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How To Challenge Negative Thinking And Anxiety

Updated on February 7, 2018
Seeker7 profile image

Helen is from Fife, Scotland. She was a registered nurse for many years before becoming a care manager and trainer for health workers.


Negative thinking creates negativity

"...if you realised how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought..." Peace Pilgrim Quotes, 1908-1981.

The pattern of thoughts you have on a daily basis will be mirrored in your physical life. In other words, negative thinking creates the reality of negativity.

Fear, anxiety, emotional problems, work problems, lack of success are a vicious circle that we unconsciously feed. It is a self-perpetuating cycle leading to a bleak and drab existence.

Thankfully there are ways to break this pattern and live the full and meaningful life you want.

Changing our thinking habits can literally change our life - and the first results often happen immediately
Changing our thinking habits can literally change our life - and the first results often happen immediately | Source
Our thoughts are often like yarn tied in knots, when we should be aiming to have them relaxed and smooth.
Our thoughts are often like yarn tied in knots, when we should be aiming to have them relaxed and smooth. | Source

Why do we think negative thoughts?

"...dwelling on the negative simply contributes to its power..." Shirley MacLaine, Actress.

We all have negative thoughts at one time or another - but for some it's a daily event.

In many cases the environment we lived in as kids formed our thinking and these patterns continued into adulthood. If both our family and living environment were places where we were not nurtured in a positive way, then we will think negatively about ourselves and other people.

The main outcome of not being nurtured and supported properly as a child is lack of self-esteem - one of the main roots of negative thinking and attitudes.

In other cases where people have suffered some form of verbal or physical abuse either as a child or adult, negative thinking becomes the norm. In addition physical or mental health problems can, understandably, lead to destructive thought patterns.

Your thoughts, emotions and general well-being are closely connected to one another. In order for you to be healthy both in body and mind your emotions and thoughts need to be positively focused and balanced. This last word - balance - is also very important. When you are in a negative pattern of thinking you are out of balance. In addition these thought patterns tend to exaggerate your fears, make life's challenges impossible hurdles and generally making mountains out of mole hills.

But if negative thoughts can cause so much harm, the good news is, is that the opposite is also true.

Many of the negative patterns that you are going to challenge have been there for many years in some cases a life-time. You will need to work consistently to overcome them. However, even from the very first time you start to transform your thoughts you will begin to notice a difference in your attitude and outlook. Your confidence as a person will also start to increase.

The aim is then, to firstly change our negative thinking habits into positive ones. Our emotions, attitudes and behaviour will follow suit. But that is not all. When we change our thinking a new life opens up. We no longer feel or act like a victim, but as a strong person in total control of our destiny.

Frequently the only obstacles in our way to success is our thoughts.
Frequently the only obstacles in our way to success is our thoughts. | Source

Where do we start?

So where do we start? How do we begin the transformation from negative to positive?

The first step is to stop and really think hard about what you are 'thinking'. You need to know exactly what kind of negative thoughts you have? When do they happen? What triggers them? How much anxiety is associated with them? Are there other negative emotions present such as anger, jealousy?

What needs to be understood is that our minds can't judge between negative and positive. Both types of thought are all the same to the brain. It will continue to programme and produce the repetitive patterns it is used to. Therefore we need to re-programme using positive thoughts in order that our minds start to set a new pattern for positive thinking.

When you have considered step one above and have identified the most common negative thoughts move onto the next phase. I have divided this into two sections. The first section helps with immediate action against negative thoughts intruding. The second phase should be practiced for long term changes. You can alter any of the following suggestions to make the plan more personal for you.

First Phase - Immediate Action

When a negative thought enters your mind carry out this exercise:

