How to Replace Negative Thoughts with Positive ones?

No, it's not easy, it requires time and some dedication. But it is possible and it is a great help. By replacing negative thoughts with positive ones, you can greatly improve your mood and feeling of well-being. But how to do it? In this article we give you some tips to follow, designed and approved by the greatest scholars on the subject of cognitive therapy. However, first, you need to know that human beings tend to focus much more on negative thoughts than on positive ones, also because there is an area in the brain, called default mode, that stores the biggest worries, etc. This part is bigger than the one that keeps the good things. Therefore, it is this part (the one that stores the less good things) that becomes more easily active and makes us think about what worries us, scares us and so on.

However, sometimes it is rational and necessary to think about negative things to improve in certain aspects and avoid repeating mistakes. It is part of our survival system. The problem is that we abuse it, we can't easily stop doing it and we keep thinking about negative things in an irrational and exaggerated way.

Positivity is much more useful in resolving certain situations than negativity. A common example is a thought like: I always screw up .” Even though we tend to make some mistakes, we have certainly done (and are doing) things that went well where (when and how) we didn't screw it up . Therefore, this thought that is exaggerated, that is not true, makes us feel even more unhappy, anxious and depressed, without reason. Our thoughts affect our feelings and negative thoughts that are exaggerated increase the effects on (bad!) sensations. Imagine the emotional effect of the same thought if you changed it to something more precise, such as: Sometimes I screw things up. It's a slight change but it already makes a more accurate assessment of the situation and thoughts are not so full of negativity.

Therefore, what we recommend is that you try to evaluate, more precisely, the thoughts that appear in your mind – it is not easy, but try. Over time, this will make your emotional state generally more positive. Because positivity is much more useful for resolving certain situations than negativity. As such, and even though it's not easy to do, here are more tips that can help you in many moments:

Whenever you realize you're having a negative thought, check to make sure you're not exaggerating. If you are exaggerating, accept it calmly (we all do that) and then try to replace it with something more positive. Even if it means changing just one small word, as exemplified above. (If you find that you are angry, depressed, upset, or anxious, consider this a clue to help you examine your thoughts further.)

Check the accuracy of the facts that may have given rise to your thinking. Ask yourself:

  • "Are my thoughts factual or could they just be my interpretation of that reality?";
  • "How can I find out if my thoughts are really true?";
  • "Am I not reaching negative conclusions too quickly?";
  • "I've already realized that this thought I have now is about a fact. But is it always like this? Doesn't that fact change?"

Look for alternative explanations. Ask yourself:

  • "Are there other ways for me to see this situation?";
  • "What else could this mean?";
  • "If I wanted to be more positive, how would I view this situation?"

Change perspective. When you're upset you're likely to think about things in a much more negative (or extreme) way than normal. This can make negative feelings much more pronounced. Putting things into another perspective can help you reduce such extreme self-talk. Ask yourself:

  • "Is this situation as bad as I'm making it out to be?";
  • "What's the worst thing that could happen? And how likely is that?";
  • "What's the best thing that could happen?";
  • "What is most likely to happen?";
  • "Is there anything good in this situation?"

Use “goal-directed” thinking. Keep in mind that your current way of thinking may be self-defeating (i.e. it doesn't make you feel good or help you get what you want). Ask yourself:

  • “Does thinking like this help me feel good or achieve my goals?”;
  • “What can I do to solve the problem?”;
  • "Is there anything I can learn from this situation to help me do better next time?"

Carry out a cost-benefit analysis of believing in your thoughts in this way. Ask yourself: “From zero to ten (zero being nothing and ten being a lot) how much does it hurt me to think negatively?”

Write down your answers and decide if there is more to be gained by believing that this thought is more harmful than beneficial. If you have the perception that it is more harmful than beneficial, try to let the thought go or, at least, think about the possibility that it is not as true as you think.

Note: the entire concept of Mindfulness , including meditative practices, help (a lot!) to work on negative thoughts. So, stop being lazy and take better care of yourself. It will bring you much more peace and happiness. It's worth the effort. Strength!


Vanda do Nascimento is a therapist, trainer and Mindfulness instructor at the Escola de Mindfulness Essencial , founded by her in 2016. She began her career as a teacher in 1997, obtaining a degree in Education. On that same date, he also began his studies in Reiki, Meditation and Mindfulness. Later, he embarked on the path of Psychology and delved even deeper into the topic of Mindfulness, in order to continue his fight to control stress and anxiety.

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