Negative thoughts: The recipe to eliminate them

The way that you analyse your situations can make you feel different emotions (confidence, fear, anxiety). These emotions determine how you will act afterwards, mobilised by negative or positive thoughts.

Negative thoughts appear in a wide variety of situations, such as an important exam, a job interview, or a lecture by a person with stage fright, amongst many others. A thought has a lot of power in how you feel and behave. If ideas are constantly negative, they can cause you to enter a loop that is difficult to get out of, sometimes producing or maintaining anxiety attacks.

These thoughts can come from past negative experiences, lack of self-confidence or latent fears that manifest themselves by sending these harmful signals. Moreover, they can surprise you because they are intrusive thoughts. But how can you eliminate negative thinking? Here you can find the steps to follow to modify those erroneous ideas that burst into our minds in certain situations and affect our emotional state, our performance and even our relationships.

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1. Identify negative thoughts

The first step to getting rid of them is to identify them. It can be helpful to make a record of the thought, the situation you were in when they appeared and the consequences they had for you.

This task may be the most important factor in determining the success of the process. Therefore, you need to be patient and train this activity, as sometimes the thoughts are automatic, and it is difficult to pay enough attention.

2. Analyse thoughts concretely

The power that thoughts have over us and our moods are more significant than we can imagine. From negative thoughts, conclusions are often drawn, and from these conclusions, theories are usually created about how we are. The process can also be the other way around, with our beliefs giving rise to maladaptive thoughts. Whichever way you go, it is possible to begin to dismantle these theories, and here are two techniques that can help you.

Firstly, you can push your negative thinking to the limit. An example is:

Negative thoughts

When you dismantle your thinking in this way, you will realise your real fear. In this case, it is not the presentation of the project that generates discomfort but the fear of failure.

It is also an effective strategy to get out of the problem and judge it from the outside. Thinking: What if a friend of mine said that to me, and would I give it the same importance. This can make you realise how little basis the argument has.

3. Question their credibility

Negative thoughts are one of the most common symptoms of anxiety, and once you have analysed where they come from, it is time to test their veracity.

To dismantle the reliability of these thoughts, several questions are helpful.

  • What evidence do you have that the thought is true?
  • How likely is it that the interpretation you are making of the situation is correct? Is it the only possible interpretation? Could there be another point of view?
  • Is having this thought helping you to solve the problem? Do you feel good about this interpretation of the situation? What are the advantages and disadvantages of your thinking?
Pensamientos negativos

In the example above, the following questions could be asked:

  • How many times have you had a bad experience in a meeting with your bosses?
  • When you see that a colleague’s project has not been accepted, do you think they are a failure?
  • Do you think that they do not accept their proposal as it is something that deserves to be ridiculed?
  • How many times have your bosses laughed at someone in a meeting?
  • Does that non-acceptance imply that they are incompetent?
  • Do you feel good thinking that way?

4. Replace them with adaptive thoughts

Even if the negative thought comes to you automatically, you must make an effort to devise alternative ways of thinking. Controlling thoughts is not a realistic goal, but getting them to adapt to reality is.

Pensamientos negativos

As a result of the previous steps, these negative thoughts will lose their strength as more effective ways of dealing with situations emerge. If you repeat these conclusions you have drawn by questioning their credibility as self-instruction, you will get a more objective view of reality every time they come back to you.

Keep in mind questions such as the following:

  • Is the interpretation I am making of the situation the only one possible?
  • Is there a more productive alternative to going over and over the same issue endlessly?
  • Is that alternative more likely to help me than my initial thinking?
  • Does it make me feel better, and does it positively impact the way I act?

5. Conclude the change

Keep in mind that this is a worthwhile process, but it requires effort and patience. The changes will be progressive, but if you do this work with your negative thoughts, you will be able to put them aside and avoid relapsing into them.

Seeing how you can modify these deeply rooted negative beliefs is an essential change in your life. It will have a very positive effect on you and can lead to an improvement in your self-esteem. In addition, knowing how to manage negative thoughts means that anxiety is reduced, which is a protective measure since the relationship between stress and other psychological problems is very common. In particular, anxiety and depression go hand in hand.

Remember that you can put aside those thoughts that generate discomfort and influence your mood and the way you face situations with four simple tricks.

  1. Identify negative thoughts
  2. Analyse and challenge these thoughts
  3. Find alternative thoughts
  4. Repeat these alternative thoughts to yourself

Sometimes, these tips are not enough because what makes you feel bad or generates constant worries is deep inside you, and you don’t feel strong enough to put them aside. In that case, the support of a professional is the push you need: in your therapist, you will find the person who makes you feel understood and guided in the process. Knowing how anxiety manifests itself is the first step to overcoming it.

At TherapyChat, you will find professionals who can advise, support and help you achieve your best version of yourself.

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