Specific Steps Stop Negative Thinking

The following steps can help you turn around negative thinking:

1. Understand fully what you are thinking. “Try to figure out when you are feeling stressed and what you are telling yourself,” says Jon Abramowitz, associate professor of psychology at UNC-Chapel Hill and director of the Anxiety and Stress Disorders Clinic. Ask, “What is the negative prediction?”

2. Exhaustively question your prediction. “Put the predication on trial [in your mind with] a lawyer arguing for it and a lawyer arguing against it. What is the evidence for and against your prediction?” Abramowitz asks. Part of the power of negative thoughts is that we assume they are going to come true; the worst outcome becomes a foregone conclusion.

3. Give all the evidence equal weight and look for other potential outcomes. “[Once you] consider the evidence, come up with a new prediction. Is this really a catastrophe? Come up with a more realistic way of looking at the prediction,” Abramowitz says.

4. Make this sort of ordered thinking a habit whenever overly negative thoughts arise. “When you catch yourself feeling stressed out, go back to the skill of putting your predictions on trial. Use the skill over and over again so that you develop a pattern of logic-based thinking.”

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