How To Stop Negative Thoughts From Entering Your Mind

How To Stop Negative Thoughts From Entering Your Mind

We all struggle with negative thoughts from time to time. While that’s absolutely normal, it can become an alarming issue when we cannot get rid of such thoughts, when they’re persistent, overwhelming and debilitating. In the long-term, they usually lead to much more serious and painful experiences such as emotional distress, low self-esteemanxiety or depression. Maybe someone in your life is unable to successfully cope with negative thoughts. Perhaps it is an issue you face yourself. If so, you probably know what it’s like to feel stuck in your mind. Did you know that each of us has around 6 thousand thoughts per day? To put it in perspective, 95% are repetitive, and 80% are negative. Fortunately, we can all learn many skills and techniques in and outside of therapy to effectively cope and break that vicious circle. Read on to find out how to stop negative thoughts from entering your mind.

Negative Thoughts

What Are Negative Thoughts?

Let’s say you’re at work or school, giving a presentation. Everything goes seemingly smoothly, even though you’re a bit anxious. You look at your peers, and suddenly, you find yourself thinking: “They all must be thinking that I’m rubbish at this! Why can’t I ever do things the right way?”. That is what negative thoughts can look like. 

They reflect any unhelpful beliefs you might hold about: 

1) Yourself (“I’m not good enough”),

2) Others (“Nobody could ever love me”) and,

3) The world (“Life is unfair”). 

Negative thoughts come in many different forms, shapes and sizes. Some of them seem irrelevant, barely affecting your mood. Others can make you stressed out, worried or sad for a more extended period of time. Finally, there are also those recurring “sticky” thoughts, tirelessly coming back, no matter how hard you might try to push them away. They can get quite hurtful, negatively impacting your mental health and overall wellbeing. 

Negativity Bias

Did you know that all people sometimes struggle with negative thoughts? 

Throughout evolution, humans have been equipped with a survival mechanism called the negativity bias. It makes us pay more attention to the negative aspects of reality rather than the positives to keep us alive by acting as a threat detector, noticing all potential dangers. While the negativity bias ensured our ancestors’ safety in primal times, nowadays, it can get us stuck on negativity, unable to let go of it. That’s why we often tend to worry about the future, dwell on the past, or unconsciously engage in harmful self-talk. Negativity Bias

The Cycle Of Negative Thoughts

In Cognitive-Behavioural Therapy (CBT), negative thoughts are called ANTs – Automatic Negative Thoughts (or NATs, Negative Automatic Thoughts). They appear suddenly, uninvited, and make us feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately, our brains often treat those thoughts as facts, literal truths. The issue arises when we don’t question them and start to believe them, even if they’re inaccurate or false. 

That’s how we get trapped, constantly viewing ourselves, others and the world in a fixed, rigid and critical way. Attempts to eliminate that mental chatter by suppressing, avoiding or denying it are almost always fruitless. They can cause even more pain and stress. What you can learn in therapy is how to stop the impact of negative thoughts entering your mind by changing your perspective and ways of responding to such thoughts. 

Negative Thoughts - CBT Vicious Cycle

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How To Identify Your Unhelpful Negative Thoughts

All unhelpful negative thoughts have a common denominator. They depict reality in a distorted, dramatic and inaccurate way. When you notice yourself blowing things out of proportion, exclusively focusing on the negative aspects of life, or thinking statements such as “I am not good at anything”, there’s a good chance you’re experiencing unhelpful negative thoughts. You can also spot them when attempting to predict the future (“Life will always be unfair to me”) or read the minds of other people (“They all simply hate me”). It is always a good idea to educate yourself on the different types of negative thoughts – start here by finding out what thinking errors are

How To Cope With Negative Thoughts

Don’t Suppress Them:

So often, we try to solve our issues by avoiding, suppressing or getting rid of them, but that doesn’t actually work. That’s because any attempts to deliberately avoid thinking about something not only fail but make the negative thoughts pop up even more often. Try it out yourself, and don’t think of a white polar bear. Sooner or later, the thought will come up. There’s even research to back it up

Throw Them Away

Is there a “sticky” negative thought that keeps coming back? Next time it comes up, write it down on paper. Then crumple it up and throw it away. According to this 2012 Ohio University study, the method works. Even if it sounds a bit silly, this simple act carries a powerful message: “I recognise this thought and decide to reject it”. 

Surround Yourself With Positivity

We all easily pick up the habits, mannerisms, and accents of people we spend time with. The same goes for excessive negativity, worrying or complaining. Ask yourself what values you seek to embody, and then surround yourself with individuals who align with your goal and limit your time with those who don’t.

Observe Your Thoughts

Practising mindfulness helps alleviate the detrimental impact of negative thoughts. Whenever they appear, pause for a moment and remember that they’re just mental chatter, not facts. Try to visualise them as leaves floating in a stream. Imagine that you pick them up, look at them closely, put them back in the water and let them flow down. Simply let them pass. 

How To Cope With Negative Thoughts

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Tips To Replace Negative Thoughts

Be Sceptical

Let’s say that after failing an exam, you’re thinking: “I will always be a failure”. But then, you check if that’s even true. You realise that:

  • You cannot possibly know what kind of person you’ll “always” be,
  • You are a multi-faceted individual that cannot be closed into a box of “failure”
  • It’s a test you failed; it is not you who is a failure. 
  • You’ve likely successfully passed lots of tests in the past. One single event cannot define you 

Can you see the difference?

Add Context and Take Distance

Our negative thoughts are often hugely inaccurate mental shortcuts, lacking any context. Rather than thinking: “Life is unfair”, rephrase it to depict the actual reality: “Sometimes, certain things in life are fair, and at other times they’re not”. 

Taking distance and looking at your thought rather than from the thought can be highly beneficial. It can be something as simple as emphasising the origin of your negative thought. Instead of saying, “I’m stupid”, add some context to it: “Right now, I am having a thought that I’m stupid”.

Change Your Perspective

Kristin Neff, a psychologist and a self-compassion researcher, observed the difference in our reactions to our own mistakes versus the mistakes of our loved ones. We tend to hear them out, comfort them, remind them how great they are, etc. Next time you’re struggling with a negative thought, answer this question: “How would you treat a friend?”. And treat yourself with compassion.

Change Your Perspective

Cultivate Positivity

Another thing you can focus on is the positives. Did you lose a job, and you think you’re worthless? Well, that’s an opportunity to prove yourself wrong and look for an even better job. 

  • Any failure is just a stepping stone to success. 
  • Any hardship is a valuable learning experience. 
  • Almost any negative situation has a silver lining. You just need to look for it intentionally.
  • A negative past situation will have brought some positive influence at some point in the future.

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Get Help to Stop Negative Thoughts From Entering Your Mind Today

Are you struggling with negative thoughts? Are they harmful and overwhelming? Are they making you feel more anxious, angry or depressed? It’s normal to feel this way. Reaching out to a licensed specialist with this issue can positively influence your wellbeing. Our therapists have gained much experience helping clients face these issues by getting to their roots and showing techniques to cope with them effectively. 

Learn how to stop negative thoughts from entering your mind with the guidance of our therapists. Start by contacting us for a free 15-minute consultation today!

Read More:

  1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy in London and Online
  2. Anxiety Therapy in London
  3. Depression Counselling in London and Online
  4. Stress Counselling in London and Online
  5. Counselling for Low Self-esteem & Lack of Confidence
  6. What Are Thinking Errors In CBT 
  7. CBT For Anxiety: Survival Guide
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