How to Overcome Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts are the enemies of victorious life. Since our life is very much determined by our mind, our thoughts can make or break our life. Negative thoughts will distract your focus from the important and drain your energy. At the end, you will no longer have the ingredients necessary for success. Knowing how to overcome negative thoughts may make the difference between victory and defeat.

I believe there is an important principle at work regarding negative thoughts, and that is:

Attention is self-reinforcing.

If you give attention to negative thoughts, they will get stronger and stronger. What seems like a small matter in the beginning may become monstrous at the end. What you should do is breaking the vicious cycle by shifting your focus to something positive. You can then reinforce this positive attention until you completely defeat the negative thoughts (read more at attention management).

Here I’d like to share 20 tips to overcome negative thoughts mostly based on this principle. Not all tips are suitable for all situations, so choose the ones that work for you. Here they are:

  1. Realize that you only hurt yourself with negative thoughts. Don’t let them trick you.
  2. Decide that you will live your day with happiness and not let negative thoughts steal it.
  3. Look at yourself in the mirror and say, “I’m a positive person. I won’t let negative thoughts control me. I’m a winner in life.”
  4. Read positive quotes. You can go to Quotations Page or ThinkExist and browse the topics. Or, if you want random quotes, you can go to Random Quotations.
  5. Never say negative words in your conversation.
  6. Change the tone of your thoughts from negative to positive. For example, instead of thinking “This problem is too difficult” think “This problem is cool and challenging”.
  7. If you think negatively about someone, remember positive things about that person. Shift your attention to the positive side.
  8. Smile. It’s more difficult to think negatively when you are smiling.
  9. Walk and act confidently. Good body language helps you have good thoughts.
  10. Pray or meditate. Spiritual peace and calmness is among the most effective ways to overcome negative thoughts.
  11. Gather with positive people. Be careful not to choose the wrong people or the situation will only get worse.
  12. Take a nap so that you will wake up with a fresh mind.
  13. Read an inspiring book. Spiritual books often do well.
  14. Go out and appreciate the beauty of the world around you.
  15. Sing a cheerful song.
  16. Make yourself comfortable with failure. Failure is the stepping stone to success, so don’t be afraid to fail.
  17. Have realistic expectation. Accept the fact that people could make mistakes since nobody is perfect.
  18. If you think negatively about a situation, decide that you won’t give up even if the worst happens. Prove yourself to be a tough opponent. You are a winner.
  19. Accept yourself and be comfortable in who you are. You can’t be perfect but neither can anyone else.
  20. Help someone. Shift the focus away from yourself and do good to others.

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70 Comments

  1. Pray or meditate? Prayer has already been demonstrated to be 100% useless. That is silly, and childish.

    • prayer works a lot dude !!! its just that u have to believe , try it once with an honest heart and u will get all the answers .

    • Prayer ALWAYS works. Sometimes God just says no because he has other plans.

    • Tony, when we come to HIM, we must believe that HE is, and that HE is a rewarder of those who diligently seek HIM. Nothing is too big for my GOD.HE is AWESOME in power. I have witnessed this first hand. Prayer is not just for healing. It is necessary for daily communication with GOD. He died for all sinners and wants to take all our sins, diseases, and sicknesses on himself, and does so when we except him as sacrifice for our sins and ask HIM into our heart. The HOLY SPIRIT starts to change us when we do this. Because satan does not want you to be saved, he will start trying to put thoughts of doubt in your heart. Through daily prayer and praises to GOD, HE keeps you on track. Through prayer you gain strength. The bible also says “Be still and know that I AM GOD. We shouldn’t be busy with our own thoughts of the day and negative things on your mind when we pray. After you pray, reflect on the GOODNESS of GOD and picture JESUS if you like, and meditate on HIM. It is written that HIS children know HIS voice. Get into HIS word and start reading your bible every day. After you have done all of this, you will witness the power of prayer.HE loves you, Tony.

      • Thank you for you post. I have been consumed by “bad thoughts” and it has recently taken over my life. Sometimes I can get past it and focus on different things but lately I have’nt been able to do so. And thats why im up and 4am looking up soultions.I have to remember that God is always there for me, even when I have not always turned to him.I just hate that I cant stop focusing on the negative and keep positive. Its hard to do when you feel like a bad person. I love life and I dont want to feel this way anymore!

