Negative Thoughts: How to Stop Them

How To Stop Negative Thinking With These 5 Techniques

Negative Thoughts: How to Stop Them

Overcoming negative thinking is one of the major struggles you might encounter when working with the Law of Attraction.

After all, even as you’re harnessing all these amazing new tools that help you to think positively and look towards a brighter future, you’re still fighting unhelpful limiting beliefs from earlier in life; many of these beliefs can creep in unbidden and start to disrupt your image of a better life.

Thankfully, however, there are many practical things you can do to help yourself stop negative thinking patterns. Here are five of the most effective ways to stop negative thinking.

1. Thought Stopping

When you notice that negative thoughts or images are starting to enter your mind, try actually say “stop!” to yourself.

If you’re alone, you can try saying this out loud, but it can also be very effective when just said in your head.

If you prefer, you can use language that’s stronger than “stop” (such as “Get my head!” or even something a bit more colorful).

For people who aren’t as moved by words, images can be more powerful. The classic example is a bright red stop sign that you picture in your mind’s eye when intrusive thoughts begin to appear.

There are also some more direct approaches to thought-stopping. For example, you can try the old tactic of splashing your face with water or just change the direction of your thinking. Some people to count backward from 100 to 1.

2. Positive Affirmations

Positive affirmations can be used in a couple of different ways. First, they might be deployed in the same way as thought-stopping techniques. In other words, you might say an affirmation as soon as you feel a negative thought coming your way.

For example, if you’re working to find a new partner using the Law of Attraction and catch yourself thinking that you don’t deserve love, you can say “I am a valuable, lovable person and I will find a great relationship.”

Secondly, however, saying affirmations on a daily basis start to reshape your thinking, making them a powerful tool even when you’re already in a good mood. Design your affirmations carefully, and try making eye contact with yourself in the mirror when you recite them.

3. Enforcing Boundaries

If you’ve lived with negative thinking for a very long time, you might think it’s unrealistic to just suddenly expect yourself to change your approach.

In this situation, even affirmations and thought-stopping techniques may seem to merely delay negative thinking for a later date.

If this sounds familiar, you might want to spend a couple of weeks at least enforcing boundaries when it comes to negative thinking.

The idea here is that you choose a fixed, limited period for allowing your mind to entertain negative thoughts and that you commit to forcibly stopping or fighting them at every other time of the week.

When you’re reassured that you will have time to consider these thoughts, you may find they seem less powerful and have less potential to dominate your mind. Further, many people find that they can’t even think of anything when they come to their scheduled time to allow contemplation of negative thoughts and that this actually helps them to break their pattern.

4. Writing and Destroying

If your negative thoughts are linked to a specific strong emotion fear, anger, or jealousy, try letting them all out in writing. Use a pen and paper, and really express all of that pent-up negativity.

You can then choose a way of destroying this paper, symbolizing your commitment to moving on. For example, you could tear it up, crush it into a ball, burn it, or scribble over it.

Those who aren’t as keen on using words to express themselves, artistic endeavors can have a similar impact.

For example, you could sculpt a representation of your negativity, or paint it, and then destroy that (or change its shape).

The point of this technique is just to get some kind of physical representation of your negativity so that you can banish it in some satisfying symbolic way.

5. “Just Because”

You can also try to reason with yourself when you feel you are starting to spiral into negativity.

This technique involves finding a sentence you can recite to yourself in order to acknowledge that you have power over your bodily responses and to increase that power over time.

Practice this approach by taking a deep, cleansing breath and say something “Just because I’ve had some bad relationships doesn’t mean I have to do this to my body” or “Just because I’ve struggled to find a good job doesn’t mean I will never find one in the future.”

After your chosen sentence, say “Now relax” (letting the word “relax” be your cue to exhale, letting out tension and negativity).

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7 Powerful Ways to Stop Negative Thinking

Negative Thoughts: How to Stop Them

Last Updated on January 12, 2021

Negative thinking is a much more common problem than you may think. Many of us experience them every single day. That’s why it’s important to understand what they are, where they come from, and how you can overcome them.

