Want To Reduce Negative Thoughts? Try This Exercise To Stop Negative Thinking
On average, a person thinks at least 10,000 thoughts per day! Out of these 10,000, almost 80% of thoughts are negative and around 90% of thoughts are repetitive. Knowing the frequency of our negative thinking, what can we do to change negative thoughts to positive?
In this article, I’m going to be talking about a simple exercise to stop negative thinking. An exercise my therapist taught me when I was recovering from clinical depression.
But before I begin, let me tell you a little something about negative thoughts and why they manifest.
It is a fact that, on average, we think more negative thoughts than we think positive thoughts. Why? Therapists who practice cognitive-behavioral therapy have a term for this phenomenon – ANT or Automatic Negative Thoughts.
Let’s keep in mind that not all negative thoughts are bad, per se. Most of the time our negative thoughts are baseless and impractical. They only create imaginary scenarios in our minds that might never come true.
To break this pattern of constant negative thinking, let’s take a look at the exercise to stop negative thinking.
The “2 For 1” Exercise for Break Negative Pattern
When I was diagnosed with depression (and even before that), my mind was on a constant roll and not on a good one. My thoughts constantly swirled around negative scenarios. My mind was filled with thoughts such as:
“I’m not good enough”
“I don’t deserve love and compassion”
“I probably should be left alone”
While my mind knew that these thoughts were stemming from my symptoms of depression and how I was being treated by my bullies, it didn’t stop it from thinking these thoughts.
When I started therapy, my therapist, a very kind and patient woman, taught me exercises to work upon my negative thoughts. She told me to think two positive thoughts for every negative one. At first, I was baffled because how can I think positively when all my mind conjures up are negative thoughts?
Slowly, when I started doing this exercise regularly, I realized that I can change my thoughts without much effort. Soon, thinking positive thoughts for every negative one became a habit.
What You Need To Do
To practice this exercise, you don’t need anything more than a pen, paper, and a quiet place where you can focus on your thoughts.
This “2 For 1” exercise will help you think about positive outcomes for the future instead of negative outcomes your mind conjures up first. Using the power of positive thinking, you will be able to shift your habit of negative thinking.
Just follow these steps:
Step 1: Write It Down
On the paper, write down your negative thoughts. Don’t filter. Just write what you’re thinking or whatever negative thought your mind brings up. It is important to write down your thoughts on a paper as this activity helps you transfer (metaphorically) your thoughts from your mind to a paper.
This will help you focus on the positive thoughts when your mind is clear of the negative ones.
Step 2: Focus On It
After you’ve written your thoughts on the paper, take a pause. Focus on the feeling, the emotions your thoughts are producing. Is it hopelessness? Is it anger? Is it sadness? What is it? Once you’ve become aware of your emotion, notice where the feeling is in your body.
You can also jot down words or draw a picture you associate with the thought, feeling, and emotion.
Step 3: Notice The Thought
The next step is to recognize the thought and the physical reaction it’s bringing. Becoming aware of how the thought is making you feel is important to stop the vicious cycle of repetitive negative thinking. Sometimes, people think one negative thought after the other. By being aware of your thought, one by one, you can learn to stop and change the thought before moving on to the next.
Step 4: Question Your Thinking
As you become aware of your negative thought, ask yourself:
- How often do you think negatively, in a day?
- Can you say this thought out loud to others?
- Are you gaining something from this thinking?
- How is your negative self-talk affecting you?
Answering these questions can help you become aware of the why, what, where, and hows of the negative thought. If you can’t and won’t say a negative statement to a loved one, why do you say it to yourself?
Step 5: Think 2 For 1
The next step here is to think two positive thoughts for your one negative thought. Every time a negative thought pops up in your mind, chase it away with two positive ones. I know it will not be easy to practice immediately and your mind will fixate on the negative more but with practice, you will be able to change your habit of thinking negative first.
Keep in mind that your positive thought should be something realistic and believable. If you don’t believe in your positive statement, it will not work.
If a situation is not okay, then instead of thinking “Everything is okay”, think “With control, I can make this situation better”
Step 6: STOP!
This last step might sound a little silly but this works! When a negative thought pops up in your mind, pull up a mental “STOP” sign. While this may not sound as effective, it can help you understand that your thoughts are negative and you need to stop.
Keep In Mind A Few Things
1. The process of changing negative thoughts to positive ones is a conscious effort. With practice and consciously making an effort to change your mindset, only then you will be able to change your habit of thinking positively first.
2. Your positive thoughts need to be realistic and at least believable to yourself. If you don’t believe in your thoughts, you won’t be able to change your thinking effectively.
3. The process of changing your negative thoughts to positive is slow and gradual. Only with time, patience with yourself, and lots of effort will you be able to change your habit.
Does This Exercise Help Negative Thoughts?
I’m not the one to say that this exercise will help you banish your negative thinking. This exercise to reduce negative thoughts will only work if you believe in yourself and the power of positive thinking.
Practice this exercise for a month and see the change in your thinking process. With this exercise to stop negative thinking, you will be able to learn self-acceptance, self-awareness, find calm, and increase self-confidence.
Mahatma Gandhi said “A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.” By practicing positive self-talk, you can become an optimistic person.
Take a cue from your negative thought response, change your thinking process, and keep practicing. I hope this exercise to stop negative thinking helped you.
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Like this article? Think this exercise will help you? Tried this exercise? Let us know in the comments below!
Stay Positive! Take Care!