How to Quiet Negative Thoughts

Earlier this month, I shared some of my favorite tips on how to be more positive. Today, I’m piggybacking on the topic and discussing how to quiet any negative thoughts that creep into our heads. Grab something to sip or munch on and come relax with me into a positive mindset ➳

Okay, we’ve learned how to be more positive. Now what about the times when our thoughts can’t seem to think positive — or straight — as if they’re being clouded and consumed by some overpowering, unexplainable cadence of negativity?

It can start with a simple, yet powerful, thought or feeling. Or perhaps with a negative, impactful statement someone just made, oftentimes worse if that someone is your inner voice. Sometimes you’ve just fallen into an enigmatic hole with no idea how to escape, or how you even got there in the first place. Then it begins to drag you down and consume your mind, until you’re feeling worried, anxious or thinking “what’s the point in fixing this? I’ll still feel terrible,” or “This is just how it is. There’s no other way out.” Walking around with your own personal black cloud raining down on you is no fun, and I know it can be hard to break away from that.

Unfortunately, as humans, it’s in our nature to participate in negative self-talk. Once we start, we have a tendency to think the same cruel thoughts over and over again. The more this happens, the stronger they grow. The stronger they grow, the harder it is to escape from them. Negativity that consumes us can quickly become toxic, holding us back from living the life we want and deserve.

When it comes to our inner thoughts, it’s important to understand that replacing our negativity with positivity isn’t about turning negative thoughts off, nor is it about turning false negative thoughts into false positive ones. Rather, our goal is to reframe any negativity in such an effective way, that they become detached from needless toxicity, and are instead focused on the positive building blocks that can be utilized in the present.

I am not here to tell you to suck it up, turn that frown upside down, move on or any of that cliche nonsense. I am here to remind you that it’s okay, I know you are trying — and to bring you some raw, useful strategies that not only have I used, but have been psychologically proven to help cope with negativity and gradually ease it out of our system.

Let’s think about how we can create new, positive paths that are easier to travel to.

Record & Review

In order to change your thinking, the first step is to clearly understand what you are thinking. When a negative thought begins to enter your mind, instead of ignoring it, withdrawing yourself from it and pushing it to the back of your head, try to not be afraid of it — pay closer attention, record it and review. I know this can be hard, because it’s never a good feeling to face something bad in the moment, but I promise it’s worth it in the long run.

The second you think negative, pause and immediately write it down. For instance: “I’m never going to get this job because I’m not good enough and don’t have enough experience.” Get the thought out of your head while it’s raw, before it’s reached its maximum. Then, quickly identify what exactly triggered the thought: “This is a new field for me and I’m feeling a bit out of my comfort zone.”

While this may be uncomfortable to do, the process of recording and reviewing your thoughts can help bring a healthy, more realistic awareness to the negativity that may exist within. Ultimately, this will help shift your mindset into a more positive one. We’re oftentimes very susceptible to overthinking and overanalyzing, leading us and/or our inner voices to turn something small into a much, much larger issue.

Question the Negativity

Along with recording and reviewing negative thoughts, try to question them by asking things like: “How vital are you? Should I take you seriously? Are you real or a facade trying to dictate who I know I am?” Many of our negative thoughts are either minuscule (not to undermine, of course), or they don’t hold any truth — especially the ones that suddenly pop up. Sure, there are some that may stem from a larger, deeper situation that you shouldn’t take lightly, but this method is great for those times when you’re focusing on one small mistake, one bad day or when you literally have no idea why you are even thinking negatively in the first place. Why let something consume you that you know shouldn’t even be there, especially if you actually want to escape it?

I like using this method as it helps me realize that just because there is one thing trying to take over me, I still have the power to lift myself up and be in control. It allows me to stay level-headed by giving me an honest reality check and fine-tuning of my thoughts. We can’t control the outcome of events, but we can control how we react to them — and that’s what this is about!

Don’t Lie to Yourself

This is probably one of the most important points I’ll share. Humans are easily prone to self-deception because we have emotional attachments to our beliefs. We begin to identify ourselves based on them, even if they’ve caused us pain before. We’ll deceive ourselves to trust something that isn’t true, whether as an easier way out of a troublesome situation, or out of fear of facing and overcoming it. When we do this, we’re denying ourselves from a true reality that we know we deserve.

Self awareness and honesty are critical keys to shutting down negative thoughts and heading toward a more positive path. It can be very easy in the heat of a negative mindset to begin mustering up a variety of reasons as to why you’re feeling desolate — even if they actually have nothing to do with it, or you know deep-down inside that the reasons aren’t true. This can be very self destructive and cause you to spiral downward into an unhealthy, oftentimes cyclical, state of mind, which you obviously don’t want.

It’s an emotional, mental and physical defense mechanism to distort the way we see and feel things, or automatically trust our inner monster — it’s an easier route, after all, not having to face your feelings, but it’s incredibly toxic. The negative thoughts can consume our minds without us even being aware of them or how false they actually are, causing us to believe what our minds are making up for ourselves. Of course, it’s good to trust one’s judgement based on experiences and knowing who we are, but if you’re in the opposite state of mind, feeling like you’ve lost yourself and not knowing who you are, it doesn’t exactly make sense to trust your own thoughts, does it? That’s when you know you need to take a step back and be honest with yourself, even if it means seeking the assistance from others. Communicating your thoughts can be a challenge, but it’s so, so important and worth it .