Negative thoughts are the thoughts we have that essentially cause us to adopt pessimistic points of view. Negative thinking leads us to focus on the worst aspects or possible outcomes of a given situation instead of the positives. This negative thinking can cause us to experience a great deal of stress, worry, and sadness as long as we continue to adopt these thought patterns.

Here are a few examples of some common negative thought patterns:

I won’t attempt to chase my dreams because I know only a few people make it. I’m not going to be one of those people, so why even bother trying.

I would love to take on a new role at work, but will I even be able to handle that? If I try and fail, people may only see me as a failure. This could make my life at work more difficult and less satisfying.

I wish I could give presentations that person. But I’m just not good at public speaking and it scares me. I guess it just wasn’t written in the stars for me. It’s not one of my skills and I can’t get over my fear.

If you can relate to any of these thoughts, then this article might just be exactly what you’re looking for.

Negative thinking is mainly a result of fear.

Nobody s feeling afraid, and very few of us enjoy facing our fears. But fear is the source of our negative thinking. Fear paralyzes us and prevents us from pursuing the things we truly want in life as we attempt to avoid negative outcomes.

For many, a big one is fear of the unknown. When we don’t know, or we can’t predict an outcome of a situation, we choose to play it safe. This often leads us to adopt a pessimistic point of view.

Though this negative thinking may allow us to avoid our fears, such as preventing us from ever having to get up on a stage and give a speech, it will prevent us from reaching our full potential. In the long-term, this often leads to greater dissatisfaction and more regret than adopting a more optimistic point of view and taking a risk pursuing more positive thoughts.

This is why it’s so important to become aware of what scares us and prevent it from negatively impacting our minds in this manner.

So, are there any common negative thoughts people have? This is a difficult concept because each and every one of us is unique. This means one situation that may cause an individual to engage in negative thinking may actually trigger a different person to adopt a positive thought approach.

For example, consider we have two people. One has spent their entire life training to be an athlete and never studied a day in their life, while the other individual has spent their entire life studying and has never once exercised.

If we were to have these two compete in an athletic event, who do you think would be more ly to adopt a positive pattern of thinking? wise, if we were to have these two compete in a trivia event, who might then be more ly to adopt a positive thought pattern?

My point here is that what causes negative thinking in anybody is subjective. It’s going to vary.

That being said, there are some common fears, so here are some of the most common negative thoughts:

I’m not good enough to achieve that goal so I guess there’s no point in even trying. Besides, if I try and fail then people might think I’m a failure.

I couldn’t possibly be as good as him/her at that, they’re so naturally talented. Even if I worked hard I won’t get that good. Unfortunately, I don’t have what it takes.

I wish I was as good looking as those movie stars and models. Then people would me and I would be super popular.

How to Stop Negative Thinking

Finding ways to challenge negative thinking isn’t easy, nor is it simple. It takes careful planning, patience, and a good amount of effort to truly master your mindset. However, finding ways that enable you to overcome your negative thinking is truly satisfying.

Funnily enough, as we attempt to overcome our negative thought patterns, negative thinking itself can impede our progress. Again, we need to be patient and retain a positive mindset. Life developing any skill, this will take time and practice.

The first step to overcoming negative thinking is understanding your thoughts, what triggers negative thinking for you — Is it a person, a place, a certain experience? Take note of them. These insights will allow us to recognize negative thought patterns in our lives.

The next step is to begin establishing a plan that will help you to combat your negative thinking in these circumstances. Once you’ve created a plan that you think will work for you, it’s time to try it out.

Then, it’ll just be an ongoing process of tweaking this plan as you move forward to figure out which strategies best help you overcome your negative thinking.

Here’re 7 powerful ways you should start trying:

1. Don’t Try to Stop Your Negative Thoughts Altogether

I’m sure you’ve heard the saying that what you focus on becomes your reality. This is the idea behind my next point.

If you spend most of your time thinking about how to stop your negative thoughts all the time, what do you think your focus will be on? Your thoughts will always be on your negative thoughts of course! This will only increase your anxiety and make you feel worse.

The more you focus on your negative thinking, the more ly it is to have an influence on you and your daily functioning. Your goal, thus, shouldn’t be to eliminate your negative thoughts completely, but to be able to recognize them more efficiently so that you can combat them when they do arise!

