How to get rid of negative thoughts: 10 ways to clear your mind

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Having a negative mentality can be one of the worst things you can have.

Not only will it affect, well… quite literally everything—family, relationships, career, health, finance—if left unchecked, you will spiral into an even more negative attitude.

But it’s not hopeless. Shifting to a more positive mindset is more than possible. 

And I’m about to tell you just how you can get rid of negative thoughts.

1) Recognize when you’re thinking negatively

The first step to stop having negative thoughts is to actually recognize when you’re having them—and, more importantly, recognize that they’re a problem. 

This is harder than it sounds for people already trapped in negative thought patterns. 

They’re so used to negative thinking that it’s their gut reaction to almost every situation. It feels natural for them.

And that’s actually what this phenomenon is called: automatic negative thoughts (ANT). If you suffer from ANTs, it’s because you now feel like negative thinking is normal and natural.

So whenever you have negative thoughts, you need to tell yourself:

I shouldn’t think so negatively. This isn’t normal, and I need to stop thinking like this.

2) Label your thoughts

Once you’ve recognized when you’re thinking negatively, it’s beneficial to start labeling your thoughts.

Are your negative thoughts paranoid, irrational, or obsessive? Or maybe they’re based on something completely true? Are you having positive or hopeful thoughts? Or maybe analytical thoughts about a certain situation?

Label these thoughts without trying to avoid them or change how you feel about them. 

What this does is draw distance between yourself and your thoughts. This allows you to evaluate your thought patterns more objectively and rationally.

3) Take it slow…breathe out

This likely won’t be an easy journey, nor will it be short. So be kind to yourself and take it a step at a time. 

And remember that this isn’t about having thoughts and feelings. Thinking and feeling negatively from time to time is completely normal—it’s part of being human, and it’s a normal reaction to negative events.

What we’re trying to change is one’s chronic habit of falling into negative, irrational, and self-defeating thought patterns in almost every situation.

So let yourself feel sad and angry and anxious! 

And when you inevitably have those ANTs that are irrational, obsessive, paranoid, or self-defeating…it’s no big deal if you can’t always bring yourself away from those thoughts.

It’s okay. 

Change takes time

What’s important is that you’re doing your best to be aware of these thoughts and feelings.

It may be difficult now, but take solace in the fact that it’ll probably get easier and easier to untangle these negative ideas in your head. 

After all, while growth may not always be linear, it’s often exponential. 

4) Don’t pressure yourself too much

Don’t think of this process as “overcoming” or “defeating” negative thinking. 

This only puts pressure on you, and from my personal experience, you’d much rather keep on doing what you’re doing than pressure yourself to change!

Instead, see it as a pursuit of a new habit. Don’t criticize yourself for having negative thoughts. Take a deep breath and sit with those ideas and feelings if you must.

Then try to shift your mind towards more positive thinking. Imagine something you like and associate with happiness, such as:

Your pet…

Your lover…

Your dreams…

Whatever it is, just try to think of something that makes you feel better!

The best way to reduce negative thoughts is to not focus on reducing them per se, but rather focus on thinking about positive things.

5) Be intentional with your commitment

To counter ANTs, you need to think consciously and intentionally. If you don’t, then you will simply revert to your old habits.

At least, it happens to me. I really have to commit to forming a new habit. Otherwise, I just give up really quickly and beat myself up for not being more disciplined.

But I also realized that the intention behind doing something new and (let’s be honest) forcing yourself a bit into a new habit has to be very strong.

So, set a strong intention about why you want to get rid of your negative thinking.

Does it bother you? Does your productivity suffer? Do other people become distant? The intention may be to change all of that. And it’s already a really strong one.

Remember that this is your journey, and ultimately, only you can help yourself.

6) Put your thoughts on paper

Don’t underestimate the power of catharsis. Sometimes, the thoughts and feelings that have been bothering our minds simply need to be expressed before we can let go of them.

And you don’t even need to express it to anyone else! (Though that is good too…)

Simply writing about it in a journal can be a very therapeutic experience. And it’s not all about the emotional release, either.

Writing them out can help you better organize and reflect on your thoughts or help you analyze the situation you’re currently going through. Then, forming solutions will be much easier.

And even if you don’t know what exactly is bothering you, writing down how you feel may enlighten you to understand it better.

7) Be grateful for small things in life

In our modern society, we’ve been conditioned to want more.

However, having gratitude for smaller and simpler things is essential to a calmer, more grounded mind and happier life.

Think of the basics that you can be grateful for:

The roof over your head;

The nice coffee you had this morning;

The support of your family;

Having a free weekend upcoming;

The nice shoes you were finally able to buy.