  • Block the negative thought immediately by saying firmly - out loud or in your head - one of the following - "stop!"; "No!"; "Leave!". Or choose a word of your own. Remember, don't get angry, that's negative. Remain calm but be firm.
  • You can also block the negative thought by using a symbol instead of a word or you can use both. For example, when I want to block a negative thought I visualise a large, red, 'X' sign being stamped on the thought to stop it. I know some people who use symbols such as a door shutting, or pulling a curtain across to block the thoughts. Again, this is personal to you so don't be afraid to use your own symbol - it may seem a bit silly at first, but if it works, who cares?
  • Be aware of any tension in your body. If you are tense then take a deep breath and relax. Don't worry if negative thoughts keep coming back, this is normal and getting rid of them takes practice.
  • When you have used your word/symbol then imagine the negative thought slowly diminish in size - you can visualise the thought as a huge black cloud shrinking in size - see the thought continue to diminish until it is a pin prick then it fades to nothing.
  • Whatever the negative thought was, replace it with the positive opposite. For example, if your negative thought was one of failing, then now visualise you winning. Try to put as much energy as you can into the picture, try and feel what the sensation of winning feels like. Hold this for as long as you can.
  • Don't be concerned if you can only manage this for a brief second or if the picture is not very clear. This will come in time with practice. It doesn't matter whether you hold the picture for a second or ten you will still be training your mind to change from negative to positive.
  • A method that many people have found useful is the use of a 'thought diary/journal'. Writing down you negative thoughts brings them into perspective. Putting their positive opposite across from them focuses your mind on what you want to achieve.

*Important Point - don't ever tell yourself off - always talk to yourself in a positive manner whether things have went to plan or not.*

Phase Two - Long Term Action

The second phase is about the longer term issue of changing from harmful thinking habits to healthy ones. There are many things that you can use to help shift your point of view from negative to positive. Below are some pointers to use for the longer term change into constructive thinking and reducing anxiety:

  • Watch your pattern of speech. Do you often use negative phrases such as "I can't" "I'm no good"; "It's impossible"? If so change your speech pattern by using only positive affirmations such as "I can"; "I will", "I am just as good". Don't be overly concerned if you don't believe this 100%. Remember that you are in training and it takes time.
  • In the beginning try and limit yourself to the amount of information you are exposed to. The TV, Newspapers and the Internet are crammed with information that is very negative. Over exposure to this can induce negative thoughts and emotions.
  • Observe the people you come into contact with. If there is someone in the workplace for example who is a moaner, troublemaker or anything else that is pessimistic in outlook then avoid them when you can. Later, when you are more in control of your thoughts, these people won't be a problem.
  • Open yourself up to accepting fully that success and a positive life is possible. Not only that but open yourself up to expecting success and happiness.
  • Relaxation techniques or meditation are wonderful and fun ways to change into a positive thinking person.
  • Use affirmations, poems, prayers, music, visual aids or any other medium to promote positive thinking.
  • Remember that it is never too late to change. 

Source - PD
Source - PD

A Final Tip On Positive Thinking

If you are having negative thoughts about a future event that is important what should you do? There are three main steps - but these can also be used in conjunction with the previous advice. Firstly preparation, second - coping, third - review. And give yourself a huge pat on the back, whether you fully succeed or only partially.

Preparation for the event

When an important event is due, practice changing your thoughts from the usual negative to positve. For example:

"I can't cope with this." changed to "I can do this. It won't last long."

"I won't go. Better to miss out." changed to "I will go and know that I will do well."

"I just know something will go wrong." changed to "Nothing will go wrong and if it does, I'll cope."

Coping with the event

"I'm tense and nervous." changed to "relax, keep positive, you're coping."

"Why am I so anxious?" changed to "It is only anxiety. I've dealt with it before, it will pass."

"I can't think straight, I feel sick." changed to "concentrate, be positive, I'm going to be okay."

Allow Self Approval

"Should I have done better?" changed to "I'm getting better and it will be even easier next time."

"I don't think I coped with everything. What is wrong with me?" changed to "I am pleased that I am progressing. It is small steps and I did make some achievements"

"Will I be able to do this again?" changed to "I am getting better, I did some things well, I look forward to the next challenge so that I can enjoy coping again."

The change into positive thinking has to be worked at. But the benefits received from the first time you change a black thought into a light one opens up a new world for you as a person. Your life will become renewed and much more successful - all you have to do is challenge those negative thoughts and banish them forever.

© 2011 Helen Murphy Howell


Submit a Comment
  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    6 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Maralexa, many thanks for stopping by and glad that you enjoyed the hub. Many people have asked me why I wrote this article. The bottom line is that I felt exactly the same as you and so many others do when facing situations in life. I've felt the panic, the difficulty breathing, the horrible feeling of thinking I'm a dork and so on. So I had to do something about it. During searching nearly everywhere on the internet I wrote about the things that have helped me. I'm honestly so glad that this hub has helped others. Many thanks again for stopping by - greatly appreciated.