Simply saying you won’t ever have a negative thought won’t help you overcome your negative thinking. It can only ever serve you as a short-term strategy. This is because regardless of how hard you try, you are at some point going to have negative thoughts. And if you haven’t taken the time to develop your systems for overcoming that negative thinking, then it will begin to take over you.

2. Understand Your Thinking Styles

If you can understand your thoughts, it’s possible to begin controlling the outcomes that they are having on you.

So take a moment to assess how you think right now. Do you tend to be optimistic or do you tend to adopt a more negative point of view? Do you approach situations positively or negatively? These are the types of questions you can ask yourself to help shine some light on your thinking styles.

If you’ve determined that you’ve got a negative approach to your thinking style, think about why that might be. Do you tend to adopt negative thoughts in certain situations over others? Is there a particular event, situation, person, or place that triggers negative thinking for you consistently?

Once you’ve identified the source of your negative thinking, the next step is to begin putting a plan in place to tackle the issue!

3. Challenge Your Negative Thoughts

After you’ve identified your common negative thoughts, try to find ways that you can begin to challenge them.

Ask yourself whether the thoughts you’re having are realistic. Are they true depictions of the situation? Or, are your fears and negative approaches causing your negative thoughts to be exaggerated?

Would you support the thought if someone else had it? For example, if your closest friend said that they would never be good enough to get that next promotion, would you support that thinking? Or, would you step in and remind them how great they are?

Start using these strategies for your own thinking as well. Don’t give your negative thoughts a free-pass.

4. Release Your Judgment

It’s just the reality of being a human that we all make assumptions, have biases, and make judgments of others our experiences. It’s one of the foundations for phenomena stereotyping and discrimination. But this comparing of ourselves to others can also serve as a method through which we put ourselves down.

When we set goals for ourselves, we tend to look at people who have already accomplished those goals. We look and think about how much better they are than us. Why they were able to achieve that goal and why we never will be able to. These negative thoughts rush in and drag us down.

So try to let go of these types of judgments where you compare yourself to others. You’ll feel free when you finally achieve this.

The best way I’ve found to do this is to begin reflecting more consciously on your thinking. Recognize where this negative thinking stems from within you, what stereotypes, assumptions, and biases you are allowing to generate these negative thoughts in your life. Then find ways to alter this line of thinking.

5. Learn How to Cope with Criticism

Though there is absolutely nothing wrong with standing up and defending yourself in certain situations, we can all work on being better receivers of criticisms, especially when these are serving constructive purposes.

Lots of negative thinking can occur when someone criticises us. We begin to focus only on the negative things they said. We make up reasons as to why we aren’t good enough. This is something that can easily be avoided by learning how to cope with criticism.

One of the ways that I have been able to do this is by looking at criticisms as opportunities rather than shortcomings. If someone says my writing lacks emotion, that doesn’t mean I’m a bad writer, it simply means I need to focus on this aspect of my writing to further develop it. This criticism has provided me with the opportunity to become a better writer.

If you want some tips on how to do this, check out this article: Why a Criticism Is Better Than a Compliment

6. Focus on Your Strengths

I’m sure if you reflect for a moment on the comments you remember people making about you, the majority are negative. This is because as humans, we tend to focus on the negatives and overlook the positives in our life. We dwell on our mistakes and shortcomings while brushing aside our successes and positive traits.

So try to shift your focus. This can go a long way to helping you overcome your negative thinking. The more you shift the focus of your mentality to positive things in your life, the easier it is going to be for you to think and act positively!

Try writing out a few positive things about yourself right now as an exercise. Then next time when you find yourself thinking negatively about yourself, either pull these positive statements out or write out a few new ones!

If you think that you might need some help with that, take a look at this article: How to Become Successful 10 Times Easier: Don’t Focus on Improving Your Faults

7. Seek Professional Support When Needed

The final thing I will mention about negative thinking is that you should never, at any point, feel the need to take it on all by yourself.

If your negative thinking at any point becomes overwhelming or begins to interfere with your daily activities, recognize that you may need help to conquer it. Don’t hesitate to reach out for support if you ever feel you need it. There are tons of people who are willing and eager to help you.

