Learning how to stop negative thoughts takes time and practice. Since negative thinking is really a habit, the first step is catching when you’re thinking negatively to begin with. Once you start to notice your negative thoughts, you can weigh them up against the evidence in order to convince yourself that they’re not really true.
It Takes Evidence To Challenge Your Negative Thoughts
You may know by now that your negative thoughts aren’t rational at all. But no matter how much you, or others, tell yourself that fact, it’s still near impossible to stop yourself from thinking them. This is why you need to go one step further and start gathering evidence that’ll convince you that your negative thoughts aren’t true.
Step By Step Guide To Challenging Your Thoughts
Step 1 – The first step is to take a broad category of negative thought. For example, you may choose to work on your negative body image, or you could choose the thought “I am unlucky”. Whatever you do, don’t work on every single one of your negative thoughts at once. It takes time to learn how to stop negative thoughts, so work on them gradually.
Step 2 – Now that you’ve got your broad category, you can start to think about all the thoughts that come under that heading. Take the negative body image example, some of your regular thoughts may be “I can’t wear tight dresses as they show off my big butt” or “everyone pays attention to my pretty best friend and not me” or “I’ll always be alone. Nobody finds me attractive”. Make a list of these thoughts on one side of a table.
Step 3 – Now it’s time to look for the evidence to support your thoughts. On the other side of the table, write down the evidence in real life that will boost that thought. For example, for the thought “I’ll always be alone. Nobody finds me attractive”, you might write that nobody has ever, in fact, told you that you were unattractive, and that there’s no logical reason for you to believe you’ll always be alone. Or that school bullies may have picked on you, but nobody who cares has mentioned anything. You can also write evidence such as “I personally don’t judge people solely on looks, so why would people judge me solely on looks?”
Do you understand how this is working? Writing out the evidence is forcing you to go through your life to see whether your thoughts actually come from something solid. A “feeling” that people think you’re unattractive isn’t enough. This is the place for cold, hard evidence. Sure, we’ve all had some negative comments or things that made us feel less than great. But when you start to write out the facts, you’ll probably realize that your thoughts are even more irrational than you first thought!
You should repeat this for every kind of negative thought that you think. You may even need to repeat it a number of time for different sets of negative thoughts, as it takes a while for your emotions to catch up with your rational brain! Over time, however, you’ll find that it is possible to know how to stop negative thoughts, and that your negative thinking “habit” actually turns into far more rational thinking.