Three Ways to Reset Negative Thoughts

We all go down unpleasant rabbit holes of thinking sometimes – here’s how to find your way out
Published December 16, 2019

Everybody has negative thoughts from time to time, and sometimes if we’re not aware of them, thinking negatively can become habitual. So how do we break those negative thought patterns?

1) Recognize the trigger

First of all, it’s important to recognize what event happened to provoke the negative thoughts you’re having, says Kingston, Ont.-based coach and consultant Lisa Sansom. “Typically, the event is just an event.” She uses an example from a time when she was travelling and her luggage didn’t show up on the carousel.

2) Acknowledge thoughts and feelings that come up

“It’s important to acknowledge that you will have thoughts and feelings about this event. Those thoughts will give rise to feelings – so if you are thinking, ‘Nothing ever goes right for me’ or ‘I was stupid not to pack extra clothes in my carry-on,’ then you will feel upset and angry at yourself. If you think, ‘Those idiots at the airline can’t ever do anything right!’ then you will be angry at the airline and might take it out on the customer service agent,” Sansom says.

3) Choose a better response

“Finally, ask yourself what is a better way to think about this, or, to evoke Brene Brown, what is a better story you can be telling yourself,” says Sansom. “You can tell yourself that the customer service agent is going to be helpful. You can tell yourself that you will learn from this and pack differently next time. You can tell yourself that you have a credit card and you can buy the essentials that you will need until your luggage shows up. You can tell yourself that really, this is a great test of your resilience and you will be stronger as a result of this little life challenge. When you choose to change your thinking, you will change how you are feeling, and you may go from upset and angry to confident and able.”

Bonus action tips for positivity

Speaker, author and coach Jeannette Paxia shares three quick, practical tips to become more positive in mere moments:

  • Smile
  • Think of something you’re grateful for
  • Focus on an accomplishment you’re proud of