Illustrative image of article: How to deal with negative thoughts. Man with his head in his hands, despairing expression.

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Here's how to put one together for use with your negative thoughts

Negative thoughts can be both overwhelming and immersive if they are allowed to take up too much space in our heads. Everyone will from time to time experience having negative thoughts to a greater or lesser degree. Fortunately, it is possible to get out of negative thought spirals.

What we experience as negative thoughts is individual, but negative thoughts can be divided into some rough categories:

  • Concern thoughts
  • Catastrophic thoughts
  • Negative thoughts about what others think of you
  • Jealousy thoughts
  • Thoughts that you feel you said or did something stupid in a given situation
  • Doubts

If you walk around with negative thoughts and spend a lot of time pondering, this could affect your everyday life and quality of life. For example, you may become restless, anxious, or stay awake at night.

At the same time, it is not always so easy to put these thoughts aside, stop worrying and not criticize yourself. It takes a little effort to get out of negative thought spirals, but if you manage it, you will get better in everyday life.

You can manage to get more peace of mind.

Why do we rethink?

We have many thoughts during a day, most of them are thoughts that come and go quickly. These are thoughts about everything from having to remember to buy milk to having financial worries and the like.

Unfortunately, we often have a tendency to get caught up in negative thoughts that can turn into negative spirals. We like to ponder and rethink because we are looking for answers. The questions we ask ourselves can be of the nature:

  • Why did it happen like this?
  • What could I have done differently?
  • What should I do if…?

The only problem is that we rarely find answers to these questions. Or we do not trust the answers we give ourselves.

Yet we often believe that rethinking helps us, and continues to do so. Alternatively, we do not want to overthink, because it is perceived as something negative. Then we often try to suppress the thoughts, which leads to more overthinking.

It can be helpful to practice not always looking at the content of the thoughts. Overanalyzing one's own thought content often leads to overthinking and spirals with negative thoughts.

In the same way that we can train our fitness, we can also train our brain. We can learn to let go and relate differently to our thought content.

Take care of your mental health

Our psychologists are here for you!

When it becomes challenging to deal with difficult thoughts and feelings on your own, it can be helpful to talk to a psychologist for advice and guidance.

1. Understand how negative thoughts affect you

When we have negative thoughts, the brain perceives this as a signal that we are in some kind of danger. It responds by preparing the body for "fight or flight".

The problem is that the brain is not always able to distinguish between real danger and imagined danger.

If we go too far into the negative thoughts and the body gets ready to fight or flee, the result may be that we are not able to concentrate on anything else.

The response can cause us to feel hot, notice an increased heart rate, or feel restlessness, restlessness, or thoughts.

When the body maintains this condition over time, without us actually being in danger, this can affect us by making us tired, restless and anxious, frustrated and irritable. Being in this state drains us of energy.

2. The power of habit

Humans are addicted, even when it comes to our minds.

You could say that our actions create paths in the brain. Actions we often carry out eventually become well-trodden paths. Changing a habit requires you to take a new path. And it's harder than continuing to choose the old path.

So it is with our minds. The more we focus on negative thoughts, the easier they become.

Our brain frees up more resources for the thoughts we focus on a lot. This is how it becomes a negative circle.

Fortunately, it is possible to unlearn the old paths, and to tread new ones.

You can read more about why it is difficult to change habits in the article Self-help to change habitr. eClinic also offers several self-help programs in collaboration with Easychange.

3. When do you ponder?

To break a habit, you have to become aware of the habit.

We often go on autopilot and carry out actions without thinking about it, and so it is with thoughts.

Therefore, it is important that you start noticing it when you ponder or start having negative thoughts. Observe yourself, in what situations is it typical for you to be caught up in negative thoughts and worries?

Can you see a pattern for when these thoughts emerge? Do they show up when you are in bed at night, when you read a particular type of news, or do they show up when you compare yourself to others?

Spend some time getting to know your thoughts, are there any special topics that come up? Do you ponder things you have said or done? Are you worried about your own health? Or is it something completely different? Often we will be able to categorize thoughts of concern within a few topics, then we will have a greater understanding of the broad outlines.

If you are not completely able to notice your thoughts at first, try to keep track of your feelings. Try to notice what is going on in your head when you feel emotions such as restlessness, sadness, shame or loneliness.

Thoughts are just thoughts

One of the most important factors in dealing with difficult thoughts is to remember that thoughts are just thoughts. You do not have to take your thoughts so personally. A large proportion of the thoughts we think during a normal day are often wrong, untrue or exaggerated.

We tend to think that because we spend so much time on them, and because they create such strong emotions, then the thoughts are true.

Our thoughts are influenced by our subjective interpretation and it is influenced by previous experience and learning.

If you did not sleep the night before, it is easy to start worrying that you will not be able to sleep the next night either. These worrying thoughts can prevent you from sleeping, and they therefore become a self-fulfilling prophecy. You may even perceive that you now have trouble sleeping.

But in reality, thoughts are neither facts nor truths. They are just thoughts.

5. Know what is within your control

There are many who believe that dealing with difficult thoughts is the same as stopping having negative thoughts.

