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Motivation Articles  ›  Picking Yourself Back Up

3 Ways to Stop Negative Thinking

Don't Let Negative Thoughts Sabotage Your Efforts

-- By Dean Anderson, Behavioral Psychology Expert
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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

  • VAINVT
    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
  • SCORPION_KISS
    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
  • SCORPION_KISS
    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
  • EBOUE77
    could anyone can tell me the price of Omega3 EPA+DHA〉81
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    Thanks. - 1/5/2013 12:57:01 AM
  • Great suggestion -- now to remember them and actually put them to use when I need them. - 11/26/2012 9:28:43 PM
  • A similar technique I was taught to reduce the number of negative thoughts banging around in my head was to say "STOP!" to myself as soon as one of those negative tape loops started. I was warned that once you notice how many times the negative thoughts, they come faster and faster, like the high point of a bell-curve diagram. The frequency will go down, however, but once you begin with this method, you shouldn't stop using it until the number of neg thoughts goes down. It does work. - 11/26/2012 1:36:25 PM