Monday, 8 February 2016

Seven simple ways to banish negative thoughts

Most of us think negatively from time to time. For many of us these thoughts are pretty transitory, they don’t last long and only have a short term impact on our thinking. For others, though, those negative thoughts become much more intrusive and overpowering. When this happens things have gone beyond worrying, and we can worry that we're losing control of our thoughts altogether. Well, the good news is that there are steps you can take to oust these unwelcome thought-visitors, and here are a few of the most effective.

Firstly, refuse to fight with the thoughts. This sounds like a really bad idea but think of it this way. If someone had grabbed your hand and you pulled away, chances are they would just hold on tighter. Negative thoughts do the same with your mind; the more you pull away, the tighter they grip.

Plus, of course, 'try not to worry' is about as helpful as 'try not to think of a pink elephant'. The more you try, the more you think about it.

Secondly find some ways to help you deal with the thoughts now you are facing up to them. There are a few ways you can do this, experiment and see what works for you.

1. Have a worry half hour every day, when you HAVE to worry. This will be really easy at first, but after a while you'll get used to thinking those worried thoughts and realise they are not so scary after all. Thinking of them will worry you less and your anxiety levels will drop. If you start to worry outside the time you have set, just calmly tell the thoughts to come back later.

2. Write the thoughts down in a letter or diary. Look for places where you have control over at least some elements of the situation, or can do something practical to help reduce the worry. For example,  if you are worrying about money, could you keep better track of your spending, or see a debt advisor?

3. Think of ways to challenge your negative thoughts by adding the word but and a more positive thought. For example if you think 'my partner's late home, maybe they’re having an affair' the challenge could be 'my partner's late home, maybe they’re having an affair, BUT it’s more likely they’re caught in traffic'. But cancels out everything you thought before it and leaves you with the  positive interpretation. You need to work at this one at first, but it soon becomes automatic.

4. Practice affirmations. These are positive thoughts that help you disconnect from the negative ones. Choose a positive phrase or sentence (just a few words is best) that contradicts some of your most worrying thoughts, such as 'I'm a good and worthwhile person'. Find a mirror, look your reflection in the eyes and say it out loud, as if you mean it, five times every morning and five times every night. If you want to think it inside your head every time you see your own reflection during the day as well - in mirrors, shop windows etc. This isn’t an instant fix, most people say you have to persevere for two or three weeks before noticing much difference, but the more you repeat it, the quicker you'll start to believe it.

5. Put an elastic band around your wrist and snap it each time you recognise a negative thought sneaking into your mind. (Not too hard - it shouldn’t leave bruises!) This interrupts your thoughts so you can focus on creating positive responses to the situation you’re in. You can use your affirmations or the BUT technique mentioned above to create those positive responses.

6. If you are in a place where you can do so discreetly, change your position when the thoughts start: stand up if you are sitting, move around if you are standing. Focus your mind on what is happening right in that moment, instead of what might happen.

7. Make an effort to notice the good stuff that happens as well as the problems. At the end of each day think of at least one thing that went well, or that you were pleased with: it doesn’t have to be huge, simple things will do like finishing a job on time, getting a parking space, a compliment or a thank you, helping someone else, or having someone show you an act of kindness.

Let me know in the comments box which of these helps you most. And if you need a hand to put them in place, have a word with your GP, or feel free to contact me for further advice.


Author: is a professional stress management coach, specialising in working with individuals and smaller employers to minimise stress and maximise feeling in control.Debbie is has also written about helping people with IBS in the Hypnotherapy Handbook which is available from
Find out more about Debbie's services on  or phone 01977 678593

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