There is so much going on in the world that it can be hard to avoid negative thoughts. They can become engraved in stone in your subconscious. But you can get rid of negative thoughts. It takes only a commitment to persist, a good plan, and practice like a professional.
Here’s the plan (Click on any list item to go to that section):
STEP 1: Identify Your Negative Thought Patterns
Your first step is to find out what your negative thinking patterns are. You need to identify them so you can make an excellent plan to get rid of them.
Pay attention to your thoughts and record your negative thoughts in a journal every day for a week.
Every time you have a negative thought, record it.
You need to make a habit of keeping a thought journal to succeed in getting rid of negative thoughts.
Keeping a journal is the best way to gain complete insight into your thinking.
Here is a great article about the benefits of keeping a journal.
Once you have a good idea about your thinking patterns and triggers, make a list. Later, you’ll plan a tailor-made response to your negative thoughts to get rid of them.
Here is what you should have up to now:
Next, you can examine different methods and choose ones that fit your personality and make a plan to eliminate your negative thoughts.
Step 2. Choose a Strategy
Below are three strategies you can use to get rid of negative thoughts. Once you gather all of the negative things that you want to get rid of, you can tailor a strategy with one of these methods.
Strategy 1: Create a strong statement to counter your negative thoughts.
In this strategy, you are replacing your negative thought with a positive one. Then you are reinforcing the statement with a real exclamation point. Get ready with a counter comment to repeat to yourself when negative thoughts appear. For example, “I’ve got this. I can figure this out. I can do it.”
Create a companion power gesture to go with your statement.
Create one that will disrupt your negative pattern. Make it fun and crazy. When you have a negative thought, react with a fun or silly action.
Strategy 2: Reframe your situation with transformational words.
Transformational words make your emotions more intense or less intense. Use transformational words to influence your feelings and eliminate negative thoughts. Here are some examples to show how it works.
When your negative pattern is low intensity, like putting things off, for example, reframe the circumstance with high-intensity words to get going.
So if you routinely put things off, then transform your words into the more intense insulting language. Call your behavior shirking responsibility, wasting time, or slacking. Then immediately tell yourself “I’m not the type of person who ____________ (wastes time, shirks responsibility, slacks off, etc.)
You should change your physical state to a higher intensity at the same time. Stand up, shake your fist, jump, or stomp your feet.
On the other hand, if your negative pattern is high intensity, then use transformational words to reduce emotional heat.
For instance, if something is infuriating and you’re enraged, then your negative state is high-intensity. You need to reduce intensity fast!
Reduce your intensity by using words like annoyed, a little upset, displeased or irritated.
Change your posture and be more relaxed. Breathe deeply and exhale slowly.
Find other transformational words by looking for synonyms and choosing words that are less or more intense, depending on your need.
There is proper research supporting reframing as a way to change how you feel about events and situations.
Strategy 3: Give negative thoughts a story name and then recognize and dismiss them.
Labeling your negative patterns with a story name is called “Name It to Tame It.” Psychiatrist Dr. Daniel Siegal introduced this term.
Whenever you have a negative thought pattern, mentally label the story with a title.
For example, one of my recurring negative patterns is getting frustrated by making mistakes. I’ve labeled the story “The Infallible Mr. Perfect?”
So whenever I start to get frustrated by mistakes, I repeat to myself, “Ah-Ha! The Infallible Mr. Perfect.” I laugh it off, and then I say, “Everyone makes mistakes. Deal with it!”
Take this method up a notch by refocusing with a positive affirmation.
It’s best to use affirmations that identify with who you are. In my situation with mistakes, I follow with, “I’m the type of person who gets smarter from mistakes. I never let mistakes bother me”.
Once you have a strategy for responding to negative thoughts, you need to reinforce it with action.
Step 3: Choose Behaviors and Actions to Reinforce Your Strategy
Reinforcing your strategy is immediately doing something to support getting rid of the negative thought, in the case of worrying, for example. You replace the offending thinking and then reinforce that by following a checklist to eliminate your worry. For problems, there are steps to solve them. For every case, there is something productive you can do.
If your negative thinking habit is worrying, use a strategy from step 2 to to cancel the worrying.
Then, reinforce your strategy by doing this worry solving checklist.
Keep in mind, about 80% of the time, things we all worry over don’t ever happen. When they do happen, half the time, it’s not as bad as we imagined.
For some people, thinking about problems is a source of negative thoughts or aggravates negative thoughts. Here is a checklist to solve problems.
Physically Destroy Negative Thoughts
Release negative thoughts connected to strong feelings like fear, anger, or jealousy, by writing them down on paper and destroying it.
Pick a way to obliterate this paper with extreme emotional force. Destroying it will represent your commitment to move on.
For example, shred it, cut it up with scissors, burn it (safely), rip it apart forcefully, smash it into a ball, then stomp on it, or scribble over the top of it.
If you’re artistic, you can represent the negative thought in a drawing or sculpture rather than writing about it. Then destroy the drawing or sculpture (or change its shape).
This technique is powerful. It makes your pattern a tangible thing that you can destroy symbolically in a way that feels satisfying.