        • rdey, You have been in my prayers. The enemy is the author of confusion and the mastermind of lies and tempts us by putting thoughts in our minds. We either act on them or ignore them. His job is to steal your soul and he knows your weaknesses. Prayer, reading the Bible, and even singing songs of praise to GOD help focus on GOD and resist temptation. The bible says to “Draw nigh to GOD and the devil will flee from you” Sometimes what we are “thinking” may not be our thoughts at all. For example, you might be perfectly happy, and driving down the road, when out from nowhere a thought pops in your head and says “Drive into that light pole.” Of course you don’t give in to the temptation. You don’t know where it came from. You might think you have lost your mind, but you have not. You were not thinking that. It just goes to show, there is an enemy at work.
          You might think you have done things that are unforgivable; you think there is no hope for peace. The enemy wants us to think we are too bad for GOD’s grace to save us, because he doesn’t want us in heaven; however, that idea is a lie from hell. First of all, there is no way any human could possibly do enough good works to earn his way to heaven anyway. If that were so, GOD would not have sent HIS SON to save us. Salvation is not something that is earned, but is a free gift from GOD to all who will believe and accept the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins. The Bible says, He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved but he that believeth not shall be damned” You mentioned you know that GOD is always there. If you have not already done so: Empty your heart to GOD;tell HIM everything you are feeling. HE already knows but HE wants to hear it from you. Come to JESUS just as you are and repent of your sins and he will clean you up. HE loves you so much. HE comes to live in our hearts when we ask HIM, but we must be sincere. We should also try to read our bible every day; as we meditate on HIS HOLY WORD, we become stronger in HIM. Forgive others if you are holding any grudges. When we hold grudges against others, bitterness, hate, envy and other bad stuff may start to fester within us. It does not hurt the other person but poisons us. Oh, and forgive yourself. You might also pray that the LORD would lead you to a strong Spirit filled church. You will continue to be in my prayers.
          Take care!

      • Thx 4 the advice, my mind have been consumed by negative thought’s lately, like “CAN i go to Heaven??!!”
        or “WIl i make it to Heaven?!”
        I know that HE Loves me, and i Love Him
        God Bless You Always

    • Billy Cousineau
      Billy Cousineau

      Prayer isn’t useless. Here’s the problem when it comes to prayer. Many people have a tendency while praying to simply muddle a bunch of words and then they call that praying. True praying is going within the heart (feelings) + sincerity and truly desiring to ask for whatever it may be. False praying would be like taking 30 seconds to say: “Father supply me with a million dollars to buy a new car and all the luxuries of life”. We all know this is complete nonsense because firstly the Father gives according to our needs and not what we want. The Father gives what we need to bring us closer to him and not away from him as a million dollars would do so. Praying for a million dollars is nothing more than wishful thinking. We can spend many lifetimes (as many do) living a life of wishful thinking but at some point we will realize that what we want so badly has to be earned.

      • Thanks a lot..You really woke me up. 🙂

      • Well Prayer according to that man isn’t useless, but when I was 11 yrs old my parents rented this farm house from a Born Again Christian couple and anyways our septic tank stopped working and the born again christian told me to hold their hands and pray around the septic tank and that God would make the septic tank work again. While I prayed with the born again christian to god and the septic tank didn’t come back working again. Needless to say I’m an athiest now, so people can say what they want to but you have to have faith in yourself above all. I’m not saying I’m right or wrong but that is why you have to figure out your thoughts.

        • I am sorry that happened to you. GOD does perform miracles,but chose not to fix the septic tank by way of a miracle. Of course I do not know what was in the heart of the born again christian. But I have heard people demand things of GOD in prayer, not giving thought to the fact, not everything is in HIS will.It breaks my heart you stopped believing. To me,when I hear a creation of GOD say, I do not believe in GOD, it is like the lead drawing on the sketch pad, saying I do not believe in the pencil.

    • Have u tried it ???!!!!
      If already but it didn’t work, maybe God has different plans for u, cuz HE makes everything beautiful in HIS time.
      you just gotta have faith

  2. The look your self in the mirror is a cool one.

  3. Not silly if it helps you. I don’t pray but know that it can work wonders for people.
    “The sovereign cure for worry is prayer.” William James, American Philosopher and Psychologist.

