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Home > Wellness Resources > Health Library > Stop Negative Thoughts: Choosing a Healthier Way of Thinking
Healthy thinking can teach you to know what thoughts of yours—both helpful and not helpful—affect problems or feelings that trouble you. With practice, you can learn to use accurate thoughts that encourage you instead of negative thoughts that discourage you.
you stop negative thoughts, you may be more able to care for yourself and
handle life's challenges. You will feel better. And you may be more able to
avoid or cope with
stress, anxiety, sleep problems, unwanted weight gain, or depression.
Healthy thinking also involves
calming your mind and body. You can use one or more techniques. These may
include meditation, yoga, muscle relaxation, or guided imagery.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, also called CBT, is a therapy that is often used to help people think in a healthy way.
It focuses on thought (cognitive) and action (behavioral). Many people work with a therapist or a counselor to learn CBT. But you
also can practice healthy thinking on your own.
involves techniques that you can practice every day so that healthy thinking
comes naturally. For example: Maybe you're upset about a job review at work.
Your boss praised several things about your work. But you're feeling down
because she had one small criticism. You might even think, "I'm no good at my
job." or "She doesn't like me. I must be bad."
Focusing on only the
bad is an example of negative or distorted thinking. You can
teach yourself to watch for negative thinking. You can ask yourself how true or
helpful your thoughts were. "What did my boss say exactly?" "Were there
positive comments?" "Why do I focus only on one criticism?"
can learn to see that the harsh things you say to yourself may keep you from noticing the positive parts of your life
and work. With time and practice, you can learn to tell
yourself more accurate and helpful statements. You might say, "I've done a lot
of good work this year, and my boss noticed it. She thought there was one area
I can improve. So I'll think of some things I can do to get stronger in that
CBT combines several ways to help you change how you
Although you can use CBT on your own, it's important to
talk to your doctor or a counselor if you have
symptoms of depression or feel that your mood is
Learn to stop discouraging yourself with negative thoughts:
Learn how to use healthy thinking to prevent or treat
some health problems:
Learn how to lower your stress:
If you work with a counselor or a therapist, he or she can
coach you to do CBT methods on your own.
There is no special
license to show that a counselor has trained in CBT. You need to ask about a
counselor's knowledge of CBT.
Try to find two or three counselors
who are licensed by your state. Ask your doctor and family or close friends if
they can recommend someone. Licensed counselors may have a doctorate (a Ph.D.)
in psychology or a master's degree in social work or counseling.
You can call the counselors for a brief phone interview. Ask them if they
have training in CBT and if they use it often.
Pick the counselor
you feel most comfortable with.
For more information,
Health Tools help you make wise health decisions or take action to improve your health.
Other Works Consulted
Hart SL, Hart TA (2010). The future of cognitive behavioral interventions within behavioral medicine. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 24(4): 344–353.
Layous K et al. (2011). Delivering happiness: Translating positive psychology intervention research for treating major and minor depressive disorders. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 17(8): 675–683.
Lightsey OR, et al. (2012). Can positive thinking reduce negative affect? A test of potential mediating mechanisms. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 26(1): 71–88.
McKay M, et al. (2011). Changing patterns of limited thinking. In Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life, 4th ed., pp. 27–45. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
McKay M, et al. (2011). Coping with panic. In Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life, 4th ed., pp. 85–104. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
McKay M, et al. (2011). Uncovering automatic thoughts. In Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life, 4th ed., pp. 15–25. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
Newman CF, Beck AT (2009). Cognitive therapy. In BJ Sadock et al., eds., Kaplan and Sadock's Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 9th ed., vol 2., pp. 2857–2873. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
Current as of:
August 13, 2013
Catherine D. Serio, PhD - Behavioral Health & Sue Barton, PhD, PsyD - Behavioral Health
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