Therefore, many people try to push the thoughts away or to distract themselves so that the thoughts do not appear.

The problem with trying to force yourself to stop having negative thoughts is that it is very ineffective. It's like being asked not to think about a football. You may not think directly about football, but you think you should not think about football.

Another strategy many use is to try to discuss thoughts in death. The problem is that such a discussion with the mind will make you ponder more.

And the thoughts you have managed to push away using distractions will come back when you can not distract yourself.

Instead of doing this, many may benefit from delaying the thought.

When the thought comes to you, you can ask yourself "is this something I have to worry about now, or can I think about it later?".

If you want, you can set aside a specific time of day where you can ponder these thoughts for 5-10 minutes. You may want to add this thinking time to a time of day you know you feel obvious, but do not put it too close to your bedtime.

Another question that can help is "does it help me solve the problem of pondering this now?"

You may not be able to prevent the thoughts from appearing - but you can control is how much you focus on the thoughts when they appear.

6. Let go of negative thoughts

Exposing the negative thoughts is a technique you can use. Another technique is to accept that the thoughts come, but to let go of them by adopting a new and accepting attitude to the thoughts.

So you should not distract yourself from getting the thoughts, but you should also not give them so much focus.

You can do this by saying to yourself, “Now I'm thinking of a car accident on the way to work. It's just a thought, not a truth, and that thought I can let go of ».

Imagine for a second you were transposed into the karmic driven world of Earl. Instead of picking up the lions, you can let them slide past.

Negative thoughts become less scary when you do not pay attention to them.

By letting go of your thoughts, you will be able to shift your attention back to what you were doing. Well, then you may be a little affected by the thought, but you do not let it stop you completely.

7. Get rid of the thought process

Another problem many people are bothered with is thinking.

Thinking means that the head is filled with thoughts, where negative thoughts act as dominoes. There is still a new, negative thought coming.

Such thinking makes it difficult to concentrate on anything else.

Thinking is often about thoughts you have not finished.

There may be things you need to remember, that you have a bad conscience for something, a project you have not completed, general worries and much more.

In order to get rid of thoughts and get peace of mind, it can be useful to write down these thoughts.

Write down the things that worry and bother you, or that make you stressed.

Getting your thoughts down on paper allows you to put them down, because you do not have to worry about forgetting the things you need to remember.

In addition, it can create a distance that makes it easier to see the thoughts clearly.

When looking at the things you have written down, it can also be helpful to ask yourself some questions about how you can look at the problems differently.

  • Is there any truth in these thoughts or are they just contrived worries?
  • If a friend came to me with these problems, what would I advise them to do?
  • Are these thoughts about situations I can control, or are they beyond my control?

8. Do not be so critical of yourself

When we have a hard time, it is easy for us to criticize ourselves. This is not something that really helps us. What we really need in such situations is to be generous and show care for ourselves.

Showing care for oneself is about relating more nuanced to one's own feelings and thoughts.

While criticizing oneself can lead to stress, lower self-esteem, anxiety and depression, showing self-care will provide greater peace of mind, better self-esteem and greater self-belief.

Even though it may not feel like it while you are in the middle of a spiral of self-criticism, we all make mistakes. Everyone will experience adversity during their lifetime.

In such difficult situations, it can be difficult to avoid self-criticism, so it is important to practice.

When you become better at noticing that you are pondering, and accepting your thoughts, it will also be easier to show care and self-compassion for yourself.

Where in point 6 you learned to accept thoughts by saying to yourself that thoughts are just thoughts, you can now try to add thoughts like “It is human to have such thoughts. It's okay that I had that thought, but that does not mean the thought is true. "

For example, if you find it easy to think, "Well, I was really stupid for doing that."

If you find this difficult, try asking yourself what you would say to a friend if they referred to themselves in such a negative way.

9. Listen to yourself

In addition to changing how we think about ourselves when we have negative thoughts, it is also useful to become better at listening to ourselves.

Noticing and giving yourself more of what you need is a great way to show self-compassion.

Are you tired and tired after work? Try taking a powernap. It is easier to handle challenges when you are exhausted. Research has shown that physical activity works wonders for overthinking. You get a little free from your own head and get more into the body by being in physical activity.

Do you need some time for yourself? Take a walk, read a book, or spend time on another activity you enjoy doing.

While you should spend more time on what you feel you need, it is helpful to consider what you can spend less time on.

Take care of your mental health

Our psychologists are here for you!

When it becomes challenging to deal with difficult thoughts and feelings on your own, it can be helpful to talk to a psychologist for advice and guidance.

Some recent considerations about negative thoughts

If we are to summarize the advice in this article, we can put it this way: One of the best ways to deal with negative thoughts is to practice being indifferent to them.

By disarming the mind, you take the power from the thought content. Even if the negative thoughts appear, they will not take up much space in your head. Then you can easily put them away.

You can learn more about how you can become more indifferent to your thoughts in the points above.

If you have difficulty distinguishing between, for example, being able to postpone thoughts or just distracting yourself, it can be helpful to talk to someone who can help you. Talking to a psychologist can help you sort and get you on the right track for you.

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