaches in this post and potential ways to deal with negative thoughts. Most of these approaches are still at the level of using the ego to deal with negative thoughts, which were created by the ego itself. One needs to be mindful about this when using such techniques and not get frustrated if old ways of thinking arise again. As you quite rightly said, the ultimate way to overcome negative thoughts is through meditation and spirituality. Thanks for sharing this very important point, Praveen and for adding so much more to this post.

      Have a good weekend.

  3. Very important topic you choose in human thought. Certainly negative mind frame destroy your ability to judge anything in a positive or good way.

    We need to overcome negative thinking & come to positive mind frame as soon as possible. You added very important points.

    I’ll try to implement in my life

    1. Hi Ahsan,

      Firstly, I must apologise for the delay in replying back. Your comment ended up in the spam filter.

      Thank you so much for sharing your views on this area. I totally agree with you wrote about negative frames clouding out ability to judge things positively and with an empowering attitude.

      I’m so glad you’ve been inspired to try out these techniques. I’m going to head off to your blog now…

      1. Its alright. It happens sometime in my site too. But I regular check spam to look good comment.

        Anyway thanks for publishing helpful post

  4. Very interesting and helpful topic to living a good lifestyle. This is just too perfect for Bank holiday!
    What we should know is that negativity brings negative things. We should always stay positive in whatever we do. I have been through all of them over the years but the problem is that it is easy to slip back into bad habits.
    The best of the list for me is to surround yourself with the right people.
    One thing I could not find on this blog is the RSS field. It will be good if you can add it. 🙂

    1. Hi Seun,

      I’m really glad you found the article interesting and helpful! Hope you had a good Bank Holiday Weekend! I’m glad the weather has improved, that’s for sure!

      Indeed, as you quite rightly said, negativity breeds further negativity. We need to guard and be mindful of what thoughts we entertain in our minds, because our brains will just process them and we’ll create the corresponding feelings in our bodies, which can also be undesirable.

      You’re spot on. Learning to think better is something we need to keep practicing. Otherwise, our minds have a tendency to go back to old thinking patterns.

      I’m really glad you could resonate with the point about spending time with people who impact us in a positive way.

      Thanks for letting me know about the RSS field. I used to have button on the right hand bar for it. It seems to have disappeared so I’ll add another one tomorrow.

      Thanks very much for commenting, Seun. I really appreciate your support. 🙂

  5. A very useful post, I must say Hiten!

    Who doesn’t suffer from and experience negative thoughts. How one deals with and reacts towards them, decide the impact of the negative thought on the person.

    I agree with all the tips you’ve suggested to effectively tackle the negative thoughts. I personally feel that the negative thoughts grip you and you get involved and drowned in them – this also depends on your mindset and attitude.

    So you need to use creative visualization to keep such thoughts at bay. Along with that, you need to disassociate yourself and try observing them as a third person. This way you’re sure that you won’t take the negative thoughts to heart, and your mind will not register them too.

    But if you’ve to not ignore but convert the negative thoughts into positive ones, then turn them around. Try to get a hold by finding one good thing that happens due to the negative thoughts. Shift your attention to the positive part of the thought and let it grow. Slowly you’ll convert the entire negative thought into a positive one.

    Frankly this is a mere hypothesis, but I’m sure that the orientation of thoughts can be changed through mind manipulation. You’d be a better person to improvise on this model.

    Thanks for sharing this with us. Have a nice week ahead 🙂

    1. Hi Harleena,

      I’m so glad you found the post useful!

      Indeed, as you said, we all have negative thoughts from time to time. I loved what you wrote about how the impact of the thought is dependent upon how a person deals and reacts to the thought. This is so true. Unless one really spends some time to break down what it happening when they think and observe what happens, one will just be constantly reacting and feel powerless to be able to take any control of their thinking.

