In this blog, I'll share with you the top 6 proven steps to overcome negative thoughts and boost your well-being. Negative thoughts can be debilitating and affect our mental, emotional, and physical health. Fortunately, there are effective techniques you can use to overcome negativity and improve your overall well-being. Above all, I will provide you with six practical and evidence-based strategies that will help you overcome negative thoughts and promote positivity in your life. Whether you struggle with anxiety or depression, or you just want to improve your mindset, I believe these 6 steps can help you replace your negative thoughts with more positive ones.
Neuroscience tells us that whether you use positive or negative self-talk boils down to habit. It also shows us that those thoughts are processed differently in the brain. For instance, the left pre-frontal cortex located right above your left eye becomes active when you are experiencing positive thoughts. On the other side, the right pre-frontal cortex, located just above the right eye, is active when we are using negative self-talk.
The good news, if you have the habit of using negative self-talk, is that you can learn to quieten your negative brain through practice. At the same time, you can teach your positive one to become more dominant.
So, if you are willing to challenge your self-talk, then the following six suggestions can get you rolling in the right direction.
How to Stop Negative Self-Talk
1. Acknowledge your negative self-thought.
The first step to conquering your automatic negative thoughts is learning to recognize when you're thinking negative thoughts. To begin, start by listening carefully to what you are thinking as well as to what you are saying to others. As you do so, notice if you see a pattern in your thoughts.
- Are you blaming things that are out of your control?
- Do you criticize yourself and others for the world not being exactly the way you think it should be?
- Are you putting yourself down and focusing on what you didn't accomplish instead of giving yourself credit for what you did achieve?
- What excuses are you making for not creating the life you want?
Regardless of what you're thinking, when you catch your thoughts going negative don't judge yourself or beat yourself up. Subsequently, this only adds to the negativity and supports your habit. Instead, just acknowledge that the thought you had was not in alignment with whom you are choosing to become and give yourself credit for interrupting your negative train of thought.
Simply becoming aware of your negativity allows you to begin replacing it with more positive and empowering thoughts.
"Simply becoming aware of your negativity allows you to begin replacing it with more positive and empowering thoughts."
2. Listen for phrases of blame that cause you to feel helpless.
The following is a list of common phrases heard in the blame stage.
- I can’t
- That will never work
- Things like this always happen to me
- Nothing good ever happens to me
- Life is unfair
- I should, but
- If only
- You make me so
So, If you notice, the one commonality these statements have is an implication that you are somehow a passive player in all that happens to you.
As a result, when you use these types of statements you end up getting stuck in a pattern of blaming the world for your circumstances. When this happens, you wind up paying the price of being at the mercy of forces outside of your control.
Finally, you fail to realize your personal power to challenge these statements and put them to the test. Instead, you accept them blindly as truth.
Once you start recognizing your negative thoughts, you will begin to notice a difference in your well-being. That is because you will know you are taking the right steps to rewire your brain. Next, you'll be ready to start creating the powerful habit of positive thinking.
3. Control your focus with possibility questions.
Once you have recognized your negative thoughts, you will need to question them instead of accepting them. The next time you hear yourself saying, “I can’t,” ask, “But what if I could?” This process will help you learn to focus your thoughts on what’s possible instead of what isn’t.
When things in your life don’t go your way, take a moment and notice your self-talk. If you are telling yourself, “This is terrible.” Then you are asking, “Why?” "Why me?” or “Why did this have to happen?” Instead, try asking yourself a new question.
Asking why almost always leads to feeling hopeless because it is grounded in dealing with something in the past that is out of your immediate control. Instead, try asking how or what.
For example, when things aren't going your way, instead of asking "Why is this happening to me?" Which only leads you to feel helpless, overcome your negative thoughts by asking, “How can I turn this around?” or “What can I learn from this to avoid making the same mistake in the future?”
If you are giving yourself an excuse such as, “I don’t have enough time.” Question your assumption by asking, “If this was a matter of life and death to me, and I had to find the time, where would I find it? What part of my schedule could I rearrange to make the time I need?”