Again, whatever it is, always try to remember the nice things you have and be grateful for them—especially the small things and the things we take for granted.

Doing this will reframe your mind from focusing on the negative aspects of your life to the positive ones.

8) Practice saying affirmations

I’ve written about it before, and I absolutely still stand by the power of affirmations. Expressing affirmations to yourself—whether verbally or written—can be a game-changer for your mentality.

If you’re new to affirmations, here’s a starter routine I recommend:

Every day after you wake up, take the time to either write down affirmations or tell yourself affirmations in front of a mirror. 

It might feel cheesy at first, but if you stick to it and take it seriously, it can have massive effects.

You don’t have to overcomplicate it either. Keep it simple:

  • “I love working with my colleagues”;
  • “I contribute positively to the people around me”;
  • “I am loved”;
  • “People value me”;
  • “I will think positive thoughts today.”

Even simple, basic affirmations can do a lot for your mental health.

9) Relax and let go of small frustrations

We bump into small things that make us irritated or frustrated every day.

Meeting a coworker we dislike…

Accidentally spilling our morning coffee…

Forgetting to upload that presentation…

People who suffer from negative thought patterns often spiral down into more intense thoughts after these relatively minor occurrences. 

But don’t let these minor occurrences ruin your day! Remember that it only has the power to make you feel bad if you give it that power.

10) Jam to some music

No, seriously! Music can offer more than just a fun listening experience.

Numerous studies have shown that listening to music can

  • Relieve stress;
  • Improve your mood;
  • Sharpen concentration and memory;
  • Provide motivation.

This is because regularly listening to music promotes our neuroplasticity. The more neuroplastic our brain is, the easier it is for us to adapt.

Which means it might be easier for you to break out of your negative mindsets!

Regardless of what music you listen to… 

Regardless if you use it to take a fun break from your tasks or as a way to energize yourself to complete them…

Keep listening to music!

It truly has plenty of amazing benefits. 

The 8 effective techniques for a clearer mind 

People who suffer from negative thought patterns usually also have incredibly cluttered minds. 

For better mental health, it’s crucial to develop tidier mental spaces.

Just imagine a messy desk stacked and littered with different documents, memos, and books (and you can’t find your laptop charger too!). It would be almost impossible to find a specific piece of information.

That’s how our brains function too. When you have an abundance of mental backlog and unnecessary thoughts, it’ll be difficult to focus on a specific thing.

It’ll leave you feeling overwhelmed and frustrated—which will obviously make you even more prone to negative thoughts.

Here are eight techniques that I’ve personally used to help me clear my mind. 

1) Prime your day

Priming refers to how you prepare your mind for the day ahead. After all, you don’t want to start your day with a messy head. 

Set yourself up for success by following these tips to effectively prime your brain:

  • Visualize the day: It’s understandable if you have leftover concerns from the past. However, if you have urgent tasks you need to complete today, it’s crucial to visualize how you want your day to unfold. By visualizing at the start of the day, you lay out all your objectives and develop a clearer plan of how to fulfill them.
  • Spread the energy: Having other people involved in your day may help with your motivation. With positive energy, talk to them about your goals for the day. Because you don’t want to disappoint these people, you’ll be further encouraged to focus on what you have to do.
  • Take pride in your work: Here’s a cheat code: be proud of what you do. It’s normal to feel dread about the things you have to do. However, if you shift your perspective and see it as an opportunity to learn, improve, and create something you can be proud of, it gets a lot easier and your mind will ease up.
  • Remember why you’re doing it: Remember that each small step you take is a step towards your bigger goals and dreams. Have a long-term view of things and it will be far easier to bring yourself to go through the short-term challenges.

2) Get outside

To achieve a clear mental space, you might need a clear physical space too.

Going outside, where it is generally more spacious and free, can provide you with a change in an environment that can help refresh your mind.

Taking walks can offer an instant creativity boost—super helpful to get you out of your mental ruts.

If you’re also having difficulty with recurring thoughts, wandering outside can also help your mind wander elsewhere, potentially reducing stress and lowering blood pressure.

Exercising in general—whether it’s just a walk or an all-out gym session—is beneficial not just for your body but for your mind as well.

3) Connect with your friends

When we’re stressed, we tend to isolate ourselves (I know I definitely do). Or if we are with other people, well… we’re definitely not fun to be around. 

Our relationships, therefore, suffer with us when we give in to stress or ruminate about it.

This is why it’s important to set aside time to reconnect with your friends. Make plans and pursue fun, positive interactions with them.

This is one of the healthiest coping techniques you can do—not just for stress, but really anything. After all, humans are social creatures that are meant to be with others.

