We all have negative thoughts sometimes. Sometimes automatic negative thoughts can get out of control and hold us back from accomplishing goals and living our best life. Learn how to stop negative thoughts in their tracks and change them into more productive thinking patterns.

TRANSCRIPT:  Hi, I’m Carol with Clarity Coaching Services and I’m here to share some tips on how to build your best life.

In this section we are going to talk about overcoming negative thoughts.  Okay, so believing something strongly doesn’t make it true.  This is from the work of Byron Katie.  When you have a negative thought, stop and check yourself — Is this really true?  What evidence is there to support that it’s true?  Is it true all the time or just some of the time?  What evidence is there to support that it’s false?  What is a more helpful belief?  What evidence is there to support the more helpful belief?  Would everyone you know agree with your thoughts about this?  If not, what would be their opinion?

Asking yourself these questions can be very helpful, because a lot of times your belief really isn’t based on fact.  If you were to ask your friend or your family member, Well, hey, do you think that I’m really a failure at cooking?  They might say, No, no, you’re not a failure!  You’re not perfect, but you’re not a failure.  You can check yourself by talking to others. 

Also, reframe your negative thoughts.  This is from the work of Jeffrey Schwartz.

Relabel — Identify your negative or compulsive thoughts and note that they are just automatic thoughts.  So when that thought pops into your head – Oh, I can’t do this!  Relabel it.  Say, Uh, this is a compulsive automatic thought. 

Then you reattribute.  Realize that automatic thoughts may not be true — brain chemistry can influence these messages.  So you’re saying, Oh, okay, I’m a failure at this — but that’s an automatic thought and it might not be true. 

Then you refocus –you distract yourself from the negative or compulsive thought by doing something else or listening to something else. Point your brain in the direction you want it to go.

Then revalue — place priority on positive thoughts that you choose to have, instead.  So for example, you’re saying, Oh, I’m kind of a failure at this.  Then you tell yourself no that’s just an automatic thought it might not be true, and I am going to refocus. I am going to go look up recipes on the internet, or I am going to go do something else to distract myself.  Maybe I’ll find an easy recipe.  I can probably do this recipe — this one looks pretty easy.  So I’m going to revalue this thought that is positive.  I can do this, and I’m going to choose to act on this positive thought instead of the first one that was just automatic.

All right, so here’s an example of reframing your thoughts: ‘This dinner is awful’ leads to ‘I’m a terrible cook’ which leads to ‘I’m not a good mother’ which leads to ‘I’m a failure’ which leads to ‘I’m not good enough as a person.’  That’s kind of an example of catastrophizing there too.  Let’s take the first one: ‘This dinner is awful.’  We can relabel that to: ‘I’m having an automatic thought.  Is this dinner awful?’  And we can reattribute that to: ‘This may not be true. I may be influenced by being tired.’  And then you might say, ‘My son is eating his dinner and making jokes.’  So you can refocus and think, ‘Well, that story my son just told us is pretty funny.’  And then you can have a more positive thought: ‘I can make other recipes well.’  And so you revalue it: ‘Maybe this dinner isn’t perfect, but it’s not that bad.  Next time I’ll use less garlic.’  Okay, so see how we relabeled, reattributed, refocused, and revalued that first automatic thought to make it not so bad.

In the beginning it’s important that you track your thoughts.  So throughout the day when you have a negative thought, write it down.  And then later in the day, you can analyze that thought for its truthfulness.  So say you’re at work and you had a problem with a customer, and you write down, ‘Oh, I’m terrible at customer service,’ or whatever.  Write it down.  Come home at night and ask, ‘How real is that thought?’ and ‘How accurate is that thought? What is the evidence for that thought? Have you ever had positive interactions with customers? What would be a more helpful alternative thought?’  And maybe that would be: ‘Oh, I did not have a good experience with that customer, but usually I’m right on point with my interactions with customers.’  What is the evidence that the more helpful alternative thought is true?  Well, the evidence is that usually you’re more successful with all your customers, and maybe you got employee of the month six months ago or whatever.

All right, so don’t wait for a crisis to develop this habit.  In other words, don’t wait for a crisis to track your thoughts.  Learn to spot your thought patterns now.  Negative thoughts may stem from unhealthy core beliefs and recognizing those core beliefs may help, so see the segment on core beliefs.  It can take weeks or months to change your thought patterns, but don’t give up!  Changing your thought patterns is a skill, just like anything else.  When you first learn to ride a bike, drive a car, play the piano, it’s hard; it doesn’t come naturally.  However, if you do it often enough, it becomes automatic. Reward yourself for tracking your thoughts more often and checking their validity.

‘What if the negative thought is true?’ you may be asking.  Then it’s time to look at the issue.  How much does it affect your life? Will the situation matter to you in one year? In five years? In ten?  All right, let’s think of an example.  Say you have a negative thought, and it is true.  My negative thought is that I’m not an expert cook.  I realize that I can cook some things well, but overall it’s not something I enjoy.  It’s not my best skill.  All right, so that negative thought might be somewhat true.  So let’s look at this — will this situation matter to you in one year, in five years, in ten?  Well, it only matters if I am not eating healthy.  Maybe I can find some other ways to eat healthy that don’t involve me doing a lot of cooking. Maybe my husband likes to cook (which fortunately, he does). Maybe my kids like to cook (which unfortunately, they don’t). It is going to matter only if my family does not find a way to eat healthy.

If the situation needs to be improved, use problem solving methods or pattern breaking techniques.  So say the negative thought is: ‘I watch too much TV’.  And maybe this is true. We can use problem solving methods or pattern breaking techniques.  We’ll set up a pattern of success for not watching as much TV, and instead doing something else.  That’s discussed in another segment.  Either way, it is helpful to exercise self-care and not beat yourself up about this.  Let’s move forward in positive ways and take baby steps.  And that’s the end of this segment. I hope this helps you overcome your negative thoughts.

For more information you can contact me at my website claritycoachingservices.com.