Three Techniques for Challenging Negative Thoughts
Human beings have up to 60,000 thoughts a day. If most of these thoughts are negative, we may easily start feeling bad about ourselves and even slip into depression. After all, our thoughts affect our emotions and behaviour. The good thing is, we don’t always have to believe our thoughts! In fact, we can train our brain to think more positively.
Thoughts come and go, and don’t necessarily tell us anything about who we are. Have you heard of people who have thoughts about screaming when sitting in a church? Thoughts about doing something completely unusual are quite common. Having thoughts like this doesn’t mean you want to act on them. They are just thoughts.
In the same way, negative thoughts may pop into our heads, and we don’t need to listen to them or believe in them. We can challenge them instead. Here are three techniques to try:
The Tabletop – Think of your thought as a tabletop - tables need four legs to stand on. Try and think of four facts to prove that the thought is true. Then reverse the thought to a positive one and see if you can find more support for the opposite thought.
Befriend Yourself – What would you say to a friend who had this thought about themselves? We are often much harder on ourselves than we are to our friends. See if you can have some compassion for yourself too.
Fact or Opinion – Is your thought an objective fact (e.g. I failed a test) or is it a subjective opinion (I am a failure because I failed my test). Separate facts from opinions. Failing once does not make you a failure.
These techniques are based on the methods used by cognitive behavioural therapy. The goal is to challenge your negative thought patterns, and to create more positive ones instead. Journaling is a great way to recognise and challenge negative thought patterns, and listening to positive affirmations can help you to change those 60,000 thoughts to more positive ones!