  • Maralexa profile image

    Marilyn Alexander 

    6 years ago from Vancouver, Canada

    This is an excellent hub, Seeker7. Thanks. Practicing positive thinking before going to an event or just meeting up with someone I agree is priceless advice.

    I found that when I was nervous (panicked) about doing something I would think about how I would feel after the event. In others words, when I had to give a talk to a group of people (I could hardly breath) I would think about the end of the talk and how people would appreciate what I had said. I found that when I covered myself with these good thoughts my whole being projected positive energy and I was able to do what I feared most - speak in public.

    Your hub provides such good advice. Thanks again.

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi toknowinfo, many thanks for stopping by and glad that you enjoyed the hub. I started writing this article initially for my own benefit and to get out of bad habits, so it's a real bonus when other folks also find it useful.

  • toknowinfo profile image


    7 years ago

    Excellent article, full of great tips and important information. Thanks for putting this hub together and encouraging more positive thinking in this world. Rated up, useful, and interesting. All the best to you!

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Lifes 2nd Chances, many thanks for stopping by and glad that you enjoyed the hub. This was an enjoyable and beneficial hub for myself to write. It took a while for me to re-pattern my thinking habits so I know what negative thinking can feel like and what it can do to your life. I would be really happy if only one other person was helped by the article.

    Many thanks again for your positive comments - appreciated!

  • Lifes 2nd Chances profile image

    Colleen Lyon 

    7 years ago from Kansas City, Missouri

    Seeker7, very wonderful article. I liked that you discussed both short term and long term plans. I agree that it is a learning or rather, re-learning process. You have offered many great suggestions for people who are trying to change their thinking habits. I am sure you have helped a significant number of readers with this hub. Keep up the good work!!

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hello Gracenduta, I can understand how you would feel with low self esteem and no confidence. I was plagued with these for many years but now that I'm much older I seemed to have shaken them off. My parents were very good but I was a very sensitive and shy child and so it was difficult to build up confidence.

    Congratulations on your public speaking lessons - from what I have heard, this is a great way to learn confidence and self-esteem but public speaking is also a worthwhile skill to have.

  • Gracenduta profile image


    7 years ago from Kenya

    Thanks for your advice, I grew up with low self esteem and no confidence because of the parenting style which my parents chose but I have now improved because I have enrolled in public speaking lessons where we are also taught on confidence and self esteem.

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hello to you old albion and many thanks for stopping by. Thank you also for the lovely comment and the follow! I'm glad that you enjoyed the hub!

  • old albion profile image

    Graham Lee 

    7 years ago from Lancashire. England.

    Hello Seeker7. A brilliantly researched and well presented hub. Awsome and voted up! You have a new follower. Thank you.

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hello Chris Achilleos, many thanks for stopping by and glad that you enjoyed the hub and found it useful! I appreciate as well the vote up - thank you!

  • Chris Achilleos profile image

    Chris Achilleos 

    7 years ago

    Great information and advice on positive thinking Seeker7, I really enjoyed reading this hub. Voted up!

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Latasha,

    Many thanks for another visit and taking the time to comment - it's really appreciated. I'm glad that you enjoyed the hub. It's truly amazing the turn around in life when you start to focus on being positive rather than negative. I can vouch for the fact that it does work and costs nothing.

  • Latasha Woods profile image

    Latasha Woods 

    7 years ago from USA

    This is such a useful and well written hub Seeker7. There are so many benefits to learning about the power of positive thought, and you describe the process very well. Thanks for sharing this.

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Admiral_Joraxx,

    Glad that you enjoyed the hub and yes we all do have negative thoughts. I think if we can all be a bit more positive then life does tend to take an upward swing instead of down the hole all the time!! Many thanks for the vote up - it really means a lot to me!

  • Admiral_Joraxx profile image


    7 years ago from Philippines

    Another one great piece here seekers7. this is really awesome indeed. thanks for sharing this thoughts with us. So one really great enemy in life all of us are facing is our negative thoughts. We better get rid of them as much as we can. 1 vote up, useful, awesome, interesting for this.

