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Posted 04/26/2022 in Christian Mental Health Tips

How to Eliminate Negative Thinking

How to Eliminate Negative Thinking

Do you wish you could stop having negative thoughts every day? We all do. 

Negative thoughts are something no one wants, yet everyone has, and for some people, it can be debilitating. Some people actually believe everything they think, and that can be extremely harmful to their lives. 

Blindly believing your negative thoughts can shape your life in a negative way, and that should be avoided at all costs. God wants you to think good thoughts, He wants you to think thoughts that produce a good life, not a bad one (see Phil 4:8). 

So why do negative thoughts come to mind and how do we stop them? Keep reading to find out.

Why Negative Thoughts Come to Mind

There are many reasons negative thoughts come to our minds but the most common reasons are anxiety, shame, or fear.

Getting anxious about the present, feeling shame about the past, and fearing the future are the things that often cause us to think negatively. This is inevitable, it's going to happen, but we need to ensure that it does not lead to cognitive fusion.

Cognitive fusion is blending your thoughts with reality and assuming it to be the truth. 

When we allow cognitive fusion to take over, we not only believe our thoughts as fact, but we also let them influence our actions and this is how negative thoughts lead to a negative life. This needs to be stopped immediately which is why it’s important to know the type of negative thoughts we can have as well. Here are some examples:

Negative Thought Patterns Examples

While some people call these types of negative thinking patterns automatic negative thoughts or cognitive distortions, I prefer to call them NUTs.

  • “All-or-none” Thinking is when you see things as all good or all bad with no in-between.

    Example: Seeing one D minus on a report card full of A+'s, and thinking ``I'm a failure” because of the one thing you didn't do well.

  • Blaming is when you blame someone else for all of your problems.

    Example: Thinking your life is bad right now because of the way your mother raised you.

  • Emotional Reasoning is treating feelings as facts. Believing your negative feelings without ever questioning them.

    Example: Feeling fear at an interview and thinking the job would be bad because the boss seems intimidating.

  • Fortune-telling is believing bad things will happen in the future.

    Example: Not going to church because you think people will judge you for taking anti-depressants.

  • Labeling is giving a negative name to yourself or someone else. 

    Example: Thinking ‘I am ugly.’

  • Magnification or Minimization -magnifying the awfulness of unpleasant events and minimizing the value of anything positive.

    Example: Thinking it’s the end of the world because you lost your job, while minimizing the fact that you can now start the business you always wanted to start.

  • Mind Reading is assuming you know what others are thinking without asking them or checking it out.

    Example: Seeing two friends laughing after you walked away and thinking they're laughing at you.

  • Discounting Positives happens when you discard any positive evidence that may contradict your negative and/or unhelpful thinking.

    Example: When your aunt says you're beautiful and then you think they're just saying it to be nice to an ugly family member. Believing her means you’d have to stop believing yourself when you think “I’m ugly.”

These are just some examples of negative thinking, there are many more, and they can be found in this blog post.

how to stop negative thoughts pinPin ItWhat are Seven Ways to Stop Negative Thinking Patterns

While some people may need to consult a mental health professional, there are some simple actions that you can take to help you overcome negative thoughts and live the life God is calling you to live.  I invite you to try each of the below strategies. Each of the below strategies go beyond just replacing negative thinking with positive thinking. 

1. Find the value in your thoughts

Some negative thinking has value. We are not perfect, and sometimes thinking, "I'm bad at this" just means you have to get better at it. There are God-honoring messages in many of our thoughts, and it's important that we look for them before completely brushing things off. This is why scripture commands us to take every thought captive (2 Corinthians 10:4). 

Two questions can help you find the value in your thoughts:

1) What are some positive aspects, advantages, or benefits of this thought or feeling?

2)What does this thought show about me and my values that are beautiful, positive, and awesome? 

Don't let the devil keep you distracted with superficial messages from your thoughts when God wants you to dig deeper.

2. Remind yourself of God’s truth 

The biggest weapon we have against the lies of the enemy is God's truth. So when negative thoughts enter your mind, remind yourself of God's truth.

If your negative thoughts are saying you're ugly, remind yourself that you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

If your negative thoughts are saying you can't do it, remind yourself that you can do all things through Christ who gives you strength (Phil 4:13).

If your negative thoughts are saying things will turn out badly, remind yourself that all things work for the good of those that love the Lord (Romans 8:28).

Whatever lie you're dealing with, you'll find truth in God's word to counter it. You only need to look for it.

3. ‘I’m having a thought that...’

Our thoughts are not always reality or truth. Therefore, the next time you have a negative thought about yourself, separate it from reality. Replace that "I am ugly" thought with "I'm having a thought that I am ugly" and see the difference that it makes.

Keep doing this exercise and soon enough you'll realize that not all your thoughts are true. Some are just random in-the-moment thoughts that should not get a chance to shape the way you live.

4. Create Some Distance

Another great way to separate your thoughts from your beliefs is by creating distance from it. You can do this by giving your thoughts a voice, Scooby doo's voice for example.

This way your bad thoughts not only start with a laugh, but you also won't feel like you're saying it to yourself. You'll be able to separate what you thought about yourself in that moment from what you feel about yourself in general.

5. Musical Thoughts

This exercise just like the previous one will also make you laugh. It will also help you take the thought less seriously. 

For this one, bring a negative judgment to mind, for example, "I am dumb." Now, in your head, try singing those words along to your favorite tune. If you can't think of one, try singing it to the tune of Happy Birthday or Jingles Bells.

The more you do this exercise, the more you'll realize that thoughts, just like lyrics, are a made-up string of words.

6. Naming Your Stories

Negative thoughts usually occur more than once in your life, you may have thought "I'm a loser" or "I'm a failure" a few times before. When this happens, you end up making up a story in your head that that's who you really are.

One way to stop these negative stories from negatively shaping your life is by naming them. Name it 'the loser story' or 'the failure story.' While doing this you will realize that those statements are actual stories made up in your head. You will no longer immediately believe them and that is where the power lies.

7. Live in the Present Moment Not in Your Head

When negative thinking occur, it is usually because you are either live in the past or the future. You may find yourself thinking about what happened yesterday, or what might happen tomorrow.

Living in the present moment requires that you take the time to appreciate where you are, what you're doing, and who is with you. Instead of becoming caught up in the past or worrying about what will happen in the future, try to savor each moment as it passes.

As simple way to start living in the present moment, is to just pause when you notice negative thinking patterns. Next, focus your awareness on the world around you with your five sense. What do you see, hear, feel, smell and taste? Thank God for allowing you to experience the exact moment you are in.

Remember, as you practice the above exercises to stop negative thinking and defuse your negative thoughts today that God's plan for your life is good and perfect. So no matter how many negative thoughts enter your mind every day, He can help you conquer them. Trust Him, trust this process. It will all work out for your good and His glory in the end.

About the Author: 

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Corine Williams, Ph.D. is Clinical Psychologist that is currently seeing clients in the States of Maryland, New Jersey, and New York. You can find out more about her practice by visiting www.therapyforchristians.com/corinewilliams. In addition to providing individual therapy, Dr. Williams is also passionate about writing books and designing merchandise that educate, uplift, and normalize mental health subject in the Christian community. You can find out more about her at www.booksbycorine.com or by visiting her amazon profile here: https://www.amazon.com/Corine-Hyman/e/B00AWZ5FL2

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