These supports change lives. So if you feel that you might benefit from them, make sure you take advantage of them!

Final Thoughts

Negative thinking is nothing that anyone should be continually subjected to. You deserve to be happy.

Understanding the root of negative thinking is the first step to overcoming it. So make use of the strategies mentioned above and stop letting these thoughts hold you back from moving forward!

More on Positive Thinking

Featured photo credit: Bonnie Kittle via


How to Hit the Delete Button on Negative Thoughts How to Stop Negative Thought Patterns

Negative Thoughts: How to Stop Them

It happens to the best of us.

There you are, happily going along your ordinary day-to-day when suddenly, a thought pops into your head from nowhere: “What if I’m making a big mistake?” And then comes the ripple effect: “I have no idea what I’m doing.

Why did I say that? Why did I agree to do that? I can’t do that.”  And it goes on, sometimes replaying conversations to analyze how stupid you must have sounded or what another person really meant.

What ensues is a crippling chain reaction that, along with each ensuing negative thought, sets your mind on a deeper downward spiral towards virtual combustion, leaving you paralyzed in its wake. It’s you’ve single-handedly managed to blow up your entire world in an instant—and all in the confines of your own mind.

The Brain’s Natural Negative Bias

Chalk up those thought patterns to survival instincts and a biological sense that we aren’t going to live very long (depressing, we know). Our brain has evolved to survive, and has a bias toward threat detection, says psychiatrist Grant H. Brenner M.D., FAPA, co-founder of Neighborhood Psychiatry, in Manhattan.

Along with this constant scanning for threats, we are designed to use negative information far more than positive information to inform our world. When you think about this in the context of evolution it makes sense. Survival depends more on spotting danger than enjoying the warmth of a nice cave fire.

And it’s not just that we gravitate towards using that negative information; it even carries more weight. Negative thoughts are more powerful in our brain processing than positive ones. In fact, researchers say that we require more positive messages (at least five) for every negative one to keep things on an uplifting trajectory.

The Glitch In Our Operating System

It’s become a more maladaptive function as we’ve gotten more technologically developed and advanced. We can’t deal with things getting better, so our fight-flight systems can make us respond to one another badly,” he says.

It’s a communal glitch in our collective existence. “We lack compassion and see strangers as enemies rather than family. We think the planet is vaster and more omnipotent than it is—an illusion which will shatter badly if we aren’t thoughtful and wise,” Dr.

Brenner says.

It’s a vicious cycle too. Basically, the brain becomes trained to look for and recognize threat early—both internally and externally, which leads to greater attention to negative thoughts, re-enforcing them, and making them more frequent.

“ a car engine running in neutral, the default mode network of the brain runs an operating system that loops in more negative thoughts and memories, which go around and round diminishing the functions of the brain which could interrupt that looping,” Dr.

Brenner says.

The Impact of Negative Thoughts

The ramifications of this negative thought cloud can be detrimental. “Obsessing over a negative thought can become such a focus it can be difficult to engage with what’s happening in life,” says clinical psychologist Kristin Naragon-Gainey, Ph.D.

, associate professor of psychology in The University of Buffalo’s Department of Psychology. “This can lead people to withdraw from who they’re with and what they’re doing.” And not to mention, push other people away.

“It can be harder to enjoy things because you’re more tuned in to what could go wrong; it can create friction with other people and fuel even more stress.” Dr. Naragon-Gainey says.

Why Are Some People More Prone to Negative Thoughts?

“Having negative experiences in childhood, as well as adulthood, may strengthen, confirm, and/or create sticky expectations that the world is a negative place,” Dr. Brenner. “Such expectations can come up as negative thoughts, which are defenses against disappointment and other reactions, as well as simply accommodating to the way the world really seems to be,” Dr. Brenner says.

So, for example, someone with a negative thinking parent may internalize those ways of seeing the world and oneself. However, another person in that same situation might respond adaptively by adopting a more positive way of appraising things. From a biological standpoint, less resilient people are more ly to worry and get stuck in negative thinking, Dr. Brenner says.

