How To Beat Negative Thinking: Part 1

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Good morning!

I’m glad you liked my Ode To Donkeys last night. ;) Oh my gosh that picture cracked me up so much!! I was dying laughing anytime I looked at it. I’m thinking new OSG Mascot??? She/he really does glow!

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Last week I dusted off a book that I hadn’t looked at for a while.

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After taking a neuropsychology course in my second year of undergrad, I became completely captivated and smitten with mind-brain research and the mind-body connection. I saved up my pennies and bought this book for pleasure reading.

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I remember a few of my friends teasing me for spending money on a book that looked like a textbook, but was not required for any of our classes. ;)

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Well, in fact, The Owner’s Manual For The Brain was one of the best books I have ever purchased. It is full of wonderful research about the mind-brain connection.

It answers questions like:

  • How does stress affect our health?
  • What can I do to keep my brain young as I age?
  • How does working the night shift affect my sleep-wake cycle?
  • What are the best strategies for studying and memory recall?
  • How do odors affect relaxation?
  • How does exercise affect moods and cravings?

You can see why I bought this book, right?! I knew my peeps would get me. ;)

If you have been reading my blog for a while, you may have noticed that I buy strictly non-fiction books for my pleasure reading.

I wasn’t always this way as a child. Growing up, I loved reading books like the Choose Your Own Adventure series, The Babysitter’s Club, Anne of Green Gables, and Chronicles of Narnia. In my late teens, I became extremely interested in health and psychology and I found a passion in informative, research-based pleasure reading.

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After dusting this book off, I got to work and started reading up on next workshop topic:

How To Beat Negative Thinking: Part 1

1. Negative –> Positive Lists

As I mentioned in a previous post, something I do every now and then is make a list in the morning writing down all of the negative thoughts that are in my mind. I cross out those thoughts and list a positive, counter thought beside it. For example:

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Then at night time look at the list again. I find when I do this, often many of the things I was worrying about in the morning are no longer a concern. Before bed, make a new list of your negative thoughts and worries and cross them out by replacing them with a positive thought. You will also find that this helps you fall asleep faster as an added bonus.

2. Use the ABCDE model by Seligman

I first learned of the ABCDE model in one of my cognitive psychology courses. It is a very effective technique for banishing negative thinking patterns.

The ABCDE model works as follows:

A (adversity): Recognize when adversity hits.

B (beliefs): Be aware of what you believe about the adversity.

C (consequences): Be aware of the emotional and other consequences of your beliefs.

D (disputation): Counter it! Question whether your beliefs are the only explanation. For example, ask yourself: What is the evidence for my beliefs? What other possible explanations are there? Do I get any benefits from holding onto these beliefs?

E (energization): Be aware of the new consequences (feelings, behaviours, actions) that follow from a more optimistic explanation.

As an example, I will do the ABCDE method for the negative thoughts I was having about my half marathon race.

A = I didn’t run at all this week and as a result I am going to fail in my half marathon on Sunday.

B = I am not dedicated and disciplined enough to train for this race.

C = I might as well quit my race training and just go back to being an off and on runner. That way I won’t have to let myself down.

D = Wait a second here! I have been training really hard for the past 4 months. One week off running is not going to hurt me. In fact, it might make me even more rested for the big day. I am doing a very good thing by not over-training like I did in the past.

E = I will continue to listen to my body and honour what it is telling me. If it tells me to rest then I should consider why that is. It is likely that last week’s high mileage was a result of my tired legs this week. No big deal. Maybe next time, I can plan my training schedule so that I don’t have three major runs fall on 1 week.

The ABCDE method also helped me banish negative thoughts when I was in recovery from disordered eating. It was one of the first methods I tried, and I have been doing it on and off ever since.

Try it out! I promise you will feel better after doing your ABC’s (and D’s and E’s!).

3. Snap Yourself Back Into It!

You may have heard of the elastic band trick. This is especially helpful for ruminators. Ruminators are people who worry constantly and mull over how events could turn out horrible. You simply wear an elastic band around your wrist and whenever you start ruminating, simply snap the elastic band on your wrist. This easy trick gives a quick (and slightly painful!) reminder that your thoughts started to wander in a negative way.

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Reading Comfort Giveaway #2:

Would you like a chance at winning a beautiful bookmark and an elegant paper weight from Reading Comfort?