  4. How has prayer been demonstrated to be useless, Tony? As someone crippled by a broken back and living with intractable pain, I’ve successfully used prayer and meditation to keep me alive and able to care for my loved ones for 14 years. I’ll be praying for you to receive enlightenment that will help you to understand that somehow you’ve been misled. Soon you’ll be able to enjoy the same wonderful, irreplaceable peace and comfort that I’ve received from a loving, caring God. Let me know when the epiphany occurs for you.

    • GOD is so GOOD. I will also be lifting you up in prayer for continued strength in HIM and healing.

  5. […] 20 Simple Tips to Defeat Negative Thoughts | Life Optimizer […]

  6. Tony,
    I agree with Ken and Samuel. Maybe prayer doesn’t work for you, but it works for many other people. Everybody has different situation. If prayer doesn’t work for you, you can choose meditation.

    Michael,
    Thanks!

    Ken,
    I love the quote you shared!

    Samuel,
    Thanks for sharing your personal story. I’m always glad to learn from other people’s experience, and it’s inspiring to read how you overcome such difficulties through prayer.

  7. I found a variation on #13 that’s made an effect on me: Listen to motivational material on audio books during your daily commute (I myself walk to work).

  8. That’s a good idea, Johnny. Rather than using the commute time for nothing, we’d better listen to motivational material in audio books as you said.

  9. sincere prayer and meditation is indeed the best tool, you will surely feel the enlightenment and you will feel good from within, i like your tips and you really helped me as i am a bit down now, thank you so much! 😉

  10. You’re welcome, Dinah! It’s a great pleasure to know that you find the tips useful. And I’m sure you will soon overcome any negative situation you face. You’re a winner anyway 🙂

  11. I enjoyed reading your article, and from experience I know that the tips you offered are useful and really work.

    Defeating negative thoughts and developing a positive attitude is very important and can do wonders, but one has to persevere with it. Quite often, I hear people saying that they have tried to change the way they think, but nothing happened. The fact is that they tried for just a little while, and then stopped trying, because they didn’t get immediate results.

    There is some important point that is often disregarded, and that is, if you try to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts for a few minutes a day, but think negatively for the rest of the day, you are actually defeating your efforts. Positive thinking has to be a sustained, ongoing project, not something you do sometimes and for a little while. Perseverance can in time turn positive thinking and attitude into a habit.

  12. Remez,
    You brought good points about the importance of perseverance. I completely agree. Good results won’t come easily, and defeating negative thoughts is no exception. Without perseverance, it’s far too easy to give up before reaping the fruit.

  13. To forfeit negative thoughts, one should have the power to think or perceive things positively. In times of trouble, we should keep our faith to Him; we should remember that He’s there to comfort or rather help us when we’re down. We should not be afraid to fall down for He is there to help us up.

  14. Rhei,
    I agree with you about the importance of faith. Faith can tremendously help us in time of trouble to keep our head up and move forward.

  15. Thanks for the list

    My favourite site for inspirational postive stuff is Inspire your day (http://www.inspireyourday.com.au).

    If I am attentive, I turn the negative thoughts into learning experiences for personal growth to be the person I want to be.

    They don’t have to be my negative thought they can be even be a negative comment for a stranger that has affected me.

    thanks
    Leona

  16. That’s a good tip, Leona. By turning negative thoughts into learning experiences, we turn the situation around into something positive.

  17. Years ago, I read a great quote from (I think) Philip Glasser [?] “To change what you are thinking, change what you are doing.” To operationalize this, when I start feeling stressed and negative, I either go for a walk or do a full blown exercise routine of some sort. And the negativity always seems to fall away. A while back, I began to realize that at least half the value of my exercise is #14 (Go out and appreciate the beauty of the world…). Recently, however, I’ve added even more value to my outdoor exercise by adding listening to inspirational audio books on my MP3 player.

    My latest and favorite audio item is this freebie 42-minute mp3 item from LearnOutLoud.com titled 50 Things I’m Going to Do Today. Listening to this, in an active, open-spirited way, with your problems and goals in mind, you will find at least one new thing to try that will make a positive difference in your life. It’s sometimes funny and irreverent and always positive, encouraging, and life-affirming.

  18. […] people that you can be friends with. If you still aren’t in the mood to go out, but you still feel the need to reach out to someone, try the Internet. You don’t have to go online looking for love or a new […]

  19. thanks a lot for the valuable points. I feel I have to read these type of materials more. Getting out of negative thoughts is the difficult task. Look forward for more tips from you..

