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Negative Thinking: 32 Signs & Ways to Stop and Get Rid of Negative Thoughts

Negative thinking can ruin your life. It’s time to let a little positivity in by banishing negative thoughts and replacing them with some sunshine. 

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We all have negative thoughts; there isn’t a single person in this world that has 100% positive thoughts all the time. But negative thinking over the long term can be extremely dangerous on many levels.

Now, these thoughts are usually dramatized. They don’t accurately depict a situation, and that’s why they usually drag you down.

You get in a bad mood, you isolate yourself from other people, and sometimes you even give up something you’ve been working so hard on.

But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be like that forever. [Read: Easy steps to change your life and be happy]

Why do we have negative thoughts, and what counts as negative thinking?

Negative thoughts start to creep into our minds when we’re feeling down or low on confidence. You’re upset that your colleague got a promotion that you didn’t. Or you got dumped even though you were trying to be the best partner in the world.

But the brain actually has a natural negative bias to begin with. Yes, your default setting is to be negative! It’s your brain’s way of keeping you safe and helps you to identify threats. The problem is that the brain often misinterprets unthreatening things as dangerous.

But negative thinking is also seeing all the things you’re lacking instead of all the things you already have. Your mind tricks you into believing that you’re not enough or that something is lacking. That’s what causes your confidence to drop so low. [Read: How to be more positive and increase the quality of your life]

Negative thinking can be the biggest hindrance in your life and your endeavors. And unless you keep a check on it, you may end up feeling like a failure all your life.

The impact of negative thoughts

Negative thinking can destroy your mental health and cause you to live in a pretty dark place. When all you see is the glass half empty and never half full, you’re likely to miss opportunities to change your life for the better.

Instead, you stay where you are, unsatisfied and feeling lower and lower all the time.

Your confidence is also likely to be on the floor because with negative thinking comes negative self-talk too. You would never dream of speaking about other people in the way you speak to yourself, right?

But we talk to ourselves with very little care and attention and over time, it erodes our self-worth and self-confidence in a big way. [Read: How to be positive: Stop the downturn and find the silver lining!]

Why are some people more prone to negative thoughts?

We’re all prone to negative thinking occasionally because, as we’ve already stated, it’s the brain’s default setting. Yet, some people are more prone to sticking with a negative mindset than others.

If you’re unsatisfied with your life, it’s easy to develop a constantly negative mindset. And if you struggle with mental health issues and often feel anxious and stressed, negative thinking is likely to be a very strong side effect, or even cause.

If you have negative people around you, you’re also more likely to have your own negative thoughts.

While nobody is immune to negativity, it’s something that can certainly be a consequence of your surroundings or situation. [Read: Self-concept – How we create and develop it to control our happiness]

Signs of negative thinking

It’s normal to have a bad day every now and then; we can’t always control what happens to us. But what separates a bad day from the habit of thinking negatively?

Here are some signs of negative thinking to look for:

1. You complain more than you are grateful

One of the reasons you may have to learn how to stop thinking negatively is because there’s no more space to be grateful in your life.

You’re so focused on your negative perspective that all you do is complain – about your job, friends, social media, everything. The people around you are probably drained as you keep complaining. [Read: How to be grateful: 20 authentic ways to appreciate and express it]

2. You overthink

Even before something happens or even when there’s no evidence to suggest that your worst fears are real, you overthink anyway.

You think your partner doesn’t love you because they failed to call you one time, or you think you’ll get fired because your boss didn’t give you positive feedback.

This kind of mindset isn’t just ruining your confidence, but your life as a whole. [Read: How to stop overthinking: Secrets to go from overthinker to relaxer]

3. You dwell on the past

Negative thinking doesn’t allow you to live in the present moment. Instead, you’ll be too focused on the past or too obsessed with the future.

This prevents you from being happy simply because the past has a particular hold on you that you can’t let go of. This is one of the signs that you have a habit of thinking negatively. [Read: How to let go of the past and be excited by the future]

4. You assume the worst

When something happens, do you assume the worst case scenario immediately? Do you automatically assume your partner will disappoint you, break your heart, or cheat on you?

Do you think about all of these things happening during your very first date? It’s clear that you’re letting negative thinking ruin your life.

Even before you get to know someone properly, you’ve already judged them right off the bat. Not only is this unfair to every person you meet, but you’ll be incapable of maintaining friendships and relationships.

5. You hate social media

If there’s anything that triggers your negative thinking, it’s social media. When you constantly see your friends traveling, getting married, and earning promotions, it makes you detest your life further. You wonder why everyone has their lives together but you.