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How to enter: Simply leave a comment below telling me one negative thought you have about something in your life and then counter it with one or more positive thoughts.

Contest closes Wednesday Sept. 30th at 2pm EST. Open to US and CAD residents.

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See you later for Part 2!

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{ 58 comments… read them below or add one }

Jess (Fit Chick in the City) September 29, 2009

Good Morning! Thank you for this series. I think its going to be my favorite one yet! Combating negative thoughts takes a whole army of defense. Thank you for adding to my defense against myself! =)

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maria September 29, 2009

I’ve been trying super hard to stop counting calories and to focus on eating healthy/intuitively instead. I’m constantly worrying, “You will gain back the weight you have lost if you don’t count calories” but I know the truth is, “You’ve learned A LOT about nutrition and how to eat properly portioned meals. You’ve got this girl!”

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Deb (Smoothie Girl Eats Too) September 29, 2009

Maria- for what it’s worth- I just stopped counting calories at the beginning of sept and I actually found that I LOST some weight. My body I guess didn’t need quite as much as I was feeding it before. It was super scary at first, but so far I’m soooo glad I made the change!

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leslie September 29, 2009

first of all, i was away this weekend and missed your race posts, but congratulations on absolutely killing your half! i was rooting for you and was so happy to read how well you did!

and second, thank you thank you for this post. i can’t tell you how timely it is for me. i’m in the process of making a huge (albeit temporary) life change, and i really need constant reminders to stop coming up with reasons that are holding me back and find ways to just do it. i love how your research always motivates me!

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Lizzie September 29, 2009

I am definitely a ruminator – and probably going to be paying very close attention to these series of posts! :)

And I can’t resist .. . Babysitters Club!!!! Had all the books when I was growing up. My friends and I would run through the playground during break time to the contact teacher for book club orders if we heard that the books had arrived. How funny!

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Jess September 29, 2009

I’m dealing with some recent weight gain, and it’s getting me down. I’m reminding myself that while I do need to get back to my healthier habits, that my body is still strong and amazing for allowing me to live each day!

I love the positive idea list – am going to try this!!

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Stefanie September 29, 2009

I’m a ruminator as well..ugh! I actually tried the rubber band trick once ….or twice and it did work! That annoying little zap on my wrist made me stop worrying about whatever was on my mind for the day. I think I’m going to try it again. I took a neuropsychology class in undergrad and it completely changed my life. Studying every function of the brain was absolutely fascinating!I can’t wait to read parts 2 +3 of this series :)

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Heidi September 29, 2009

My brother and I are in the same profession and my negative thought is that I will never measure up to where he has set the bar b/c he’s damn good at what he does. Positive thought: I love a good challenge–I will meet and exceed everyone’s expectations! :D

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Pam (Pamcakes and Eggs) September 29, 2009

I have my first half marathon coming on on October 10th and it’s scaring me to death. Positive thoughts: I know I can at least finish and that is an accomplishment in itself. How many people can run 13.1 miles????

Reading your half experience is also great motivation!

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Genie September 29, 2009

Ruminator should be the word of the day. LOL!

Thank you so much for this post! and this series! I’m at the tail end of preparing for a Figure competition, and the last few weeks are such a mental battle. I like to to think that I am a pretty positive person, but a lot of hard training without getting a lot of nourishment takes its toll and makes it hard to stay upbeat all of the time!

Here is my negative to positive thought… I only had one today!

NEGATIVE: I will slip up after dinner & mindlessly nibble on off-plan foods.

POSITIVE: No you will not! You will remind yourself that your next meal is merely minutes away and will sip on warm blueberry tea while you wait. There are literally starving kids in Africa. Waiting a few minutes will not hurt you!

Of course, I had to write it with a fun colored ink pen and doodle just to make the process even more appealing. LOL!

Thanks again for this wonderful post!

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Anna September 29, 2009

I often try to talk myself out of going to the gym because I’m too tired or the gym will be too crowded, etc. I counter that by reminding myself that I always feel energized after a workout, and that I know enough about lifting to find a way to complete my routine, even if it’s busy at the gym. After that, I hit the gym excited and ready to go!

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Jolene September 29, 2009

I also buy only non-fiction books for reading for pleasure – and mostly on the same kind of topics that you do!

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Erin September 29, 2009

Fabulous post, as usual, Angela! I really love the series on beating negative thinking. I feel like I just “discovered” the secret on how to think positively for myself. I like to talk to myself (yes, it sounds crazy but it works!) like I would to a friend.