      I’m so glad you mentioned creative visualisation. Using this approach was probably the first major change technique I used when it came to dealing with unhelpful thoughts. It really does work and like magic, our bodies react to a positive thought, even when it’s imagined! 🙂

      The point you made about watching the thought from the perspective of a third person is brilliant. Observing a thought from this perspective is very interesting. It creates a curious distance from the content of the thought, and gives a person space to objectively observe what is happening, and as you said, not take the thought to heart.

      I loved the technique you described about finding a positive aspect of an unhelpful thought, amplifying this part and letting it overshadow the unhelpful thought. I was just processing this approach as I’m writing this comment and I can see how this would work.

      Many thanks Harleena for sharing some wonderful approaches we can use to deal with negative thoughts! 🙂

      Have a great rest of the week!

  6. Some great points, Hiten. Another one may be to add a different frame to our thoughts. Part of it may be using mindfulness practices to do this; another part may be just adopting a different mindset or frame of reference. Gaining a different perspective can make a world of difference. It might be what, Harleena, referenced, too. Visualizing a new outcome may take us on a different path forward. Anyway, some great thoughts here! Thanks. Jon

    1. Hi Jon,

      I’m really glad you liked the points in the post and thanks very much for adding some other great ways we can use to tackle unhelpful thoughts!

      Indeed, as you said, putting another frame to our thoughts is very useful. One way we can use a different frame is to give an unhelpful thought another meaning, which is more empowering and serves us better. Absolutely, gaining a different perspective on thoughts can help us look at them in a different way and take the sting out of them. Usually what happens with negative thoughts, is that we look out of own eyes into images and movies on the screen of the mind. This intensifies the feelings we experience in our bodies. By popping out of ourselves and observing ourselves as an actor in the picture, we create distance and from here we increase our choices about what we want to do with the thought.

      Many thanks for adding some great ways to change our perspectives and attitudes for the better. Hope you’re having a good week.

  7. Hello Hiten, Great minds think alike – you’ll see what I mean when you read my blog post this week. We’re on parallel tracks. 🙂

    Our brain has a negativity bias, so it’s human to be automatically thinking negative thoughts. But, as you point out in this great article, there are steps we can take to prevent negative thoughts from running our lives. In addition to the tactics you offered above, in extreme cases when a negative thought–and associated feelings–won’t leave us alone, we can “interview” it and ask what it’s trying to tell us. Once it gets our attention and is acknowledged, its need to “act up” dissipates.

    Thank you for raising another important topic and offering sound suggestions!

    1. Hi Alice,

      It’s wonderful to see you! Ah, I’m looking forward to reading your latest blog post. I’ll head over there after I’ve written this comment.

      I loved what you wrote about our brains having a bias towards negativity. This certainly does seem to be the case. Absolutely, it is normal to think negative thoughts. I think tackling them is another activity one can take part in on the journey of personal growth and to develop spiritually, too.

      I think your approach of interviewing those thoughts which are more resistant to change than others is brilliant. I can definitely see how this would work. As you said, once the thought has been interviewed, then indeed, it has been heard and doesn’t need to play up.

      Thanks very much for commenting! I’m heading over to your blog now.

  8. Mindset is everything. Who we are affects how we see the world. If we’re negative, then we’ll view the world in a negative way as well. I know. I’ve been there.

    So if we want to see the world more positively, then we need to change ourselves first. It can take a lot of work to change a mindset, but it has to be done. No lasting change can occur if you don’t make the shift.

    And once you begin to make that change, you’ll find the world responds in kind.

    Cheers!

    1. Hi Trevor,

      What you wrote about mind-set being everything is so true! The thoughts flowing around in our mind will directly impact our view of the world. It really is that important.

      As you quite rightly said, the change we seek will not be found in the outside world. Only by changing ourselves first will we then see the changes we want in the world.

      Thanks very much for leaving such an awesome comment, Trevor! Hope you’re having a good week.