It never even crossed your mind that social media is full of highlight reels, and nobody ever posts their flaws and insecurities. [Read: Social media and relationships: The good, the bad, & the ugly]

How to stop having recurring negative thoughts that drag you down

Changing your entire way of thinking and your perception of the world is no easy feat, and you won’t be able to stop thinking negatively overnight. We hate to say this, but to start living life with a glass-half-full approach, it’s going to take a lot of hard work.

But don’t fret, it is possible to banish those negative thoughts! Just follow these tips, and you’ll find yourself thinking more positively.

The most important thing you can do is keep these in mind whenever you find yourself thinking a negative thought, remind yourself to flip that thought into a positive one, and keep doing that until you find yourself doing it naturally! [Confession: I don’t know what to do with my life]

1. Stop presuming the worst

Your friends forget to call you when they’re meeting up, you think they’re avoiding you. Your friends forget your birthday, you think they hate you.

A friend drives past you without waving a hello because they didn’t see you, and you think they’re ignoring you. [Read: Is your negative thinking ruining your life? 20 signs and tips to cope]

Look, we know how easy it is to assume the worst, but you’ve got to stop thinking that way.

Don’t keep making negative assumptions all the time because most of the time, your worst assumptions aren’t true. Only by changing your mindset can you learn how to stop negative thinking.

2. Stop focusing on other people’s flaws

You think someone’s treating you badly. Or you think your lover doesn’t love you enough. Or you think your boss doesn’t appreciate your work as much as your colleague’s work.

Instead of whining about what you aren’t getting, put yourself in their shoes and try to understand why they behave the way they do.

People aren’t and will never be perfect, and that’s life. But you need to realize you aren’t perfect either. Instead of picking on their flaws, focus on yours instead.

Always think from the other person’s perspective and you’ll become a better person over time. [Read: Common mistakes that women make in relationships]

3. Broaden your perspective

You get the worst deals in life. You think you’re the victim. No matter what you do or how hard you try, you can never succeed in your endeavors. You’re probably thinking all these things and more, right?

Life isn’t easy. But life’s fair to the ones who are passionate about it. The people you’re comparing yourself with have a different life and path to yours. If you keep comparing, you won’t get anywhere.

If you truly believe you’re better than everyone else, you’ll get where you want to go someday. Stop playing the part of the victim and go out there and pursue your dream. [Read: How to truly be successful in life]

4. Let yourself depend on others

Are you someone who doubts everyone? If you feel like you can’t depend on anyone, you’re a perfectionist or you’re focused on the past.

No matter how much you’ve been let down in the past, history isn’t going to repeat itself. Stop thinking that you can’t trust anyone and change your approach instead.

People aren’t always out to hurt you. [Read: How to love yourself and have a better life]

5. Manage your expectations

You may not realize this, but you may think the world revolves around you, and you feel dejected when others don’t treat you the way you want them to treat you.

But you have to stop putting people on a pedestal as they will never reach your standards of perfection. Your loved ones are human, and so are you.

They’re allowed to be flawed and imperfect. If you constantly depend on people for all your successes, you’re bound to feel negative when people don’t go out of their way to help you.

In other words, you are literally breaking your own heart because of your expectations. [Read: 20 healthy expectations in a relationship that define a good love life]

6. Learn to accept failure

Failure will always be difficult to accept. But that doesn’t mean you should never grow to be capable of accepting failure. People who don’t accept defeat will also never succeed.

Avoid bringing luck into the equation of life, or you’ll always find yourself thinking negatively about everyone who accomplishes something you don’t.

You’ll always find yourself overwhelmed with envy and jealousy because you can’t accept any kind of failure. If you want to learn how to stop negative thinking, learn to accept you won’t always succeed. [Read: Feeling like a failure? How to find your will & change your mindset]

7. Stop dwelling on bad memories

You keep count of all the negative things that happen to you. But you never remember the good things in your life.

Life is full of bittersweet moments. We promise that even if your life is full of sad and painful moments, there are also good and beautiful ones.

If you only focus on the bad ones without ever appreciating the good, you’ll completely miss out on what life is all about. Try to look at the bright side of things and enjoy the little moments of happiness that come your way.

You need to find the beauty in storms as that’s the only way you will learn how to stop negative thinking. Your bad memories will never define you unless you let them. The choice is all yours. [Read: How to be positive: Stop the downturn and find the silver lining!]

8. Be wary of your peers

If you feel negatively around people, they’ll feel negative and stressed around you too. Happy people will start to avoid you. And you’ll start to attract people who feel just like you – negative.

Do you feel like only your friends understand how depressing and unfair life is? Chances are, you’re already surrounded by negative people. After all, you are who your friends are.

Remember that you’re the combination of the five people you spend the most time around, so be very careful of your friends. If you want to stop thinking negatively, choose confident and encouraging people instead. Those should be your people. [Read: How to be nice and loved by all]

9. Watch your assumptions

You think your friends are laughing at you, never with you. If it’s true, perhaps you need new friends. But if it’s just negative paranoia, stop that.