Negative: You’ll never lose the 1.5 lbs per week that you’re scheduled to!

Positive: You have made all of your schedule runs, worked out for at least 30 minutes a day, have been eating whole, real foods and are incorporating more greens into your diet. You rock!!

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Jessica @ How Sweet It Is September 29, 2009

Every single one of your posts gets more and more inspiring. This is a great idea!

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insideiamdancing September 29, 2009

I love this post! I have a lot of negative thoughts- I trained as a life coach a few years ago and have been through therapy, but without challenging them as they crop up, they go by unnoticed.

My negative: I can’t cope with the different routine when I am travelling next week
Counterthought: I CAN HANDLE IT- I’ve done it before and it was nowhere near as stressful as I anticipated. I am going to have a great time :D

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Morgan (lifeafterbagels) September 29, 2009

I probably could have used a dose of these activities earlier this morning . . . I woke up super negative :(

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Katie September 29, 2009

I’m about to make a list of my own negative thoughts and look at them tonight! I was reading through old journal entries last night and found a list of my “top 10 anxieties” from april, and I’m happy to say that almost EVERY ONE is irrelevant now!

Negative thought: I’ll never find a job.

Counterthought: I’ll put my all into finding something, and even if it’s not my dream job NOW, I’ll find something someday that makes me happy.

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christie, honoring health September 29, 2009

Wow, what a great post, I am so glad I started reading your blog yesterday, this is right on time. Things really do happen for a reason, that is for sure.

Anywho, I often have thoughts related to negative body image and when the pop up, I think to myself “I love and appreciate myself, I don’t listen to that voice anymore”

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natalie September 29, 2009

I love the negative thought list. It’s something I’ve never written out, I’ve tried to practice it in my head, but I think paper is great!

Negative Thought: I don’t like working and am not happy to be here.

Counter: I am so lucky to have a good stable job and am able to help contribute to our income. :)

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Kelsey September 29, 2009

love this!!
i am an architecture student and i always worry that my designs are not ‘worthy’ or will not get me noticed by the professors, and not get an A! I should be thinking, I’m a girl in a male dominated field, doing very well and earning As. I shouldnt worry at all!

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VeggieGirl September 29, 2009

Negative thought = I’m plagued with Crohn’s Disease and numerous food allergies.

Positive “spin” = With the help of my gastroenterologist, “regular” doctor, my raw foods counselor (Gena from the “Choosing Raw” site/blog), and supportive family & friends, I’m able to manage my health and live a wonderful life.

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Mellissa September 29, 2009

My negative thought is currently about my job that I dislike, however, I am going to be positive and try to come in smiling and doing my best to make the situation good for me.

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JESSICA September 29, 2009

I love this post. I just recently came across your blog and now I read it EVERYDAY!

I have negative feelings about pregnancy. My baby was born still in February and now I can’t shake the feeling that if we try again that I will also get this baby sick and he/she will die. If we don’t try again then I fear that my 3 year old daughter will hate me for making her an only child :/

Counter: If we do try again I could finally be happy again and most likely will have a healthy baby. If we don’t try again my daughter might love us even more because all of our love and attention will be on her :)

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Courtney September 29, 2009

Love love love the rubber band idea. I’m such a worrier..and it isn’t helpful to just constantly have those thoughts running through my mind. Thanks for the idea on how to distract myself and move on.

I had some negative talk in my head during my triathlon this past weekend. As I was trying to ride up the super steep hills I just kept saying “oh sh*t oh sh*t oh sh*t” I caught myself doing it and realized it wasn’t positive or helpful. I started to chant “you can do it, you can do it” instead, and I looked at the woman in front of me on her bike and yelled out some encouragement to her, passing it on felt great!

Courtney
Adventures in Tri-ing

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Nicole of Raspberry Stethoscope September 29, 2009

This is a person post to go with my month of positivity for October!! For a negative thought, sometimes I might, “omg, I’m not cut out to be an ICU nurse, everyone is so much smarter than me, I’m going to look like a fool in front of the team.” To counter this with a positive thought: No, I am an excellent nurse, I belong in the ICU and I love it. I am highly educated and intelligent and I WILL GET THROUGH THIS!