How To Stop Negative Thoughts

But, the good news is, you don’t have to be stuck in a negative spiral (read that statement again so it sinks in). You can consciously work to turn that Debbie Downer mentality around. And it starts by recognizing your negative ways of thinking.

  • Imagine a stop sign literally. This can help put the brakes on the negative thought as it strikes. “This kind of visualization—of a literal diversion—can help move your attention away from negative thoughts,” Dr. Brenner says. You can also try distracting yourself—listen to music, go for a walk, imagine a positive memory, call a friend. “Switching to another task where you can get absorbed in something more efficacious helps build self-esteem and give you a realistic positive reappraisal.” he says.
  • Be curious, not self-critical. This is a way of being kind to yourself when uncomfortable thoughts come up. “Giving yourself a compassionate pause can serve as a distraction, an interruption, and a way to change the activity of brain networks,” Dr. Brenner says. Studies show, over time, compassion-based practices, such as giving yourself a positive affirmation , “I’m doing the best I can,” or “I’m being really hard on myself,” can help a great deal to change the way the brain responds to negativity by reducing self-critical thinking and anxiety.
  • Pay attention to the thought itself. Did you ever realize, the more you try not to think about something, the more you, in fact, think about it? “When people try to push negative emotions away, they unintentionally grow stronger,” Dr. Naragon-Gainey says. Studies show being mindful by honoring and accepting the thought and trying to work through it in a constructive way can help resolve the underlying issues. “Practice noticing the thought without jumping to judgement,” she says. Try to understand why thinking this way is problematic. Say things , “Is this thought accurate? Is this thought helpful?” Taking a cognitive perspective can help you cultivate more accurate and helpful ways of thinking and feeling.


7 Ways to Stop Negative Thoughts for Good & Feel Happier Each Day

Negative Thoughts: How to Stop Them

Thousands of thoughts run through your mind each day.

How many are positive? How many are negative?

With so many things going on in the world right now, it can be extremely difficult to keep negative thoughts from festering in your mind. Though wholly justified in light of recent events, concerns over your (and your family’s) physical, mental, and financial future can keep you in a perpetual state of fear.

Unfortunately, the impact of negative thoughts can go even deeper. Do you have hurtful statements, made by a teacher, relative, or bully in the past, set on repeat in your mind? Or, are you plagued with self-doubt to the point where you believe negative thoughts about yourself?

The Truth About Thoughts

What you think has a powerful effect on your life. While it’s common to trust everything you think, the reality is many thoughts can skew in a negative direction.

For example, you may incorrectly assume something about another person. Or, you may inaccurately interpret how others view you. This presents a real danger: if you think the same thoughts enough, they become your beliefs.

Negative Self-Talk

Habitual, negative self-talk trains the brain to see things pessimistically. Negative thinking can effectively rewrite your neural networks, reinforcing pathways in the brain that make it more ly you’ll continue seeing the glass as half empty.

Additionally, having negative thoughts can reduce activity in the area of the brain involved with self-control, judgment, and planning. This can lead to harmful behaviors and poor decisions.

So, how can you keep from believing every negative thought that enters your mind? These 7 strategies can help retrain your brain to think more positively and stop negative thoughts so you can have more fulfillment in life…

7 Helpful Ways to Stop Negative Thoughts So You Can Feel Happier

 1. Exterminate the ANTs

Automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) can cause your brain to release chemicals able to negatively affect every cell in your body and make you feel bad. The opposite is also true – positive, happy, hopeful thoughts release chemicals that help make you feel good.

You can disinfect your thoughts by exterminating the ANTs that steal your happiness. Whenever you feel sad, mad, nervous, or stressed, write down what you’re thinking and then challenge that ANT. When you stop believing every fearful thought you have, you can start to regain control of your life.

 2. Turn Off the News

When news channels present unsettling projections and shocking images, the fear centers of your brain may be activated. News can induce a state of FOMO (fear of missing out) that keeps you riveted to each new alarming or controversial event, which can make you feel even more on edge.

Watching news on TV or the internet can infest your mind with negative thoughts. In fact, it can increase both anxious and sad moods. Minimize your exposure to negative news by establishing time limits and stop watching TV at least an hour before you go to sleep at night.

