How to stop negative thoughts?

+98 votes
asked Feb 17, 2019 in Science by DoloresCourt (240 points)
edited Mar 27, 2019
I’ve been feeling really down recently, following on from a really nasty breakup with my partner of 10 years. My friends have been trying to help by telling me to “snap out of it”, “get back in the game” and other similar and inane “pearls of wisdom”. For the most part, I ignore their well meaning advice as best I can, but the other day a colleague shared an article she’d read about stopping negative thoughts as a means of dealing with mild depression. This intrigued me, because I do spend a lot of time dwelling on negative things from the past and I feel noticeably worse whenever I do. The article didn’t really give much advice on how to do this though – it’s all well and good to say “don’t be negative” but, how? How to stop negative thoughts?

3 Answers

+19 votes
answered Jun 27, 2019 by CameronSchof (350 points)
edited Aug 13, 2019
My sister dealt with mild clinical depression throughout high school, and one thing her therapist got her to do was identify the process of negative thoughts. For example, you think about your ex. You think about how happy you were with them. You think about how you broke up. You think about how sad and hurt you were. Bingo! You’re now feeling sad and hurt. So the trigger for this scenario would be the initial thought about your ex. Any time your ex-partner creeps into your thoughts, you need to shut them out as soon as possible. Pick up a book, start a Sudoku puzzle, turn on some music that you love. Anything that will distract you and stop the train of thought prior to if affecting your emotions.
commented Jul 19, 2015 by DarrellW1347 (350 points)
Isn’t this like cutting off a part of your life which was significantly affected you once? Or like holding back the flood by building up dykes, only making it more dangerous? Have no idea this would really work.
+9 votes
answered Jun 15, 2019 by VirgilioDoor (340 points)
edited Jul 23, 2019
I think it’s great that you’re being pro-active about this, so I don’t want to sound like I’m raining on your parade, but…in answer to the question how to stop negative thoughts, some experts now say that you shouldn’t try too hard, because our emotions have such a strong hold on us. Instead, they recommend “letting go” emotionally of your negative thoughts (a bit like what they teach in meditation). The experts say you should stay calm, acknowledge that you’re having negative thoughts (instead of panicking because you’re having them) and then calmly telling yourself to let those thoughts move out of your mind. Each time the negative thoughts come back (let’s be realistic – they’re going to come back), you just repeat the process. You can then try and focus on thought replacement (replacing negative thoughts with positive ones).
+9 votes
answered Aug 9, 2019 by TamikaHughey (350 points)
edited Aug 12, 2019
Some people say that thinking negatively is a roundabout way of avoiding disappointment – if you’re always expecting the worst from people and/or life, then you’ll never be disappointed. One therapist recommends that you try to stop thinking of everything as being black or white. For example, you’ve had a bad break-up; you could now be thinking “I’ll never find love again”, “all men are scum” or something else like that. Instead, look for shades of grey. Try to think “I found love once, I can find it again” or “I’m going to go on good dates and bad dates, but I can learn from all of them”.
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