Motivation Articles

3 Ways to Stop Negative Thinking

Don't Let Negative Thoughts Sabotage Your Efforts

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For example, what would have to be true in order for going over your calorie limit to mean that you've “blown” your diet? Wouldn’t it have to be true that your diet is a one-day event that requires a perfect performance on your part? You know that's not the case.

2. Learn to Argue with Yourself

Once you recognize some of your automatic thoughts, you can inspect them and, if necessary, argue with them. The flaw in the above example is pretty obvious: Permanent weight loss is not a short-term project, and doesn’t require perfection. But sometimes the flaw or assumption won’t be as obvious. If that's the case, then you may need to do some investigating.

Before you jump to conclusions or attack your own character, ask yourself a few basic questions:
  • If someone I respect did exactly what I did, would I come to the same conclusion about them that I’m coming to about myself?
  • If someone came to me asking for advice about how to deal with this problem, what would I say to them? Would I tell them it’s a lost cause?
  • How does my conclusion help solve the problem? Does deciding that I’m a "lazy slug" without willpower empower me or enable me to do better next time? What thoughts would do that?
  • Is this a problem that lots of people have or am I the only one facing it? What do other people think or do when they run into this problem?
  • Is this problem a general pattern in my life or am I blowing one incident out of proportion? Are there times when I do well at things that clearly require willpower and self-discipline—like going to work every day and taking care of my family?
  • Have I put the same amount of time and effort into thinking about solutions as I have into listing the problems?
The more of these questions that you ask yourself, the more easily you’ll be able to spot—and correct—your negative automatic thoughts that are lurking underneath your tendency to assume the worst whenever things don’t go the way you planned.

3. Do What Doesn't Come Naturally

One reason that negative thoughts become so automatic and pervasive in our minds is that they are consistent with our typical feelings. If you find yourself jumping to negative conclusions about yourself, your abilities, and your options and opportunities, it’s probably because that feels “right” and comfortable to you.

This doesn't mean you have to figure out why it feels "right" to feel bad about yourself. Again, you'll simply respond better to doing things differently, rather than spending hours rooting through emotional baggage.
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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

  • Dean Anderson really knows how to speak my language. I know his articles have been around a very long time, and so have I . . . maybe that's why.
    This was a great article. Thank you for posting it.
    8-) - 10/16/2015 6:58:57 PM
  • CAMPER531
    i needed to read this today people say that they will so this or that and they don't and I am left fell sad. I am still in the I thought you said you would..... thank you for the article. - 6/21/2015 2:28:16 PM
    I needed to read this today. Thank you. - 6/14/2015 10:00:31 PM
  • Brilliant. Brilliant. The idea that the beast is a child is dramatically working for me. I now carry around a lightweight shawl (or at least a shawl/scarf). If I can find a quiet spot (even a bathroom) for a couple of minutes and sit wrapped in the shawl (a blankie?) I'm ok. This is a revelation. - 3/22/2015 6:45:25 PM
  • Great article! I tend to over-blow simple things up, and use precious energy beating myself up, knowing it's not the end of the world, nor am I going to put on10 lbs over a cookie. This process will be especially useful at work with so much blame game. I'm quick to take blame and beat myself up about "another" mistake. Instead I should stop and analyze what the problem is, and if it even has anything to do with me. If it's not, then reject it. If it's my problem, then I need to determine whether I just didn't do it right, or whether this is a result of indecisive management. Often times, the situation is a learning opportunity. - 2/7/2015 10:39:16 AM
    A game that can help fight negative thinking: https://www.faceb
    e/379583468880678 - 1/28/2015 3:24:26 PM
  • 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
  • BETAB77
    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

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