Stop overthinking everything so much. You need to realize that you’re the only person in the way of living your best life.

The more negative your assumptions are about everything and everyone, the more likely you’ll push everyone away until nobody is left. Perhaps, you’re just trying to look for something bad all the time to convince yourself of how bad the world is to you. [Read: How to be more positive and increase the quality of your life]

10. Stop competing with everyone

Do you behave like a best friend to everyone around, but deep inside, all you do is plot ways to become “better” than them? Healthy competition is great. But secretive overzealous plotting never is.

If you constantly feel the need to compete with someone and become better than them just to feel happy about yourself, you’re living in a shallow world. It will always leave you negative, annoyed, and constantly wanting more. There is no room for any type of competition, whether it’s with your friends, family, or partner.

The only way you’re feeling threatened in some way is because your negative thinking is consuming you. The only person you should compete with is yourself, and that’s the primary way you’ll grow and become better. [Read: How to be perfect in everything you do]

11. Build your confidence

As cliche as this sounds, confidence is so important when you’re learning how to stop negative thinking. When you have particularly low self-esteem, you tend to have a negative approach to everything.

Everything, including your mindset and approach to life, highly depends on your confidence. If you don’t believe in yourself, how else are you going to believe in others?

This is why when your friend doesn’t hang out with you, you take it personally, even if they have a valid reason. Or when your partner fails to say they love you back that one time, you hold it against them for a prolonged period. [Read: How to build self-confidence: 16 ways to realize you’re worth it]

12. Write down your negative thoughts

Sometimes, when we keep our negative thoughts in our heads, everything gets so loud that the burden doubles or triples. It’s so important to have a form of release with your thoughts. Otherwise, you will always dwell on them, most especially your self-sabotaging and destructive thoughts.

Writing your thoughts down helps you see which thoughts are rational and which are irrational. When we keep our thoughts within, we always think they’re reasonable, but that’s not always the case. [Read: How to move on from a breakup without compromising your dignity]

13. Have more gratitude

Many people don’t realize this, but gratitude is far more powerful than any negative emotion combined. So if you want to learn how to stop negative thinking, start being more appreciative of the people and things around you.

Maybe you’re not where you thought you’d be compared to your friends, but at least you have a job. This simple switch in mindset can help you stop thinking negatively and focus more on what you already have around you.

You’ll be surprised at just how much you’re ignoring all because you’re focused on the wrong approach. [Read: How to show your appreciation to someone and express your gratitude]

14. Employ healthy coping mechanisms

We all have personal ways of coping with our thoughts and difficult situations. Some are healthy, whereas others are self-sabotaging. In order to stop your negative thoughts, choose healthy coping mechanisms instead.

Even if you’re tempted to get drunk, party with friends, or something equally as unhealthy, this isn’t helping your negative thoughts.

In fact, studies have shown that people who choose harmful coping mechanisms are more prone to negative thinking.

So unless you want to send yourself down a spiral of constant, never-ending negative thoughts, combat them with healthy coping mechanisms. [Read: How to stop self-destructive behavior & change your life for good]

15. Change your mindset

Your mindset is literally everything in how you live your life. A negative mindset will hold you back, but a positive mindset will encourage you to succeed in every aspect.

Instead of getting frustrated with how much work your boss puts on your desk, be excited to work hard and prove yourself worthy of a promotion. Even when you get caught in the rain, you have an opportunity to change your mindset! Just think about how calming it is to watch the rain fall.

This is easier said than done, but if you really want to learn how to stop negative thinking, you need to reprogram your mind into a more positive one. It will take a lot of practice and self-awareness, but it’s what you need to lead a more positive life. [Read: How to get your life together: Mind tricks to regain control]

16. Distract yourself

You need a distraction from your negative thoughts. More than likely, if you’re bored or have some time to just sit and do busy work, your brain is probably going a hundred miles a minute. And that can be dangerous if you’re a negative thinker.

For example, if you’re thinking about something really negative, distract yourself by counting the books on your bookshelf or turning on some music and singing or mouthing the words to it.

These will help cast aside the negative thought so you can get back to thinking reasonably. [Read: How to master self-talk and banish negativity]

17. Think of 3 positive things for every negative

This is something that you can do to balance out the negative thoughts and even replace them with something positive. This usually works best when you’re feeling down about yourself, but it can work with most negative thoughts.

For example, when you start thinking something bad about yourself, you have to force yourself to think about 3 good things about yourself for every negative thought.

So, if you mentally say your skin sucks, you can combat that thought by saying 3 things you really like about how you look.

18. Write them down and throw them out

This is a psychological way you can kind of “throw away” those negative thoughts. Keep a little notepad with you, and any time you have a bad thought about something, write down what it is, rip out the paper, and throw it away.

