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.

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