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Beth @ DiningAndDishing September 29, 2009

Sometimes I think, I really don’t know what to do with the rest of my life and feel down about it. But then I think, okay, you’re only 24, you’ve accomplished a lot so far and you should be very proud of yourself for that alone! Figuring out my whole life will come in time, I’m sure :O)

Thanks for a great post!

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Kim September 29, 2009

I previously thought that my body was fat, useless, and a disappointment. But now I see that my body is strong, capable, and a wonderful, useful tool!!

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Amanda S. September 29, 2009

As a musician, I get discouraged often. If I don’t do well in a performance, it’s so easy to think of all of the wrong notes. Instead, I have been thinking of all of the right notes I made rather than focusing on the wrong ones….it certainly helps! I have many more right ones than wrong!

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Paige @ Running Around Normal September 29, 2009

I’m totally bookmarking this post, by the way.

Let’s see…negative: going back to school is going to be so overwhelming and I’ll be so busy.
Positive: The sooner I start, the sooner I’ll get my Dietetics degree!

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Leah @ L4L September 29, 2009

One of the most discouraging things as of late is the enormous amount of debt that I have when you combine a car loan, student loans, credit cards, but the REALLY positive thing is that I am recently engaged so I have a wonderful man that completely supports me and has similar financial goals and is ready to tackle this with me… TOGETHER.

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Laura September 29, 2009

I have this feeling that I didn’t prepare well enough for an assessment I am taking this afternoon, and that I am not going to do very well as a result. However, I know that deep down I have a good grasp of the material and I will ace the assessment!

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Bree September 29, 2009

AAAHHHHHHHHHHH the APA Manual!! *runs away* :-P

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Jaclyn September 29, 2009

Right now my negative thought is always “i’ll never get this weight off for good”, but I like to counter that with “I have been loosing weight slowly and eventually the changes I have made will work!”.

Great post!

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Andrea September 29, 2009

I can’t add one more class to my schedule because I’m not capable. I counter that with I have done it before, I am smart and can do it!!

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jvegegirl September 29, 2009

I sometimes think I will never get a job when I graduate, but now I think how grateful I am to be getting a top-notch education and to love the field I’m studying.

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Alex September 29, 2009

This is fantastic, usable advice. Thank you so much, Angela!

It’s amazing how one little negative seed will explode into a whole series of catastrophic thoughts, without the individual even realizing it!

I think it’s so important to slow our thoughts down and break them into segments so we can see how they are progressing, and change them when they begin to get too negative and dramatic. It’s something I definitely need to practice doing, so this is a good reminder…

I’ve been under some stress lately with going to work and school and I’m going to do this over the next couple of nights to see if it helps to calm me down. Writing always helps me though, so I know it will at least do some good.

Thanks again!
Alex

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Cynthia (It All Changes) September 29, 2009

I too am much more likely to buy non-fiction than fiction for fun. Occassionally I’ll buy a fiction book but I’m more likely to check those out of the library because I can use non-fiction over and over.

I’ve used the rubberband trick before. I used to be really negative and hurt myself physically. I was taught to use a rubberband when I thought like that and it did help. I’ve not done that in almost 7 years!

Right now I need to get the negative thoughts about my hip injury out of my head. I think I’m going to try the ABCDE method because I keep thinking the worst for my hip instead of looking at the benefits.

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Anne Marie @ new weigh of life September 29, 2009

The book looks really great!! I’ll have to check it out!

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Maya September 29, 2009

I really like the day of the elastic band to prevent negative thinking. The book sounds fascinating–I think psychology is one of those subjects that anyone with even a slight intellectual spark finds interesting. Maybe I should invest in that textbook!

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Sheila | Live Well 360° September 29, 2009

Hey Chicka!

So funny that you are blogging about this today. I’m going to be on a live chat tonight, talking about pretty much the same thing… How important mindset is to living a healthy life and achieving our fitness goals.

Come say hi if you have a chance – I’ll be on around 4:45 PST. My friend Val is launching her new DVD workout program, so that is the reason I’ll be on (as a guest). The website where the Ustream chat will be hosted is http://actionherobabesystem.com/

Hope to see you there!!

Sheila

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Whitney @ Lettuce Love September 29, 2009

This post, like all of your posts, is great! I have learned that negative thoughts are just a waste of time. My life is so much better and more productive when I don’t think about them; but of course Mr.Negative Monster creeps up every now and then. I am going to try to ABCDE method tonight. I am worried about my ankle not being healed enough for my first 10k race in 17 days (yikes!).

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