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi to you instantlyfamily,

    Great to hear from you and really glad that you found the hub useful! Many thanks for the vote up as well - it really is appreciated!

  • instantlyfamily profile image


    7 years ago

    Awesome hub! Thank you so much for all the great tips. Of course I am voting UP!

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Sunshine - I read your profile and think this is such a wonderful name. Also looking at your photograph it really suits you!

    Many thanks for your very positive comment about the hub and glad you liked it.

    I was terrible in my younger years for always doubting and being negative about myself. And like your very perceptive husband, my boyfriend/partner at the time said something similar to me. I then started to read up on negative thinking and so on. I didn't even realise until this point in my life that I was a negative thinker, it was just normal for me to be down on myself. It really makes a difference to change the way you think. It can take a while, but, as you rightly say "it works most of the time".

    It was really lovely to hear from you, many thanks for stopping by.

  • Sunshine625 profile image

    Linda Bilyeu 

    7 years ago from Orlando, FL

    Voted across the board! Excellet hub! My favorite thing to say is "don't be defeated by _ _ _ _ " my husband taught me that and it WORKS most of the time :) I intend to share this with a few friends! Thank you!

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi ubanichijioke,

    Many thanks for stopping by and glad that you enjoyed the hub.

    Like you I battle with negativity, but with effort changing your thought patterns does work - and every area of your life improves. Bright Blessings to you.

  • ubanichijioke profile image

    Alexander Thandi Ubani 

    7 years ago from Lagos

    Thanks for helping me out here. I sincerely do appreciate this awesome hub. As humans, negativity is always the order of the day, with this thoughtful hub, i am on the road to conquer it. God bless you

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Fennelseed,

    Many thanks for stopping by and for leaving such a nice comment. I'd love to write a book one day, in fact there are a few books I'd like to write, so here's looking to the future. Lovely to hear from you.

  • Fennelseed profile image

    Annie Fenn 

    7 years ago from Australia

    This advice is so useful, accessible and practical. You know this subject matter so well - you should write a book on this, it would help many people. Thank you, I will be putting your blocking negative thoughts tips into action.

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    7 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Denise,

    Many thanks for the very postive comments about the hub -really appreciated! This hub also helped me a lot. I've come along way since suffering from lack of confidence and anxiety but it can still rear it's ugly head from time to time. I'm glad that you will find some of the information useful as well.

  • Denise Handlon profile image

    Denise Handlon 

    7 years ago from North Carolina

    Oh this is wonderful advice and a wonderful hub. I rated it up and awesome for the practical and useful steps on taking ahold of negativity. Well written. Thanks for sharing.

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    8 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Kims3003,

    Many thanks for stopping by and for your lovely comment -it is really appreciated.

    I think at the end of the day I was just sick and tired of being nervous about everything and nothing. Many people are still surprised when I tell them that I can be nervous. My family and friends say it doesn't show outwards. But waking up everyday with that soul-destroying knot in your stomach is horrible and most of the time, as I said it's about nothing.

    Anti-anxiety drugs do have their place with severe and acute attacks to help people get through a tough period, but like anti-depressants, for the most part, they don't get to the root causes. So if you can solve some of your own issues it is more long-term and much better health wise.

    Many thanks again for stopping by it was lovely to hear from you.

  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Excellent hub! Great information, tips and suggestions. Most helpful!! I can sure relate to a lot of what you say here.Sounds like you have done very well and should be most proud of yourself to have the know-how, determination, discipline and everything else thats involved with changing thought patterns and the way one thinks without having to resort to anxiety drugs. I'm sure this will be an inspiration to many who are fortunate enough to see it. I am passing it onto a few people I know.

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    8 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi catgypsy,

    Many thanks for stopping by and for your lovely comment - it really is appreciated. I do know what you are going through. I have suffered from anxiety most of my life and have found ways to cope with this without the pills and potions from doctors. Your mind is a very powerful tool and if you can make it work for you in a positive way the benefits are amazing. And yes! I have always had a tendancy to put myself down as well. Even when I succeeded or did something really well, I was always too embarrassed by praise to enjoy the moment and then would beat myself up about it later - a vicious circle or what? But as time goes on and if you work at it you can change. I think age has a lot to do with it as well. As I've got older - I'm 49 now - I really don't care all that much about what people think or say and I do my own thing. I'm much happier and definitely more relaxed.

