Motivation Articles

3 Ways to Stop Negative Thinking

Don't Let Negative Thoughts Sabotage Your Efforts

You’ve gone over your calories for the day or eaten something on your “forbidden” list. You figure that since you've blown your diet, you might as well keep on eating and start over tomorrow. You keep eating, but despise yourself for it.

You’ve done well all week, but the scale says you’ve gained a pound. You panic, feeling certain that you’re doomed to be fat forever.

You set the alarm an hour early to exercise, but hit snooze. Feeling like a lazy slug, you wonder if you have any willpower to do what you know you need to.

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar to you?

The tendency to leap from minor, trivial problems to overblown, unrealistic conclusions is something that everyone struggles with to some degree. This type of negative thinking is one of the biggest reasons that people have difficulty sticking to their weight loss plan—and why small problems can cause stress and misery that is often avoidable.

Of course, there are dozens of deep, psychological reasons why individuals get caught up in this negativity. But you don’t have to know why you do it to stop being negative. All you have to do is to take a close look at what you are actually doing and decide to stop doing it for that moment. Here are three techniques you can use to stop all those negative thoughts before they stop you:

1. Look for Hidden Thoughts and Assumptions

The process of moving from an event (like going over your daily calories) to a conclusion about the meaning of that event (I’ve blown my diet) and what you should do about it (keep eating, start over later), typically involves several more mental steps that you probably aren’t aware of. Psychologists call these intermediate steps automatic thoughts because they are habitual, happen quickly, and feel so “right” to us that we don’t even notice them.

Although you can’t completely prevent automatic thoughts from occurring (after all, they naturally help us make good decisions in a hurry), these thoughts are not always accurate. Chronic negativity about yourself or your situation is a good sign that your automatic thoughts are inaccurate.

Luckily, it’s not difficult to learn how to identify your automatic thoughts, figure out if they make sense, and change the ones that aren’t working for you. The first step is to develop the habit of asking yourself: "What would have to be true in order for the negative conclusion I reached to be justified?"
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About The Author

Dean Anderson Dean Anderson
Dean Anderson has master's degrees in human services (behavioral psychology/stress management) and liberal studies. His interest in healthy living began at the age of 50 when he confronted his own morbid obesity and health issues. He joined SparkPeople and lost 150 pounds and regained his health. Dean has earned a personal training certification from ACE and received training as a lifestyle and weight management consultant. See all of Dean's articles.

Member Comments

  • But if you removed all my negativity, I'd disappear. - 10/18/2014 5:01:15 PM
  • This was RIGHT ON!!! - 10/18/2014 1:36:25 PM
  • Really needed this article today. Yesterday was my husbands birthday and we splurged, going out for pizza with my husbands brother and wife, have Chinese for dinner. Have a piece of cake and some candy as it was his birthday. But knowing this morning we needed to get back on track! Thank You! - 10/18/2014 10:14:52 AM
    This article was very helpful, and it can be useful on many levels. Although I've maintained a healthy weight for five years, I still make mistakes and hate the feelings they create. The advice about examining those intermediate and automatic thoughts is another step I can take to attain the healthy mind and body I seek. - 2/18/2014 8:15:02 AM
    I've found that wearing a rubber band on my wrist helps with banishing negative thoughts and exchanging them for a more positive thought. Whenever I feel a negative thought come into my head or a negative feeling, I pop the rubber band on my wrist as a way to "wake myself up" , become aware of my thoughts and substitute it for a better one. You'd be surprised how many times a day you'll find yourself popping that rubber band! It's called Aversion Therapy. (I think) Give it a try! - 1/5/2014 10:01:21 AM
    Very informative and empowering. I think this advice could change my life for the better. I've been struggling with negative automatic thoughts almost my entire life. Thank you for this article and congratulations on your achievements! You reinforced one of my favorite quotes: "It's never too late to be what you might have been"! A million thanks! - 1/5/2014 9:57:16 AM
  • I will try this today! This rainy, dark day is not going to get me. - 10/19/2013 11:37:51 PM
  • I so need this today !! Feeling blue today...
    - 10/19/2013 10:52:28 AM
  • After learning that I am a codependent, I begin each day with my affirmations. Right now, those affirmations come in the form of the Spark Coach program on Spark People. I found your article this morning. This was the perfect affirmation for me. I hurt my foot and cannot exercise as much as I like right now. I get so down on myself because of those negative thoughts coming to the forefront each morning. Thanks for reminding me about the tools to confront those thoughts! - 10/19/2013 8:16:49 AM
  • Great article. Now to put them in pratice. - 9/6/2013 7:30:23 PM
  • Perfect timing for me to read this article. Very good ideas to put to use. - 9/3/2013 9:59:02 AM
  • "Do what doesn't come naturally," and, "if you're feeling uncomfortable, you're probably doing something right," are the two thoughts that I'm got from this article. Sometimes I am uncomfortable with all the changes. - 9/2/2013 11:09:08 AM
  • JB2000
    My mom always said, "Can't never did anything," so it was ingrained in me to at least give it my best before saying I can't. - 6/18/2013 2:38:36 PM
  • Very good article. Our flesh always wants to do what isn't right; more food, more rest, more mindless entertainment. We let our flesh convince us that these things will make us happy. In reality, the opposite is true. We are designed to set goals and achieve them. This is where happiness is found. - 4/14/2013 9:32:56 PM
  • Loved the article, it really hit the nail on the head as that is exactly how I was feeling when I blew it all. I was thinking that I'm destined to be overweight forever & what's the sense it even trying, I may as well sit in front of the tv & pig out every day. This article has been a great help! - 3/14/2013 10:11:22 AM

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