Challenging negative thoughts

This post and Distract Yourself from Self Talk was inspired by a previous comment saying “how am I supposed to stop caring about what people think? It’s not a switch I can just turn off…”

I said there were two techniques, one – “distraction”, which featured in the Distract yourself post, and two – positive challenge. This second technique is equally simple in practice, you challenge the negative thoughts you are experiencing and come up with positive alternatives.

It is useful, whichever technique you use, to monitor your thoughts. keep a rough diary of what thoughts you get. The underlying principle is to get on top of what automatic thinking habits you have got. You may find all you negative thoughts center on just one problem.

If you want to start challenging negative thoughts, its easier (in one way) if your negative thoughts center over one particular problem. Because to move forward you need to be able to define the thought or worry as a problem – if you can’t, why are you worrying?!

If you monitor thoughts or just record them, it is likely that particular themes or recurring thoughts will appear. Using the problem solving technique – define the actual problem behind the thought.

For example, if you have an event coming up where you have to do something like give a short speech, your thoughts may be “I’ll make a fool of myself”, “I’ll stand there and have nothing to say”, “I’ll get my words wrong”, “Everyone will laugh at me”….

The underlying problem is something like “I’ve got a speech to do and I’m concerned I won’t perform well”. Breaking it down further you can look at what you have to do in more detail:- “I’m giving a talk about what I do, I’ve plenty of time to prepare in detail what I want to say.” “The people there will be interested in what I have to say.” “No one will expect a slick, professional presentation. They’re going to be supportive.”

If you look at most situations logically you can come up with positives to counter your negatives. In the above example you can come up with one short statement “I am going to be well prepared and rehearsed, everyone wants to hear what I have to say” to repeat to yourself whenever the negatives creep in.

If you cannot come up with positives, even a delaying type statement.. “I will look at the problem when I’m physically well.. or when I can discuss it with Peter”. Like other techniques, practice to get it right for you.

Divine February 12, 2008 at 1:42 am

Thank you for posting this article. I also try hard to work on negitive thoughts as much as humanly possible and this article helps tremendously. My appreciation to you is in the highest sense.
To show you my gratitude I would like to share with you a post I found that also helps with this:
Thank you indeed. I hope it helps you and others who read this as much as this post of yours as helped, please keep up the incredible work in helping others!

nspire_incentive_programs October 20, 2009 at 10:52 pm

Thank you indeed for motivational post. A person who wants to overcome negative thoughts should read this. I am also pessimist and very often get depressed thinking that others think about me and today I have realized that I am left behind in the race.

Arlene Marie Daniels July 3, 2011 at 10:10 am

I recently read a book called How to Stop Self-Sabotage and it has a whole chapter about negative thoughts. According to the book, it starts with a trigger, then followed by our thoughts of fear. These thoughts then cause us to have negative emotions and feelings of either anxiety, anger or regret. Your post is a nice addition to what I learned. Thanks! 🙂 Oh, and for those who want to check the book out too, here’s their site:

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