    Thansk again

  20. thank you for writing good words on the internet, i will do my best in my remainig life

  21. It was good.

  22. I think most people don’t realize how much of detrimental impact negative thoughts have on their lives. If they jus took the time out to really identify and then challenge their negative thoughts, their self esteem would be greatly boosted.

    Charles L.

  23. […] you would like. This works, and is suggested, because it’s easier to manage big, ugly, shadowy negative thoughts when you put a clear face on them (text). Writing them down unmasks all the shadows and makes the […]

  24. great advise keep up the good work

    Jonathan

  25. It’s been a few months since my original comment and I’ve given this much more thought. The result is a blog post/podcast based on Martin Selignman’s Learned Optimism. It’s got a review of key concepts and some Challenges you can use with project teams (workers) or your family. Available as a 9 minute audio or in text form. It’s at the Inspired Project Teams blog under Learn to Be Optimistic… Learn to Succeed.
    (Thanks to this blog for the great inspiration and for the implied challenge to apply this to my specialty, project management!)

  26. At a time in life , when the pressures of corporate world were getting to me, my fiance introduced me to this post.
    ” Have realistic expectations and learn to accept failure” . Never has truth been said so plainly and effectively. I guess most of my problems and restlessness is routed to the simple fact that I push myself harder than I ought to. I can never relax and am too harsh on myself. I cannot even concentrate on a simple prayer with a million thoughts going on in my head, I guess the only person who can save me from snapping / burning out is myself. I need to stop.

  27. a wonderful version to overcome but it is quit impossible to smile while someone is depressed.

  28. This is a great post and some valuable information. Negative thoughts are like weeds, if you don’t get rid of them early they’ll over run the garden of your mind. The sooner you remove them the better. Start by tracking your thoughts, get rid of those that don’t work for you or don’t help you achieve your goals. Negative thoughts are the kind that get you down, make you feel like you’re no good or that life is hard.
    Replace these with positive thoughts and focus on how you can make your life better. The sooner you get rid of those negative thoughts the better.

  29. Prayer helps me tremendously… I know that God is listening and working on my behalf for my good, and that things will eventually change. It is up to me to be patient and let Him work things out. And He will and always does.

  30. Great tips. Prayer and meditation help me quite a bit. It is unwise, and negative to demean and label something childish if it does not work for you.

  31. I am almost fifty years old, married with two children. I am unfortunately a person with lots of negative thoughts. It makes my life and my family’s life a misery. I cannot help being negative and a little problem becomes hell. I am often introvert, lacking of confidence and I used to be very shy (at fifty shyness is not so strong). Resulting from this, many people have been nasty to me in every ways which have made my hope of getting better even harder. I have tried everyting; praying (because I am a believer in God), meditating, doing reiki, etc. God or praying has never helped me.
    Thinking negatively is an illness and very difficult to get rif of.

  32. very very inspiring

  33. I do not know how people act and function when they hold negative thoughts. For me, I can do nothing if I experience hard time and have negative attitude. Thanks for your wonderful tips to help me think positively. I will try some of them that suitable for me. Amazing article!

  34. Great tips. Meditation has definitely helped me. And listening to music to change the mood as well. Interestingly enough, science supports the idea that meditation can help us feel happier. For instance, scientists have discovered that certain areas of the brain light up constantly in Buddhists. These areas are associated with positive emotions and good mood. One scientist from the University of California San Francisco Medical Center discovered that “experienced Buddhists were less likely to be shocked, flustered, surprised or as angry as other people”, due to meditation.

  35. i think that this was extremely encouraging and makes me feel much more highly about myself and the people around. i am going to acsept myself now the way iam, and only try to do good.

  36. valarae nanna yi ttundu . positive life gunam cheyum ,,.. ellavarkkum

  37. Great tips, thanks for sharing them.
    I have found for me attempting to “think positively” and replacing negative thoughts with positive ones can be a challenge.
    Rather, noticing negative thoughts as they pop up and seeing them for what they are, that is, thoughts not facts, has helped me in life.

  38. is there some kind of medicine for treatment for negative thoughts… i have some issue over my family where the person doubts n thinks everything negatively.. so please help me out.. 🙁 i would be thankfull if u would help me out

  39. Very nice and worthfull

  40. It is really too good. Thanks for sharing the valuable points.

  41. i was feelin so low since i’m goin thru a bad phase but after i read tis i feel so inspired to do sumthin about my unhappiness rather than sit around frettin abt it..its truly motivating..thank u!!!

