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Rewiring Your Thoughts: How To Stop Negative Self-Talk

Rewiring Your Thoughts: How To Stop Negative Self-Talk

Lifestyle Wellness
By Allison Kong on 05 Jul 2024

We all know what it’s like to be our own harshest critic. Even people who seem happy and successful grapple with that inner voice of negativity that fills our heads with fear, doubt, and judgment.


Photo from Adobe Stock

Think about it: if you write down the negative things you say to yourself, it would probably look like a bully’s taunts:

"You failed again."
"You'll never be enough."
"You're not good-looking."
"You are meant to be alone."

People who value themselves often speak kindly to themselves, and their actions reflect this too. For instance, if you notice yourself biting your nails and want to stop, you might think, "Breaking this habit is hard, but I can manage it." Your inner voice might add, "I made a mistake, but I'll still pamper myself with a manicure tonight and keep trying."

However, when negative self-talk dominates, it blocks out everything positive. In the same situation, you might think, "I can't control anything. I'm a failure."


So what happens when these negative thoughts dominate your life? Here’s what constant negative self-talk looks like, how it affects your mental health and daily life, and how to stop the cycle of self-criticism.

8 types of negative self-talk examples

how to stop thinking negativelyPhoto from Freepik

#1 Catastrophising: I'm gonna get fired.
You mess up a little and immediately think the sky is falling. It's like tripping on an uneven surface and thinking you’ll lose your job over it.

#2 Personalising: Everything is my fault.
When things go wrong, you blame yourself, even when it’s a team effort or out of your control. You think you’re the reason a project failed, ignoring other factors like bad planning.

#3 'Should' Statements: I should be better.
You create strict rules for yourself that are hard to meet. These 'should' statements set you up for guilt and disappointment because you can’t live up to them all the time.

#4 Overgeneralisation: I can never do anything right.
One failure makes you feel like a complete loser. You let a single mistake define you, forgetting that setbacks are just part of the journey.

#5 Filtering: This week has been awful.
You zero in on the bad stuff, ignoring the good. One bad event makes you overlook all the positive things happening around you.


#6 Polarising: It’s all or nothing.
Life’s either perfect or a disaster, no middle ground. You get stuck in this thinking, making every setback feel like the end of the world.

#7 Assuming: They must hate me.
When someone doesn’t respond the way you expect, you assume they’re thinking badly of you. You believe you know what others are thinking without any real proof, and it makes you anxious and distant.

#8 Emotional Reasoning: I feel miserable, so everything is awful.
You think that your feelings reflect reality. If you feel bad, you assume life is bad.

How to stop negative self-talk

Changing how you think isn't simple, but it's definitely worth it. You can't fix all your thoughts and habits overnight. Start small and take it step by step to stop negative thoughts and find a more balanced view.

There's no single answer that works for everyone. Try different methods to see what helps. If one doesn't work, give yourself credit for trying and move on to the next one. Just making the effort is an achievement in itself.


#1 Question your thoughts

Talk back to your inner critic. When a negative thought pops up, don't just accept it. Ask yourself questions like, "Is this really true?" or "What would I tell a friend with this thought?" This helps you see things in a more balanced way.

How to do it: Notice your negative thoughts. Then:

  • Challenge the thought: Ask if your thought comes from facts or just your feelings.
  • Change the thought: Swap the negative thought for a positive one. For example, change “I can't do this!” to "let me try again.”
  • Relax and stay mindful: Use deep breathing to calm yourself and step back from anxious thoughts.

#2 Keep a gratitude journal

Focus on the good things in your life to stop dwelling on the bad. Writing down what you're thankful for each day can make a big difference.


How to do it: Every night, write down at least three things you feel grateful for. You are more than welcome to write more; in fact, the more, the better!

#3 Practice mindfulness

Mindfulness means watching your thoughts without judging them. Sit still, focus on your breathing, and notice your thoughts without reacting.

How to do it: Try meditation and deep breathing: take 2 quick breaths in, and exhale slowly. Repeat this until you feel calmer.

Try meditating when you encounter negative thoughtsPhoto from Alina Kotliar/iStock

#4 Be kind to yourself


Treat yourself as kindly as you would a friend. If you wouldn’t criticise a friend for making a mistake, don’t criticise yourself. Accept your flaws and give yourself a break.

How to do it: Use kind words when you talk to yourself. Do things that make you feel better, like listening to music, taking a walk, or even treating yourself some comfort food.

#5 Use positive affirmations

Repeating positive phrases to yourself can change your outlook and lift your spirits. Even if you don't feel positive, saying affirmations helps over time.

How to do it: Make a list of positive affirmations like "I am enough" or "I can do this." Repeat them to yourself, especially when you feel down.


#6 Start journaling

This is different from a gratitude journal. In this journal, you write down what triggers your negative thoughts every day. Once you know your triggers, you can work on ways to deal with them.

How to do it: Write down your thoughts and feelings. Then use the questioning technique to challenge and change your negative thoughts.

#7 Reach out to supportive people

Sometimes, we need support from others to help us think positively. Surround yourself with family, friends, or colleagues who see the good in you and remind you of it. They can help you build your own positive self-view.

How to do it: Spend time with people who uplift you. Let them remind you of your strengths and positive qualities.

Having good company can lift you upPhoto from Jordan Elliott on Unsplash

#8 Talk to a professional

Sometimes, handling negative thoughts alone feels overwhelming, trust me, I know. A therapist or a counsellor can offer practical strategies backed by science to help you improve how you talk to yourself, tailored to your specific situation and needs.

How to do it: If your negative thoughts affect your life, see a mental health professional for help.

Even though we can't always control our thoughts, we can always change how we talk to ourselves. So remember to be kind to yourself, always.