by Monica Vermani C. Psych.
Try this step-by-step process for cleaning up your negative thoughts.
- Your negative thoughts and self-limiting beliefs prevent you from creating the life you want and deserve.
- You can take control of your negative thoughts and self-limiting beliefs by challenging their accuracy.
- Once you identify inaccurate negative thoughts, you can replace them with healthier and more adaptive ones.
Everything ever imagined, created, or achieved was first thought. Positive or negative thoughts inform our choices and impact our self-confidence, sense of identity, choices, relationships, and ability to connect to others and ourselves.
Everything is great when we feel good, making choices that support our happiness and lead us forward. But when our thoughts support rigid thinking and self-limiting narratives that lead to anxiety, depression, and chronic worrying, and result in a loss of faith in ourselves and our abilities, or prevent us from connecting with others, pursuing careers that hold genuine meaning for us, we need to stand up for ourselves and take control to live the life we truly want.
The good news is that when it comes to our thoughts, we can take control of our thoughts, one thought at a time.
As a clinical psychologist, I have spent my working life helping clients clean up the negative thoughts that hold them back from maintaining healthy relationships with others, achieving the goals they want for themselves, and creating the life they truly want.
Together, we work to identify and challenge the negative thoughts in their lives. We then rewrite and replace these thoughts with more accurate, supportive, and healthier ones; we reframe their views about what is possible and what their lives can be. And finally, we bring in supports and strategies to help reinforce and sustain these healthier, more adaptive positive thoughts.
When it comes to our thoughts, we have a choice: We can choose to reframe negative thinking by challenging the accuracy of our negative thoughts. We can choose to think about how we think about our lives and ourselves. And we can challenge the truth about our negative thoughts and replace those negative thoughts with positive ones.
The process is clear: Challenge, rewrite, and reframe negative thoughts and reinforce the new, healthier, and more life-affirming ones.
How to Begin
Begin by taking an inventory of your negative thoughts and beliefs:
- Make a list of your negative core beliefs and automatic thoughts.
- Consider how these thoughts and beliefs limit and restrict your choices, create obstacles to your growth, and keep you stuck in roles and situations that no longer make you happy.
- Include in your list situations where you overestimate the probability of bad things happening, when you make excuses and resist challenging yourself to try new things, connect meaningfully with people, and hold yourself back from living the life you truly want for yourself.
Once complete, you will have a list of thoughts to challenge, rewrite, and reframe your negative thoughts.
A Powerful Process
Challenge your negative thoughts. With compassion for who you are today, take a long, honest look at the thoughts and beliefs you have identified as problematic and limiting. Acknowledge where they came from. Realize that they are no longer accurate, no longer serve you, and hold you back from living the life you want.
Rewrite these thoughts. Replace inaccurate, self-limiting thoughts with more accurate, adaptive, and supportive ones about your abilities, attributes, and skill sets; you are worthy of love just the way you are, and you deserve to live an authentic, meaningful life.
Reframe. Using these new, more adaptive, and accurate thoughts, reimagine the life you want for yourself—and reinforce those thoughts by acknowledging their impact and bringing in support to help you overcome the challenges you encounter as you strive to create the life you want. Your past is in the past; the future is your imagination. So why not reframe your thoughts about your future to imagine good things coming your way?
It is important to maintain awareness around your thoughts and to pay attention to the many ways in which your thoughts—both positive and negative—impact your life. Celebrate the positive impact of the new, more supportive, and more accurate thoughts you have worked hard to bring into play.
Strive to stay connected to your feelings. Don’t dismiss or ignore negative feelings and thoughts when they arise. Instead, challenge, rewrite, and reframe the thoughts and beliefs that no longer serve you.
Remember, you can take control of your thoughts and become a more positive thinker, one thought at a time.