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Mental Health Center

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Stop Negative Thoughts: Choosing a Healthier Way of Thinking - Topic Overview

What is healthy 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.

If 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.

How does CBT help you think in a healthy way?

CBT 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?"

You 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 area."

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