  42. […] lo explica Donald Latumahina en Life Optimizer y yo concuerdo con ese punto de vista. Claro que él ofrece algunas ideas para manejar […]

  43. Excellent points for overcoming negative thoughts

  44. YES! prayer is 100% useless is you have no faith. But prayer with faith is the best combination and can not be measured.

      • Unless and I repeat unless GOD ‘wants’ to do something he will, otherwise you’re wasting your time. I pray and pray and pray because he says “ask and you shall receive’, nothing happens…then I hear..”You didn’t ask right!”,WHAT? Come on now we all know GOD stalls and stalls, and hides and hides I don’t care if you pray everyday for hours on end, there are times he simply will NOT help you. WHY? I have no clue, other than he’s waiting for the other person to change, to no longer sin, even tho you’re the one being hurt. Read the Bible someone says, well, I read the bible, I pray..yet, I know evil is all around me each and every day,and GOD is permitting it. Sometimes, like Tony you just need to stop praying,stop thinking about what you can’t change and simply wait and wait and wait until GOD decides to stop hiding. IF I ask my own Father to help me, he wouldn’t delayed, or he would have simply said he can’t help me…pure and simple, but, not GOD. We assume he hears us, we assume he see’s whats going on in our life, in fact, he ‘allowed’ this torture to occur in my life..I repeat he allowed it! Can I stop it? NO, no matter who I call or who I ask to investigate, it simply goes no where. I have a feeling this is going to go on until I die because GOD wills it, certainly not me. In this case, prayer will NOT help bez GOD has already put his plan in place, its just a matter of time.

  45. before I had my battle with thoughts i was right into the lord and praying worshiping etc. it has been nearly two years of battling and i wonder where god is sometimes i still try and have carpet time when i can and listen to worship and praying i hope that i will soon see the light at the end of the tunnel

  46. Good tips. Forgetting negative thoughts is hard but if you can reinforce positivity it does work. I also find doing something you enjoy can also help.

  47. hey,Only believing in god won’t help you overcome negative thoughts,you need to help yourself alongwith prayers.Be a fighter,accept life as it comes to you .With negative thoughts you are making your life a hell,no one else will come to share your negativity ,they can only pay their sympathy to you.Don’t be looser you have sense to know whats good or bad for you……..remember ,enjoy your today with a thinking it won’t come back ……….just chill

  48. Great list Donald. I particularly agree with #11 – it’s so easy to be dragged down by negative people. Mix with the ‘glass-half-full’ people I say!

  49. I just want to know ..how to maintain my negative thoughts .. And be able to not think so negative ,,

  50. Too bad I’ve tried everything here and yet everything is only getting worse. I try to help as much people as I can but nearly everyone that I know is just using me to do things for them all the time. I have always been the little good guy that no one recognizes but everyone is asking for help with everything. One of my main things is to never say anything hurtful or dealing any physical pain to others. They’re more important than me. Every Autumn I think for myself: “How can people think these yellow and red leaves are beautiful when they’re dying?”

  51. Thank You for the words of encouragment,Myself I was going through some difficult moment and the negative thoughts is depriving me happiness.Instead of being happy something negative will come into my mind,All I wanna say to all those who think Prayer doesnt work,You dont know God yet,Get to know and understand Him. start by accepting and appraciating the small things you have and you will blessed with bigger,Gods Time is Too Perfect.

    • Hi I feel very difficult with these negative thoughts and i didn’t understand what i do very embarrasing condition is created sometime i have no courage to do something with these negative thoughts.

  52. hello , my nameis parminder singh andiam 19 years old i am suffered with a disease , the disease is that the negative thoughts rise up in my mind and give lot of tension to me, i am suffered from this problem from last 4 years, please give me solution about this……

  53. Hi…,If a problem comes automatically. then its ok.
    But if we create problem ourselves.who will response for that. God has given me so many opportunities but I misused them. Really I am worrying about that only. I so far am not close to any problem. Now I always am thinking that I have done mistake….mistake. What I am trying to convey is…………..Already everything is written that to happen so….or we do them so. I lost my job. Now since 1 year I have no job. Daily I keep thinking the same….that I have committed such a foolish thing. So please tell me ………Now what to do….
    Please can you give reply to mail id….
    it was happened for a good reason….If so, how…?

  54. Liked and simply had to share. Thank you very much.

  55. Awesome, the twenty commandments of positive thinking.

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