This can help your mind process the information, and when you visually see it being thrown away, your brain almost does the same thing with the thought, at least temporarily. It casts it away and gets rid of it for the time being. [Read: Achieving self-acceptance – 10 little steps for one big change]

19. Warm up

Literally! This has been scientifically proven to work really well. If you feel like you’re becoming negative, warm up your body in some way. Drink tea, take a hot shower, keep a heated blanket on you, etc.

Studies have shown that people who do this report much fewer negative thoughts than people who are cold. Your temperature has a link to your thought process. So, the warmer you are, the more positive you are.

20. Take responsibility for the good

Too many of us focus on our failures and beat ourselves up about them. But then we never give ourselves a pat on the back for doing good things.

When you’re always pushing the positive to the back of your mind and not acknowledging it, it makes the bad things you do seem that much worse. And this drags your whole mind into a negative state. [Read: How to stop overthinking – 11 strategies for more peace]

21. Smile, crack a joke, or tell a funny story

The funny thing about your brain is that it can be tricked. You can actually make yourself happy by smiling – even if you’re in a terrible mood. When your mind senses that you’re smiling, it says to itself, “Well, I must be happy since I’m smiling.”

The same thing goes when you tell a joke or a funny story. You remember the fun things that happened or you think of the humor in the joke and it makes you smile. [Read: 17 life secrets to smile more often, feel great, and laugh your stress away]

22. Do something relaxing

Life is stressful, and stress eats us alive and leaves us feeling drained and negative.

The best thing to get rid of negative thoughts is to do something relaxing on a regular basis. Make sure you’re getting that stress out somehow. If it’s going to the gym, reading a book, drinking a glass of wine, taking a bath, it doesn’t matter.

As long as you’re relaxing, you’ll get rid of those negative thoughts. [Read: Achieving self-acceptance – Little steps for one big change]

23. Identify your triggers

Are there certain things that make you think negatively? If you always have negative thoughts when you think about your job or a particular person, those are your triggers. Once you know your triggers, you can start to do something about them.

In this case, you can minimize your exposure to them, avoid them completely, or try to overcome them. The latter is always the best option, although usually the hardest.

24. Breathe

Never underestimate the power of your breath. It is the one thing that can ground you and help you to feel calm when you’re angry, sad, stressed, or simply feeling down. Focus only on your breathing and feel yourself inhaling and exhaling.

Breathe in through your nose for a slow count of five, pause for a couple of seconds, and then exhale through your mouth for a slow count of five.

Repeat this until you feel calm. Once you’re calm, it will be easier to think more positively. [Read: How to be present – The guide to finding your zone of calm perfection]

25. Set a time limit

Negative thoughts will always come, but they won’t stick around if you force them out. A good way to handle negative thinking is to allow the thoughts to stay for a set amount of time and then force them out of your mind. This is a form of mindset training.

So, say that you’ll allow the thought for two minutes and then after that time you distract yourself or use a positive mantra to stamp out the negative. The more you do this, the more effective it will become.

26. Change your environment

Sometimes it can be as easy as walking out of the room and into the fresh air. By doing this, you shock yourself out of the negativity and into a brighter way of thinking.

Mother Nature can certainly help give us some perspective from time to time and that can often come down to simply moving away from your current location and going somewhere else.

Again, it’s a distraction technique, but a very effective one. [Read: How to calm yourself down – Instant hacks that work like a charm]

27. Cry it out

If your negative thoughts are connected to a specific situation in life, having a good cry might be all you need to get it all out and then start to feel better.

Never underestimate the power of a good cry! However, set yourself a time limit and once it’s done, dry your eyes, brush yourself down, and get on with life. [Read: How to make yourself cry – 17 ways to fake it or let it all out]

When to seek professional help

Sometimes, no matter how many techniques we try, negative thoughts stubbornly stick around. If that’s the case and you really feel it’s affecting your life, it might be time to reach out for professional help.

There is no shame in this and in truth, it’s the bravest thing you’ll ever do. Therapy is a very effective way to help retrain the brain and in this case, can help you to reframe negative thoughts into positive ones.

Negative thinking, be gone!

It’s definitely not a piece of cake to counter your negative thoughts and turn them into more positive ones. When you’ve already made a habit of doing so, it will take a lot of hard work, effort, and consistency to stop letting your negative thoughts ruin your life.

But the good news is that all your effort will be worth it in the end.

[Read: How to stop being jealous of someone else’s success]

Hopefully, these tips on how to stop negative thinking will help turn your life around. It won’t be an easy road, but it’s a journey that’s worth the ride.

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Vinod Srinivas Serai
Vin Serai
Vin Serai is the founder of LovePanky.com, and has delved deep into the working of love and relationships for almost two decades. Having dipped his feet in almo...