  9. Negative thoughts is a big problem and it can happen to anyone. I think its one of those things that affect everyone. I have read and you also confirm that by replacing the negative thoughts with positive thoughts can help a lot, something called displacement or replacement (I cannot be too sure). The idea is to slowly replace the bad thoughts with good thoughts and it can done as many times you wanted it.

    1. Hi Shalu,

      Indeed, as you quite rightly said, negative thoughts can impact anyone. We all can have them. Indeed, replacing negative thoughts with positive ones can help. What helps even more is when the meaning we have given to the positive thought is so strong that it acts a resource for us and overpowers the negative thought.

      Thanks a lot for leaving your great comment, Shalu. I appreciate your support.

  10. Hi Hiten
    To all the wonderful points you’ve made, I’ll add a simple: Be Grateful. From my own experience I’ve found that the moment I start getting negative about life or situations, I make a list of all that I’m grateful for and immediately I’m in a totally different frame of mind.

    1. Hi Corinne,

      Many thanks for adding being grateful to the list of how we can deal with unhelpful thoughts!

      I loved the approach you use of making a list of all the things you’re grateful for when you find yourself slipping into negative thinking. This is brilliant. Isn’t it wonderful how thoughts of gratitude can completely shift our perspective and quickly too?

      Thanks a lot for leaving your great comment, Corinne!

  11. Hi Hiten – our thoughts about something make them our reality so we have the power to change our reality by changing our thoughts. This is probably more important than anything else in our lives, no? If we think a positive thought, we havea positive experience, A negative ones leads to negative experiences. The challenging part is changing simple negative thoughts. That’s a continue struggle and you offer tips that will help anyone do that – replace with positive thoughts, be more mindful, adult frame of mind etc.

    The more challenging part is facing actually negative circumstances or problems. How do we have positive takes on that? Sort of the same principles but we have to practice with the slightly less challenging thoughts to take on the negative circumstances and events (and all the thoughts that are associated with that)

    Thank you for putting this post together and sharing with us all.

    1. Hi Vishnu,

      Absolutely, I totally agree with the point you made, about our ability to change our thoughts in order to change our reality, being one of the important things in our lives. Our thoughts really can make us or break us.

      Indeed, negative thoughts are something, which we all experience and at times it can be tricky to overcome a thought that is bugging us. By just observing the thought and creating distance from it, we can prevent it from empowering us.

      Your point about dealing with negative circumstances was very interesting. In such cases, we could use our ability to change the meanings of what happened to something which helps us to stay resourceful. Of course, in order to change the meaning of an event, we will also be changing the meaning at the thought level.

      Many thanks for adding so much more to this post, Vishnu. I’m about to head off to your blog in a moment.

  12. Hello Hiten, Great topic and I’m sure we can all relate to this one. Al-tho thinking and having negative thoughts are more common these days most people are in a habit of this way of thinking. I’ve learned to stay away from people that are always in this mind frame.

    You see as humans we sometimes don’t want to see other do well in life or any other thing that offered to us so you come across people that will just try to bring you down if you allow them to that don’t work with me 🙂

    Thank you so much for a very interesting read my friend.

    1. Hi Rob,

      I’m really glad you liked the topic! Absolutely, negative thinking does become habitual. Sometimes just realising this can be a light bulb moment indicating to a person that they can learn to think in other ways.

      Just like you, I’ve also learnt to stay away from people who have negative perspectives. Such people can end up drowning a lot of our energy. As you quite rightly said, some people really can’t take seeing other people succeed. It’s a shame really, because if they were able to get out of their own insecurities and worked on their strengths then they too could work towards the lives they want.

      Thanks very much for leaving such a brilliant comment, Rob! 🙂

  13. Hi Hiten

    It is so easy to think poor me and things are not going as planned. But you are so right we need to be grateful for what we do have. There is a couple close to my place living in an old van, I can’t imagine having to do that. It must be very scary for them. So I am grateful that I am not in that position. I have alternatives before I would need to do that, but one never knows how circumstances could turn their peaceful lives upside down.