 3. Relaxation and Meditation

Make time for yourself every day. Taking breaks for meditation and relaxation provides benefits for both your physical and mental health. Spending just 15 minutes alone, without distractions, may give you a fresh perspective.

Clearing your mind and slowing your breathing can help restore inner calm. Repeating a simple Loving Kindness Meditation “May I be safe and secure,” can increase positive thoughts and decrease negative ones.

 4. Visit a Haven

Choose a haven – a place you can imagine with all your senses. If it’s the beach, visualize the ocean, feel the sand beneath your feet, and the warm sun on your skin. Your haven can be any real or imaginary place where you feel comfortable.

Begin to envision yourself not as you currently are, but as you want to be. Spending 20 minutes a day on this refueling exercise can help banish negative thoughts from your mind.

 5. Write It Down

The process of journaling gives negative thoughts a place to live other than your brain. Once those thoughts have been expressed, they often lose their intensity and urgency, which will allow you to focus on the positive things in your life. Writing in your journal 10 minutes before you go to bed can help release the stresses of the day and put you in a restful state of mind.

 6. Give Grace

How easy is it for you to give grace to others? Okay, now how easy is it for you to give grace to yourself?

Letting yourself off the hook for past mistakes, especially common ones, can help you overcome negative thought patterns or destructive behaviors. You might find that your outlook on life is much more positive when you’re not being so hard on yourself.

 7. Nutritional Support

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Why You Need It

It’s been estimated that in the U.S. at least 1 in 5 people endure serious mood problems and at least 1 in 4 experience significant feelings of anxiousness at some point in their life. Happy Saffron Plus was developed from clinical research with three nutraceuticals for brightening mood, coping with anxious feelings, and enhancing alertness while under mental strain.

Benefits of Happy Saffron Plus

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  • Powerful support for a positive mood
  • Increased capacity for coping with anxiousness
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What’s in Happy Saffron Plus?

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 1. affron® Standardized Saffron Extract. Saffron has been the happiness spice in the Middle East for at least 2600 years. affron® is a water-extracted saffron concentrate standardized for its most active constituents. In clinical trials, this extract has improved mood and anxiousness in adults and adolescents.

 2. Longvida® Optimized Curcumin Extract. saffron, the turmeric root has been hailed as a happiness herbal in Asia for at least 2600 years.

Curcumin is the molecular complex from turmeric root that improves mood, but is very poorly absorbed from turmeric powder.

The Longvida® curcumin preparation features excellent absorption of curcumin and has worked well in clinical trials at 400 mg per day or higher.

 3. Zinc, as Glycinate. This mineral is essential for the functioning of at least 300 enzymes essential for our life processes, and for the functioning of about 2000 different human proteins. People with mood problems typically have low blood levels, and taking supplements with zinc often enhances mood. Zinc glycinate is excellently absorbed and well tolerated.

The combination of zinc with affron® saffron and Longvida® curcumin has the potential to elevate mood, perhaps even in individuals who don’t realize they have a mood problem. All three of these ingredients are documented to improve mood in controlled human clinical trials.

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4 Ways to Stop Negative Thinking

Negative Thoughts: How to Stop Them

“Humans, and our brains, have evolved such that we are capable of language, something no other mammals have,” explained McLean’s Lisa W. Coyne, PhD.

“Our ability to speak, think abstractly, and reason gives us the ability to plan, problem solve, collaborate in groups, and learn indirectly, in the absence of our direct experience.

For example, you might have learned not to touch a hot stove because your parents told you ‘Don’t touch, it’s hot!’”

Moreover, Coyne stated, “Everyone has a mind that ‘talks’ to them. We think of this as our verbal mind or our ‘advisor.’ It’s the part of you that is linked to your languaging brain, whose function is to serve as your threat detector.”

Having a threat detector or “critical voice” is a good thing. “It points out all the stuff that could be dangerous to us, including stuff that might happen in the future and all of our missteps from the past,” said Coyne, a senior clinical consultant at McLean’s Child and Adolescent OCD Institute.

“Its function is to help us to avoid making the same mistakes so that we are physically and existentially safe,” she added.