When I stopped smoking, I put the pack of remaining cigarettes I had into a small box. Then I performed a funeral ceremony. I haven’t smoked since then, and that was 20 years ago.
Overcome Fear of Failure
Fear of failure and doubts, in general, are common negative thoughts. However, there are proven steps you can take to reduce the effects of anxiety and gain the courage to act.
After reinforcing your strategy, you need to anchor your behavior with a boost of positive emotions.
Step 4: Anchor Your Strategy With Good Feelings
The final part of making your strategy is to anchor it. Create a secure emotional connection with a quick celebration. You will do this every time you use your approach.
Explore different kinds of quick celebrations you can do to have a great feeling instantly. Choose one that feels good and then exaggerate it.
Here are some ideas.
After choosing all of the tools you need, you can use your strategy by following a recipe.
Step 5: Use Your Strategy
Humans, most of us, have a constant dialogue with ourselves in our imaginations. Using these strategies will mold your internal dialogue into an automatic negative thought destroying mechanism.
Once you have made these strategies a habit, they will work for you from then on.
A Habit-making Recipe
This pattern is what you follow to create all of your strategies to eliminate your negative habits. It’s a way to organize your response when you have a negative thought.
[ Negative Thought Happens ]
[ Instantly Respond With Your Strategy ]
[ Reinforce Your Strategy With Immediate Action ]
[ Anchor Good Feelings ]
Here is a complete habit-making recipe for the example of habitually saying, “I can’t do this.”
Thought: “I can’t do this.”
Respond: “STOP IT!” (clench your fist) “I can do it with patience and help.”
Reinforce: Search Google and Youtube for instructions, tutorials, demonstrations, and courses on how to do it.
Anchor: Pump your fist with energy and say “YES!” “YES!” “YES!”
Finally, you’ve got to become great at using your strategies to get rid of negative thoughts. The only way to do that is to practice like a professional!
Step 6: Practice Like a Professional
When you first create a habit-making pattern, install it by practicing over and over again, exactly like professionals do. Don’t just wait until the negative thought happens.
You can also practice at the time you write in your thought journal every day.
If you’re anything like me, examples help to really understand concepts. I made these case studies for that reason.
Case Studies for Reference
Here are some hypothetical case studies for common negative thoughts.
If you’re like me, examples help to learn a concept. Here are some cases to reference.
“I don’t have enough time.”
First, I will choose the strategy of creating a strong statement to counter negative thoughts. So, here is the recipe for “I don’t have enough time.”
THOUGHT: “I don’t have enough time.”
RESPOND: “I make time to do important things!” Standup and raise my arms overhead in a victory V.
REINFORCE: [ Create a list of everything I have to do. | Arrange the list in order of most importance. | Begin working on the things in the priority order I created. | Delegate less critical tasks and tasks I don’t do well. | Schedule tasks that are important but not urgent. | Ignore unimportant tasks that aren’t urgent. ]
ANCHOR: PUMP MY FIST and say “OUTSTANDING!
“I’m not good enough.”
First, I will choose the strategy of reframing to counter negative thoughts. So, here is the recipe for “I’m not good enough.”
THOUGHT: “I’m not good enough.” (Reframe “not good enough” with “not quite there yet, but I’m getting there”)
RESPOND: “STOP IT” “I’m not quite there yet, but I’m getting there!”
REINFORCE: List 3 things I can improve by learning more about them. Find articles, books, courses, or videos on Youtube and learn something new to get better.
ANCHOR: Dance and sing a little song in a catchy melody: ”I’m getting better. I’m getting better, La la la la la. I’m getting better.”
“I’m afraid of failing and being embarrassed.”
First, I will choose the strategy of giving negative thoughts a story name to counter negative thoughts. So, here is the recipe for “I’m afraid of failing and being embarrassed.”
THOUGHT: “I’m afraid of failing and being embarrassed.”
RESPOND : (Story Name) The Scaredy Cat Is Back In Town (Then I sing “The Cat is Back In Town” to the tune of “The Boys are back in town” by the group Thin Lizzy.
REINFORCE: Create a worst-case scenario, imagine it has already happened, and then consider how I will respond. | Examine all potential outcomes and list them. | Make contingency plans for how I react to the issues.
ANCHOR: Pump my fist and say “I’m ready Freddie”. “I learn and I keep trying”.
The Final Word on Getting Rid of Negative Thoughts
There is a lot of information in this article. However, what you need to do boils down to these simple steps:
Follow these steps and redesign your life for a better tomorrow. I wish you the best in your efforts to get rid of negative thoughts like a pro!
McDuling, G. (2020). Writing Queensland – Benefits of keeping a journal (APAFT) – Informit. Writing Queensland, (238), 10. Retrieved from https://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=421972083719063;res=IELAPA
The Science of Habits. (2020). Retrieved 10 August 2020, from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/brain-wise/201904/the-science-habits
Aarts, H., & Dijksterhuis, A. (2000). Habits as knowledge structures: Automaticity in goal-directed behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 78(1), 53–63. https://doi.org/10.1037/0022-3522.214.171.124