Stop Negative Thoughts (6 Best Strategies)

Two silver pencils sitting against a yellow background.

You will be a happier person if you learn to manage your emotions.

Stop negative thoughts by learning what triggers them, challenging your biases, writing them down, isolating yourself from upsetting stimulus, and working on learning patience. We hate negative thoughts because they can leave you feeling trapped and consistently unhappy. I am willing to bet you are here because you are at the end of your rope. Do you have thoughts such as:

I shouldn't have said this to my boss today. Do my colleagues think I am rude? I don’t think my boyfriend loves me anymore.

Do you have a tough time controlling your mind? Do you consistently make yourself angry?

If yes, then stay with me because I will take you through a guide that will explain how you can control your negative thoughts. When you let anger control your thoughts, you will find yourself consistently unhappy.

No one likes feeling negative emotions. Here are some tips to improve your outlook:

1.  Challenge your biases.

What do I mean by this? All too often we are upset because we only know one side of the story.

For example, imagine a situation in which your boss shows up to work late a daily basis. You are holding onto a negative impression about him. You are angry because you do not think it is fair that he asks you to be on time while he is late.

But what if he is recently divorced and must take his daughter to school every morning? Until you truly understand the situation you really have no right to be angry. Once you understand what is really going on, and you may find that you don’t have any negative thoughts.

If a person is annoying you, sit down with him or her and find out why they are behaving the way they do. Once you understand their situation, you can move toward finding a solution that works for both of you.

It is too easy to jump to conclusions that present the worst-case scenario. If you do this consistently, you are filling your mind with false images. By being more understanding you can limit negative thinking. Give people the benefit of the doubt.

2. Write your negative feelings down.

It is old school, but it always helps. If you have negative thoughts and you can't control your negative emotions, pen them down in a personal diary or a journal.  The process will help you cope with your irritation. If you are not sure how to get started, check out this article on how to keep a journal.

By describing why and when you got angry, you are practicing introspection, which will help you understand what upsets you or annoys you the most. It will also inspire you to find solutions to your problems.

Imagine that you are angry at a family member. Describe the situation and articulate your emotions in your journal. By taking that simple step, you will feel more level-headed, which means you are ready to figure out if your assessment is reasonable.

If you realize that you were exaggerating the problem or angry over a silly situation, you will feel much better. Furthermore, you can take steps to solve whatever problem might exist. Invite your family member to go get a coffee with you so you can have a nice chat with them about what upset you.

3. Stop negative thoughts by speaking up.

A microphone against a blue background that you can use to speak up against negative thoughts.

If you are upset at a person, respectfully telling them how you feel is a great step to resolving your relationship with that person. If you are angry at something you cannot control like the death of a loved one, talking to someone will lift some of the negative emotions from your chest.

Say someone at work teases you or cracks jokes at your expense.  In your heart, you hate those jokes and repeated incidents are causing you to build up negative thoughts emotions toward this insensitive jokester.

If you do not work up the courage to stand up for yourself, you will either grow increasingly resentful. Or, you might just snap back at them and say something hurtful or inappropriate.  That person may not even know why you are so angry with them. Maybe those kinds of jokes do not bother this person, so they have no idea that you are upset.

 If someone’s behavior disturbs you, make sure you speak up. Confront the person nicely and explain why they are upsetting you. Here is out guide on how to have productive discussions/arguments.

If you need to speak up, make sure you choose the right place, the right occasion, to make your feelings known. The outcome will reward your patience.

4. Isolate yourself from what is upsetting you.

You are going to consistently face people and circumstances that you can't tolerate. And a lot of the time, there will be no solution. In such a situation, try to take some time away from whatever is bothering you.

Say your manager just gave you some feedback that made you furious. It would be inappropriate to show your anger. Take a five-minute coffee break to watch a funny video.

Calm yourself down, figure out how you can address the situation, and then speak to your manager with a clear head. Let him or her know how you feel like I suggested in my 4th tip. You will be able to think rationally and avoid revealing your negative thoughts when you speak.

5. Work on becoming a more patient person.

Sometimes you cannot solve a problem right away. The circumstances that are causing you to be upset will not change quickly. You will need to learn to cope appropriately with the things that are upsetting you. Your patience (or lack thereof) can help (or hurt) you.

If a solution is not obvious, give yourself a few days. Sometimes the answer will just pop into your head.

Mind Tools has a great guide on how to be patient.

6. You can stop negative thoughts by learning what triggers them.

Know of your triggers. What do I mean by triggers? Triggers are situations or things that irritate you, annoy you, or maybe even make you furious. I am sure you are aware of what stimuli in your life fit that description.

Imagine you have a colleague at work who doesn't do what they promise; they always come late to work. You are a type A, conscientious person who can't bear tardy behavior. You think negative thoughts about this person. Before you know it, you are angry at them, at your boss for hiring them, and the world in general.

Make sure you have a backup plan for yourself. Ask yourself what can you do in a situation that makes you angry that will calm you down? I take a brief walk, get a glass of water, etc.

If you have a plan to control your emotion, you can carry out your plan when your colleague screws up instead of feeling negative or getting angry.

Remember that it is very important to know what pushes you to have negative thoughts. If you know yourself well, you can prepare ahead of time. Having a plan will make dealing with the things that irritate you much easier. You will be a more agreeable person.

You want to process any unhappy emotions and get rid of them quickly. It is not healthy to let them control you. If something really irritates you, work hard to find a resolution. More often than not, you can turn a negative situation into something positive.