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Challenging Negative Thoughts

Our thoughts are powerful. We are conditioned to look on the bright side of things when life is not going our way. Stay positive, keep your head up our friends and family say.

Whether they are negative or positive, our thoughts can be constant and overwhelming. Unfortunately, the majority of our thoughts tend to be negative – even without us knowing it. Negative thoughts have a way of clouding our judgment and impacting how we function in our daily lives and even how successful we are in our careers.

Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “You are what you think all day long.” What we give attention to will eventually take root. The negative thoughts we think of repetitively eventually become a part of who we are – happening automatically without our control.

Automatic negative thoughts can become self-fulling prophecies because they have the power to move from negative thoughts to negative outcomes. Automatic negative thinking can lead to negative viewpoints, negative behaviors, and attract negative consequences.

The good news is that there are various ways to address our negative thought patterns and to overcome negative thinking. One way is to challenge them.

Here are some questions to help you begin to challenge your negative thoughts:

  1. Are you confusing thoughts or feelings with fact? Just because you think something is true, doesn’t mean that it is. When you notice negative thoughts surfacing, ask yourself if it is truly based on a fact or an irrational thought or emotion inspired by how you’re feeling in the moment.

  2. Are you automatically jumping to conclusions or resorting to worst-case scenarios? This can happen when making assumptions, either about what other people think of you or about future events. The truth is that you can never truly know what another person thinks about you. The best way to challenge yourself from jumping to conclusions is to ask the person their perspective.

  3. What is the evidence to support your negative thought and what is the evidence against it? Take inventory of the facts. Rarely does the evidence support your negative thought. In fact, the opposite is usually true. Looking at the evidence that is either for or contrary to your belief is a very effective way to replace your negative thoughts with positive ones.

  4. What would a friend think about this situation? Sometimes we need another perspective and asking a friend for their opinion might provide the clarity or perspective you need to look at things differently.

  5. If you look at this positively, how is it different? It can be difficult to put a positive spin on a situation you’re viewing negatively. However, replacing your negative thoughts with a positive mindset may change the situation.

  6. Will this matter a year from now? Five years from now? It’s easy to get caught up in your negative feelings and beliefs and have them take over your mind. Taking a step back and thinking about the future can help you get a healthy perspective. Thinking about whether a negative belief or thought will truly matter long-term may help you understand that it is much smaller than you think and not worth the energy you’re giving it.

Need help? Reach out to our office to setup an appointment with one of our experienced therapists.

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