A negative thought refers to a thought that makes you upset. Thoughts can trigger feelings of anxiety, anger, sadness, frustration, guilt, embarrassment, irritation, jealousy, or fear. These feelings then may make you behave in unhelpful ways, such as avoidance, procrastination, or outbursts. This chain of thoughts triggering emotions triggering behaviors originates from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) theory. CBT is a psychological model of therapy that conceptualizes negative thoughts are the cause of mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression.

For example, if you have the thought, “I’m a failure,” you may feel shame, remorse, sadness and frustration. This thought may have been originally created in your mind from childhood experiences. Interactions with important figures in your life influenced the beliefs you have about yourself. These are referred to as core beliefs. You have core beliefs not only about yourself, but about others, the world, and the future.

We often say “negative”, but aversive or unwanted is a more productive way to think about these thoughts. We don’t want to have these thoughts and we often try to avoid or push them out of our minds. Unfortunately, this can have the opposite effect and make them even stronger.

How to Use Cognitive Reframing

Cognitive reframing is a technique to change aversive thoughts into more helpful, adaptive thoughts. Cognitive reframing relies on your higher-level thinking. You actively engage your mind in a dialogue about your thoughts. Here are the steps to cognitive reframing:

  1. Identify the thought.
  2. Notice what emotions and behaviors are associated with that thought.
  3. Use your wiser part of your mind to reframe the negative thought into a more helpful and compassionate thought.
  4. Notice any change to your emotional state.
  5. Practice, practice, practice with other negative thoughts so that this skill becomes easier to use.

Cognitive Reframing Example:

  • Identify the thought.
    I am unlovable.
  • Notice what emotions and behaviors are associated with that thought.
    Shame, sadness, loneliness.
  • Use your wiser part of your mind to reframe the negative thought into a more helpful and compassionate thought.
    I have friends and family who do love me. I know there are many things about myself that I love. Although I am not perfect, I am human and feel good about the person I’ve become.
  • Notice any change to your emotional state.
    Content, love, acceptance
  • Practice, practice, practice with other negative thoughts so that this skill becomes easier to use.
    I will use this every time I have a negative thought about myself. Although I may not be able to change the thought each time, it will get easier. This is important for myself.

Negative Thoughts Aren’t Real

Negative thoughts are not facts. They’re just a result of brain stuff from years of living as a human being. Your brain internalized these beliefs, but THOUGHTS ARE NOT REALITY. When we can accept negative thoughts as just byproducts of our minds, they can loosen their hold and intensity. We don’t have to act on our unwanted thoughts. We can always make choices to behave according to what’s important in our lives.

More Tips to Reduce Negative Thinking

  • Begin to be more aware of your thoughts. For example, when you have negative thoughts after receiving criticism, just start by noticing what your mind generates. Once you become aware of your thought process, you can alter the impact they have on your emotions and behaviors.
  • Respond to your thoughts with compassion. When you respond to thoughts with compassion, you may find that this loving and kinder approach reduces distressing emotions. Compassion soothes the autonomic nervous system and brings more understanding and acceptance of our current state.
  • Focus on your what’s important to you. We can’t promise that your negative thinking will go away; however, you can commit to do what matters in your life. Focus on what you can control: your actions. For example, if you have the thought, “I will fail at my new job”, do things that will align with why you choose a new job. Perhaps you value challenge, adventure, learning, or financial freedom. Engage in behaviors that will reflect these values, despite having the failure thoughts. You can always control your behaviors, despite your negative thoughts.

Negative thoughts are normal parts of human thinking. What’s important is how we respond to these thoughts. Only then will the negative thoughts have less impact on your functioning.

How To Use Cognitive Reframing

How We Can Help

If you are suffering from anxiety or depression resulting from negative thinking or if you would like to talk to someone more about how Dr. Mazzei can help you, follow these simple steps:

  1. Text today at (480) 448-6755 or e-mail us for a free consultation
  2. Or, you can book directly online with Dr. Mazzei
  3. Begin your journey towards a fulfilling and healthier life

Dr. Mazzei offers both in-person and online counseling for moms residing in Arizona, Illinois, and Nevada. Her private practice is located at 3120 N. Arizona Ave. Suite 103, Chandler, AZ.