    I like the fact you say to look at the negative thought from a distance and it will lose power. I don’t think we can ever keep those negative thoughts from entering our brains, but what we do with them when they do arrive is in our control. Shall have to remember “thought, you have no control over me”, maybe that will work.

    Mary

    1. Hi Mary,

      Indeed, it is easy to get into the victim mentality and our thoughts can contribute to this, unless we actually take time to analyse what we are thinking, what is causing such thoughts, and challenge and play around with them.

      Absolutely, holding thoughts of gratitude really is powerful in dealing with unhelpful thoughts. Many thanks for sharing the story about the couple living near you in a van. I think when we see people who are less fortunate then us, it can make us really appreciate what we have. Also, it helps us to remain humble because we just don’t know what destiny holds for us and how our own fortunes can change.

      I’m really glad you liked the point about looking at our negative thoughts from a distance. Indeed, there are number of such things we can do with our thoughts, in order to help change the way we feel and behave.

      I loved how you stated “thought, you have no control over me”. Thanks so much for leaving such a fantastic comment, Mary and for adding so much more to this post.

  14. Good observations Hiten …
    I have found that many negative thoughts come from ‘doubt’ and/or unsolved problems. Seeking the solutions to your problems or having someone help you with this, will start to erase ‘doubt’. When our doubt subsides, so does the negativity.
    Be good to yourself
    David

    Life Coach. Listener. Solution Finder.

    1. Hi David,

      It’s great to see you here! Indeed, you’re spot on my friend. Usually negative thoughts do stem from doubts and unresolved issues. Long lasting change will come when such issues have been cleared up. I loved what you wrote about how negativity subsides as doubt does. It shows how they are both intrinsically linked.

      Many thanks for commenting, David and for adding so much more to this post!

  15. Our self-talk and thoughts can greatly, positively or negatively, influence our attitude, actions, and behaviors. It’s why it’s so important to implement the points you shared with us. Even the most positive person needs to be intentional about thinking good thoughts, it’s a habit we can form. Wonderful post my friend.

    1. Hi Dan,

      Ah, I loved what you wrote in your comment!

      As you quite rightly pointed out, our self-talk and thoughts hugely impact our actions and the way we feel, too. Indeed, certain types of thinking turn into habits. In the end, we end up thinking unhelpful thoughts as it has become habitual to respond in such ways. As you stated, even the most optimistic people need to take control of their thoughts, as it can be easy to slip back into unhelpful ways thinking.

      I’m really glad you enjoyed the post my friend and it’s always wonderful to see you at the blog!

      1. Glad to share and be active in you community. This is an important topic to remember.

  16. You hit the nail on the head Hiten.
    Particularly the part where you said to surround yourself with the right people.
    It’s so important, many people seem to underestimate it.

    The reason why it’s so crucial to focus on building your connections with the right people is that they shape who you are. The wrong people will either give you value or take away value.

    I’ve experienced a circle of friends where I had nothing back bad energy. I felt like I had no energy or motivation left after spending time with the, and felt insignificant. It wasn’t really a surprise having observed why.

    They would often instill negative advice and belittle me when we were together. I only allowed it when I was younger due to my inexperience and lack of self-confidence, but as I grew up, I realized how it impacted who I was and why I was stuck…

    The minute I noticed this and turned my back on them. That’s when things started changing.

    1. Hi Onder,

      Many thanks for your comment!

      I can relate to the point you made about spending time with people who had a bad energy. I’ve done the same thing in the past when I was younger, again like you, mainly because I was insecure with myself. The wrong people really can have a big impact on one’s self-esteem. Didn’t it feel so liberating when you turned your back on them? It’s like everything seems so much clearer and finally you can get on with your life.

      Thanks a lot for sharing your experiences, Onder and for adding so much more to this post. Have a great weekend.