Studies show that people with strong social relationships are generally:

  • Less depressed;
  • Less prone to post-traumatic stress disorder;
  • Less prone to stress-linked inflammatory issues.

Find an empathetic friend with who you can share your worries too. Or if you don’t want to think about them, even a fun night out can do wonders for your anxiety and stress.

4) Don’t co-ruminate with others

However, I need to emphasize this:

Don’t co-ruminate with friends.

Co-rumination refers to the act of continuously discussing your problems and worries with someone.

There is nothing wrong with confiding in them from time to time—in fact, I encourage it! But ranting to them incessantly is not healthy for everyone involved.

It can worsen feelings of anxiety in you, and it also puts pressure on your friend to be your emotional outlet all the time. It’s not beneficial to you, and it’s unfair to them as well.

How you talk about your problems to your friends is also just as important as how often you talk to them.

Do you just rant, focus on the negative, and spiral down into negative and defeatist emotions? Or do you genuinely try to process your emotions and find solutions?

Sometimes, all we need is to talk it out, but constantly ruminating about it with friends can be another thing entirely.

5) Have a social media detox

Social media has perhaps been the best and worst thing that has ever happened to humanity.

While technically offering us convenient ways to connect with people, studies have shown that social media can have serious negative effects on our mental health and make us feel more alone. Quite the irony.

And when you feel isolated, you’re left all alone with your thoughts, making you even more prone to negative thought patterns or rumination.

So take some time away from your gadgets. Don’t let your phone’s notifications control your attention and, as we said above, connect with other people in real life instead.

6) Keep your space clean

Remember when I said your outer environment has great influence over your inner world too? 

Don’t just go outside regularly—make sure the space you live in indoors is also tidy!

After all, when your space reflects how your brain is—cluttered, messy, unpleasant—then it will simply reinforce your negative thought patterns. Plus, it’s hard to get motivated or stay focused when your surroundings are always distracting you.

So consider improving your room as a key part of improving your mental space as well.

Now, I know it can be hard to find the time to clean your room if have strict deadlines looming on the horizon. However, try to at least tidy up your room slowly. 

If you have a minute to spare, why not pick up the dirty laundry on the floor? Remember that it’s meant to be a journey filled with small steps. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

7) Answer these questions

As you go through your healing journey, you need to ask yourself these questions:

  1. What led me to think so negatively in the first place?
  2. Why do I let myself keep having negative thought patterns? Do I benefit from it? 
  3. What have my mental habits cost me in life? What have I lost as a result of my negative thinking?
  4. How can I benefit from having more positive thoughts? What will it cost me to think more positively?
  5. What benefits would I receive from engaging in positive thoughts? What costs are associated 
  6. What should I do now?

These questions might be tough for you to answer. In fact, you might not even know how to answer them at all.

And that’s okay. What’s important is that you keep these questions in mind and try to answer them as you go.

By keeping them at the back of your head, not only do you distract yourself from negative thoughts, you’re pushing yourself to take your recovery more seriously by reminding yourself of what really matters to you.

8) Just start!

And that’s the thing: you don’t need to know all the answers.

What you need to do, however, is to simply start. 

Just start trying to change your mindset in any way that you deem fit. Even if your efforts are imperfect, even if you still fail quite often, that’s okay!

What’s important is that you’re building the habit of being aware of how you think and taking your road to a healthier mind in a more serious and engaged manner.

Try not to put things off. Procrastinating might make you feel even more stressed or guilty.

Start with small steps and do what you need to do.

Need to take a leave from work? Need to deactivate your social media accounts? Need to talk to a therapist? Need to treat yourself to some ice cream tonight?

Whatever it is, start in whatever way you can!

To sum it all up

We won’t sugarcoat it: getting rid of negative thoughts is far, far from easy—if it was, then we wouldn’t feel the need to write this article!—but it’s not impossible, either.

Through small and simple steps such as being mindful, getting sufficient sleep, eating better, and moving your body more, you can make considerable progress very quickly.

We firmly believe that each individual is capable and powerful in their own right, so we believe in your ability to overcome anything—even yourself!

But sometimes, we all need an extra hand. So, if you feel like you need someone to talk to you, go schedule that therapy session you thought of!

Anna Dovbysh

With 8 years of writing experience and a deep interest in psychology, relationship advice, and spirituality, Anna’s here to shine a light on the most interesting self-development topics and share some life advice. She's got a Master's Degree in International Information and is a life-long learner of writing and storytelling. In the past, she worked on a radio station and a TV channel as a journalist and even tought English in Cambodia to local kids. Currently, she's freelancing and traveling around the globe, exploring new places, and getting inspired by the people she meets and the stories they tell. Subscribe to her posts and get in touch with her on her social media!

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