    I'm really glad the hub has helped you, many thanks for taking the time to read and make a comment.

  • catgypsy profile image


    8 years ago from the South

    As someone who has an anxiety disorder, this is such great advice. I have actually been trying this for a few months and it does help. I especially love it that you included that you should never put yourself down. I tend to do that if I don't cope as well as I thought I should have and I have to remind myself that I can't (or won't) succeed every time. This is a great Hub! Thanks for all the great inspiration!

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    8 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Ann810,

    I agree with your thoughts about positivity as well - it can achieve almost anything + faith. Many thanks for your lovely comment and for stopping by. Glad you enjoyed the hub.

  • Ann810 profile image


    8 years ago from Sunny Cali

    Thanks Seeker7, neat hub. You speak on good points, about negative thoughts resulting into fear, and it'll make mountains out of mole hills. Positivity can result in a greater power above our thinking, as you mention at the beginning. POWER TO REMOVE ANY SIZE MOUNTAIN= positivity + faith. Voted up

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    8 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi ThinkingMom,

    Great to hear from you and for leaving such a motivating comment - many thanks.

  • ThinkingMom profile image


    8 years ago from US

    Awesome hub page, very well written (I'm taking notes here...).

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    8 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi acaetnna, many thanks for stopping by and great to hear from you. I'm glad you found the Hub so useful. The main reason I did write this one, is that even at the age of 49 I still have moments when my habits from younger years linger - ie - lack of confidence, lack of belief in myself and so on - so I take a keen interest in any information that can keep negative thinking at bay. I have found that working at it and saying 'No' or whatever does work for me very well. Here's hoping it will work for you and many others. Many thanks again for your very informative comment, it makes all the hard work worthwhile.

  • acaetnna profile image


    8 years ago from Guildford

    What a brilliant article Seeker7. I shall definitely be bookmarking this one. I am a firm believer in programming my mind to only think positive thoughts. It is much easier said than done though and the more one tries not to focus on the negative the more one does! Strange isn't it?! Your idea though of saying "stop!"; "No!"; "Leave!" is a great one and I shall definitely try to adopt these to block out my negative thoughts.

    It's like when we tell people NOT to do something they immediately think of doing it. It is much more beneficial to put it in the positive terms. Eg. DO NOT shout! Better to say:- Speak quietly.

    Much great information here, thank you so much for sharing. Voting up and useful.

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    8 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi deepthought, great to hear from you and leaving a comment. Hope to read more of your great work soon and look forward to it.

  • deepthought profile image


    8 years ago from In the middle of nowhere and worldwide but still that T.O.kid from da north of America

    Hey Seeker7 thanks for a great hub....i will be reading it again soon

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    8 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi Matt in Jax - many thanks for stopping by and I agree with you about positve thinking - what a changed place the world would be!!

  • Matt in Jax profile image

    Matt in Jax 

    8 years ago from Jacksonville, FL

    Everyone should be more positive in life. Great life and let anyone who's still pessimistic on life turn it around.

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    8 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi toknowinfo, I am really honoured that a writer of your ability has left such a really nice comment. It is much appreciated! Many thanks.

  • toknowinfo profile image


    8 years ago

    Excellent hub. You bring up many valuable points. you are right when you say our thoughts, emotions, and general well being are closely connected. I wrote a lot of hubs related to this. Thanks for putting this well done hub together. Rated up and useful.

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    8 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi kashmir56,

    Many thanks for stopping by and for the comment. Shame that you have an aunt like that - but good for you keeping postive, maybe some of it will rub of on your aunt eventualy? Who knows? Many thanks again.

  • kashmir56 profile image

    Thomas Silvia 

    8 years ago from Massachusetts

    Hi Seeker, great information and advice, i have an aunt that only thinks and talks negative, I've never heard a positive word or thought come from her. I have always been one to always look on the positive side .

    Great hub !!!

  • Seeker7 profile imageAUTHOR

    Helen Murphy Howell 

    8 years ago from Fife, Scotland

    Hi carrie,

    Many thanks for your positive comment and for stopping by - much appreciated.

  • carrie450 profile image


    8 years ago from Winnipeg, Canada

    This is very good advice you have given Seeker7. Great hub.


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