  17. Hi Hiten,

    Love the post. Gratitude helps me get rid of the negative thoughts. I agree that if you hang around people that are negative, it rubs off. I need to be around positive, engaging people. It helps me be the same. There are some that are just born with the tendency to be negative, not that they can’t change it, but that is their first instinct, the glass is always half empty folks, as opposed to the glass is always half full. Great tips here to look at what you can do, to become that positive person that most people want to be. Take care.

    1. Hi Cathy,

      I’m really glad you enjoy the post and many thanks for adding your thoughts to this discussion.

      Indeed, thoughts of gratitude do seem to be a great healer for unhelpful thoughts. Absolutely, people with negative energies can be a real emotional drainer, like Onder explained in his comment above. Like you, I too need to be around positive people as well, as their thoughts and attitudes also rub off on us.

      Many thanks for commenting, Cathy and for adding more value to this post. Have a good weekend.

  18. Hiten, I think you have hit on the key. Many of us are plagued by negative thoughts and we become determined to stop them. But after a short time we fall back into our old pattern. You pointed out that these negative thoughts are a habit. We can’t just stop them. We have to substitute a new habit of thinking positive thoughts. At first it is difficult, but with practice, we can build new thinking habits by following your steps. When the new habits are established, then it does not require so much effort. It becomes our default thinking pattern. Great post.

    1. Hi Galen,

      Absolutely, ways of thinking do become habitual and before we know it, certain ways of thinking and responding to events, or what is happening inside us happens by default. Thoughts do have a structure, which can be seen in the form of a habit or a response to a stimulus. As you stated, we can substitute old and unhelpful thinking patterns for those that will serve us better and by doing this again and again, the new ways of thinking become the default place our brains go to.

      Many thanks for adding so much more to this post, Galen. Have a nice weekend.

  19. Great advice Hiten. Each of your points hit the mark for me, but I had to smile when I came to “stop thinking so much” because I think women in particular tend to over think things. I used to tell myself I was just trying to see all sides of a situation, and finally realized what I was really doing was beating it to death and getting no where. It’s really empowering when you can learn to move beyond that habit.

    1. Hi Marty,

      I’m really glad you liked the advice in the post! Indeed, we all do tend to think too much. I suspect a lot of our schooling emphasises on thinking hard about how to solve problems. Unfortunately, we don’t usually get taught as kids that too much of the wrong type of thinking can get us into trouble as well.

      Many thanks for sharing your experiences around thinking and about how you came to the realisation of what happens when we overthink.

      Have a great week ahead!

  20. Hi Hiten,

    Brilliant topic, Most of us are suffered from negative beliefs and its a big hurdle in the way of self development.so to overcome from these thoughts it essential we surrounded with positive environment as u already said, Try to take things easily, satisfaction with what u have, Never feel inferior, never think too much like if i do this, what will happen, if u always see the negative impact, u can never be succeed because your negative thinking reduce your efforts.

    1. Hi Rupali,

      I’m really glad you liked the topic!

      Many thanks for adding some further great ways of how we can overcome unhelpful thinking patterns. In particular, I loved what you wrote about being satisfied with what we have; not feeling inferior to others and not worrying about will have happen when we want to take action.

      I really appreciate you adding so much more to this post. Have a great week ahead.

  21. Good, positive people can definitely help you combat negative thoughts. They can help you challenge them when they’re forming. And even help you talk yourself out of negativity.

    Positive people always look for the good in situations and having them around you can teach you how to do the same for yourself.

    A fantastic post, Hiten. I enjoyed reading it.

    1. Hi Anne,

      I’m really glad you enjoyed the post!

      I loved what you wrote about the impact that positive people can have on us in helping to overcome unhelpful thoughts. As you quite rightly said, such people can help us through challenging such thoughts and help to change our perceptions. We would never get this through spending time with people who spread negativity all the time. Positivity in others rubs off on us and our positivity rubs off on others.

      Many thanks for commenting and for adding more value to this post, Anne!

  22. […] end up feeling the unhelpful feelings associated with the particular occasion all over again. Your thoughts will impact how you feel. When you catch you mind going to the rejection again, send it to other […]

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