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Challenge Your Negative Thoughts

The National Science Foundation reports that the average person has as many as 50,000 thoughts per day and the majority (80%) are negative.

These thoughts can be destructive to your mental and physical well-being.

The cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) "thought record" technique could help challenge and reframe negative thoughts by objectively identifying and examining untrue or unhelpful thoughts.

Start your first thought record entry with these three simple steps:

1. Identify negative or unwanted thoughts.

Most negative thoughts are unconscious — they pop into your head, often at inopportune times. Stopping to identify thoughts isn’t an intentional activity, so it may take some practice. Once you notice an unwanted thought, write it down.

Negative thought: “No one cares what I have to say.”

2. Label the corresponding emotion.

Next, identify how you were feeling at the time of this negative statement. An emotions wheel can help if you are struggling to name the emotion. Your thoughts and emotions are interconnected. Identifying one will help you untangle the other.

Emotion: I feel rejected, sad, or angry.

3. Challenge with facts.

Unwanted thoughts are not always based on fact and often involve extreme or all-or-nothing thinking (using words like “always” or “never”). Look for facts or experiences that refute your negative thought. List all the evidence that you identify. Ask friends or mentors for help if this step is particularly challenging.

Facts: My team supported my client event idea last month. My manager recognized my suggestion in last week’s staff meeting.

The way you think affects the way you feel and react to situations. By becoming more aware of negative or unhelpful thoughts and reframing them in light of facts, you can reduce stress and work toward a more positive outlook.