Use the following questions to direct your focus from the negative to the positive.
- What if I could find a way to make this work?
- How can I turn this around?
- What can I learn from this so I avoid making the same mistake in the future?
- What’s great about this?
- What else can I do to make this happen?
- What’s not perfect yet?
- If I wanted to find the positive in this situation, what would that be?
4. Challenge your negative self-talk.
To improve your well-being and overcome your negative thoughts, learn to put your limiting thoughts to the test. For example, if you're wanting to try something new and your thoughts are telling you that it will never work, you can easily challenge this thought by reminding yourself of how many things are now a part of our world now that once seemed impossible.
For instance, smartphones, space travel, televisions, and many other inventions we enjoy today were once thought unimaginable by most people. However, all that was needed were a few positive thinkers who refused to accept limitations as their truth and instead were willing to challenge those beliefs by putting them to the test.
Not surprisingly, most of our limitations are self-imposed. We believe our thoughts as if they accurately represent our world. In doing so, we act or in most cases, fail to act and as a result, we end up co-creating our reality. So, the next time you have a negative thought, remind yourself that although it may be correct, you will never know for sure until you put it to the test.
Remember when you were a little kid learning to ride a bike?
You probably said a few times, “I can’t do this,” or “I’m scared.” Odds are you fell over a few times and scuffed your knees and elbows.
Did you let it stop you?
No, you got back on that two-wheeled machine, learned from your mistakes, and tried again. All the while building a powerful reference for what you can achieve in your lifetime.
Consequently, learning new skills today is a lot like learning to ride a bike when you were younger. You just need to question your assumptions, learn from your mistakes, get back on, and try again.
5. Be open to new possibilities.
Usually, when I suggest to someone in the blame stage that getting up an hour earlier can change their lives for the positive in numerous ways, the response I receive is not “Wow, I'll try that,” but rather a tight-lipped smirk followed by a slight nodding of their head.
Next, they proceeded to tell me how it would never work for them because they are not a morning person. They say, “I’m not a morning person,” like that is a particular breed of individuals.
Truth is, there is no such thing as a morning person, just as there is no such thing as an afternoon person. There is only you and what you decide to be.
If you refuse to identify with the possibility of being someone who rises early in the morning, then you will struggle with this idea. However, if you are willing to entertain the thought of getting out of bed with the sunrise, then this new possibility can become your new reality.
Being open to new and different possibilities applies to any change you may wish to make in your life.
However, by proclaiming that something is impossible and then supporting that proclamation with an excuse, you keep yourself from making the changes you desire. Getting unstuck requires letting go of your negative self-talk about what is and isn’t possible in your life.
For example, someone wishing to quit smoking must be ready to let go of the idea that they are a smoker and recognize they are a person who chooses to smoke. The distinction may seem small, but in truth, it is enormous. If you are a smoker, then you have no choice but to smoke. However, by becoming aware and admitting that smoking is a choice, then you can learn to make a choice not to smoke.
6. Overcome negative self-talk with mindfulness meditation.
Mindfulness meditation is the practice of sitting quietly while focusing your thoughts on a single word or the rhythm of your breathing. It doesn’t require any special skills or a lot of time. In fact, you can begin to receive its benefits with just a few minutes of practice a day.
To begin, try to clear your head and focus on your breathing. As you do this, repeat the phrase, “As I breathe in and as I breathe out, I am emptying my mind of all thoughts.” Repeat this a few times as you breathe in fully.
At some point, your thoughts will begin to drift off on some random tangent. Don’t worry about it because this is natural. The point here is to catch yourself when you do and redirect them back to your breathing. Don’t get discouraged. Meditation is not about having an empty mind. It is about learning to focus your thoughts in the direction you choose.
Change is hard when you allow your automatic negative self-talk to fill your mind with fear and doubt. And permanent change seems impossible because your negative thoughts rob you of your personal power to act.
However, once you become aware of your thoughts, even though it is still challenging, change becomes possible. The good news is that if you just decide to work on becoming more aware of your negative self-talk and begin practicing the 6 steps outlined in this article, it does become easier.