How We Experience Our Critical Voice

People “do not hear voices, per se,” Coyne explained. “But we do notice critical thoughts popping up as we go through our days.” She stated that “we have evolved to experience our thoughts as literal truths. It’s what allows us to learn indirectly by listening to what other people say, rather than only directly through our own experience.”

Our inner voice, Coyne stated, “is always on, and it’s overinclusive in its estimation of what is threatening.” These are “features, not bugs” of our critical voice, she said. “It wouldn’t be a great threat detector if you could turn it off at will, and it wouldn’t be a great threat detector if it somehow underestimated threats, right?”

Getting Stuck

Our nonstop, always cautious critical voice, Coyne said, is “an incredible ability, a boon to our survival, but also comes with a dark side.”

“People run into trouble when they get stuck listening to their mind solely, rather than being out in the world and noticing that sometimes the mind isn’t correct about what it thinks,” Coyne stated.

The critical voice, she said, can cause people to “focus solely on avoiding unwanted thoughts and to avoid situations that trigger those thoughts.” This is defined as “experiential avoidance.”

“If it’s our default for managing unwanted thoughts, it can trap us, such that we lose our focus on other, more important things in our lives,” said Coyne. “The problem? Not only does this focus on getting stuff our heads capture our attention, but it also often backfires—sometimes the more you try not to think about something, the more it sticks around.”

According to Coyne, the critical voice is a crucial part of our lives, even though sometimes it can take over our thoughts

Coyne offered a real-world example of how this works: “My mind may say something ‘Better not speak up in that meeting, people will think you are stupid, and that would be embarrassing.’ I might experience a physical reaction (my heart rate might increase). Or an emotional reaction (I’ll feel nervous).

And, of course, I’d have a cognitive reaction (should I not speak up? What’s the right thing to say so I don’t look stupid?). This is important because we also treat unpleasant or unwanted thoughts—even though they are just thoughts—as actual truths that we must avoid, or fix, or suppress, or change.”

Detaching From That Critical Voice

“Having a critical, threat-detecting mind isn’t the problem,” Coyne asserted. “Rather, it’s our response to that critical mind that can trap us.”

To avoid these, Coyne reported that some people engage with mental health professionals by using cognitive behavior therapy (CBT). “This approach will teach you skills for how to manage these types of thoughts by helping you undermine their faulty logic or overestimation of threat,” she explained.

Approaches acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT) or acceptance-based behavior therapy can also be helpful. These methods, Coyne said, “help you change your relationship to your thoughts, such that you become more skilled at noticing them mindfully and making a space for them without reacting so that you are no longer hooked by them.”

In essence, you might notice your critical mind chattering away at you, but it will no longer take up central importance it once did and leave you free to choose what direction to take in your life.

Simple Steps to Stop Negative Thoughts

While some may need to seek help from professionals, Coyne said there are “simple steps that folks might practice, helping them detach from that critical voice and build more joy and vitality and connection in their lives.”

1. Pause a Moment

If you are feeling stressed, anxious, or stuck in negative thinking patterns, PAUSE. Focus your awareness on the world around you with your five senses.

2. Notice the Difference

NOTICE the difference between being stuck in your thoughts vs. experiencing the present moment through your five senses. Notice also what you have been up to in your mind. Were you arguing with yourself? Struggling with disproving negative or critical self-evaluations? Trying to push unpleasant thoughts or images your head? Ask yourself whether this mental struggle is serving you well.

3. Label Your Thoughts

If it isn’t, see if you can step back and LABEL your thoughts as they are, rather than literal truths. For example, you might practice slowing down your thoughts and adding to them the stem “I am having the thought that ….

” Continue this practice of labeling, without attempting to soften, change, or avoid whatever thoughts you happen to be having. See if you can notice what it is to have some distance between you—the thinker—and your thoughts.

4. Choose Your Intention

Once you have PAUSED from your mental struggle, NOTICED what’s happening and how it’s been working, and LABELED your thoughts for what they are—simple, mental weather that will come and go—you are better able to CHOOSE your intention, and the next right step for you. Are you going to continue to struggle with your thoughts? Or you can choose to take a small step toward something that matters to you in your life.


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