If something unfavorable suddenly enters your life, you aren’t able to explain why and you don’t know how to get out of it even though you want to, please try to not automatically shut down, withdraw from the situation and let the negative thoughts take over. You are greater than them and stronger than your inner voice. If you’re hurting, let yourself feel your hurt fully — it’s OK to be seen in the truth of pain in order to set your spirit onto a better path. Anxious feelings and negative thoughts are aching, I know, but they’re certainly surmountable if you’re honest with yourself and trying.

The “Just Because” Method

This technique involves coming up with a statement that you can recite to yourself when it feels like your thoughts are spiraling downward into negativity. An action like this will help you acknowledge that you have the power over your bodily responses and thoughts, and to increase this power over time.

To practice this, tell your mind something along the lines of “just because I’ve been struggling with my everyday myself, doesn’t mean I will never find myself again.” Find what’s upsetting you, then insert “just because” and “doesn’t mean.” It may not feel super effective in the moment, but the more you practice this, the more you’ll begin to believe it.

Positive Affirmations

Positive affirmations can be very beneficial, as outlined in my post on How to Be More Positive. As soon as you feel a negative thought coming your way, think positive. I know it’s easier said than done, but one positive thought that’s either specific to a problem or something completely random truly will help you get out of your own head, even if just in the moment.

For example, if you’re trying to find love while simultaneously thinking you are not good enough for it, you can say “I am a worthy, kind and loving person, and an equally worthy, kind and loving relationship will come my way in time — and I’m deserving of that.”

Practicing this method on a daily basis can help reshape your thinking, making it a powerful tool no matter what thoughts are running through your head. Be mindful of your positive affirmations and you’ll be on your way to replacing the bad with the great.

Find the Good

If you’re in a setback, I know it can be daunting and feel like everything around you is bleak and trying to take over you. To counteract this, ask yourself questions to not only help you feel better in the moment, but also grow for the future:
  • What are the positives of this situation?
  • What is one thing I can do differently — should this happen again — to have a better outcome?
  • What is one thing I can learn from this?
  • Will this matter in 5 years? 5 weeks? 5 days?

Be Grateful

Everyone has their own struggles — “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.” Even so, it’s important to take a moment and be grateful for all that we have, especially the everyday things that we may oftentimes take for granted. For me, I’m always grateful for the following:

  • Having a roof over my head
  • Access to food and water
  • Loving friends and family
  • My overall health and happiness
  • Being a self aware and honest person

When you take the time to accept the everyday good parts of your life, it can help to shut off the overpowering negativity that creeps its way in, at least in that very moment.

Live in the Moment

Speaking of moments, it’s important to live in the ones we have. When you’re trapped in a negative state of mind, and you aren’t trying to escape, you end up so consumed in thinking about something bad that happened, or you’re just waiting for something bad to happen. Shift your attention fully into the present instead. Into what is here and alive right now. What brings you undeniable joy. What you are worth — you are worth more than what your thoughts may tell you otherwise.

Try to make this a habit in order to escape the negativity of the past as well as thinking about any potential outcomes of the future (which we don’t even know!). I know this sounds a lot easier said than done, so here are a couple of ways to place yourself into a mindful, present state:

Focus on your breathing. I never thought about how much this could help until I recently started a new yoga challenge that involves a lot of breathing and being in tune with both the body and mind. Take a minute or two to take slow, deep breaths, making sure to breath with your stomach and nose. Focus only on your breaths and nothing else — it truly helps center and calm the body, and in turn the mind, especially if/when anxiety makes it seem like we’re in an exhausting race.

Take in your surroundings. Even when I’m not in a negative state of mind, I love taking a moment and turning my attention to the world around me and nothing else. Focus on it all: the people walking by and their muffled conversations, the sounds of the birds, the warmth of the sun against your skin, the sight of clouds moving across the sky.

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Along with the above, keep the following in mind to continue practicing positivity, and to gradually eliminate negativity:

  • Thinking positively is not about expecting it to happen right away. You must first accept what is happening, and then work on making the best of it.
  • Use what I’ve outlined above to motivate you rather than drag you down further. Remember that while we may not be in control of life’s events, we are always in control of the way we react to them.
  • There is no such thing as wasted effort! Even if you end up with disappointing results at first, you will also end up being stronger and more in tune with yourself. All the better for continuing that effort into bettering yourself and thoughts.
  • Slow down. Breathe. Know that you are where you are meant to be at this very moment, and this present moment and experience are vital, even if they’re painful.
  • Embrace the positive energy that begins to flow from your new decision-making, in order to rise above and beyond toxic thoughts that never belonged in your mind in the first place.

Feeling down?↡ Let’s get back up ↟

Jot down a brief sentence or two about a specific negative thought that’s been troubling you, and then use one of the methods above. Do it right now. It will be hard, but worth it.

I hope this gave you some peace of mind to help ease a troubled mind. Let me know what your favorite method is or if there’s one I didn’t share that helps you — and remember to think positive.

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9 thoughts on “How to Quiet Negative Thoughts

  1. Hey, Danah,

    This is one of the BEST articles I’ve read on how to transform from Negative Nelly to Positive Polly! Especially the “Just Because”. I feel that the whole “turn that frown upside down” statements are useless and irritating.

    Liked by 1 person

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