stopping negative thoughts

Type “stopping negative thoughts” into Google and you’ll get almost 2.5 million results. People recognize that although they have negative thoughts there is nothing that requires negative thoughts for health or mental stability. I believe you can live easily without them. Stopping them is a whole different problem.

A million different self-help gurus can give you seminars and motivational tools designed to help you wean yourself off the negative thought habit. The best tip I ever picked up, though, is a simple one. I can’t tell you where I heard it first, although I think Tony Robbins made a passing anecdote about trying it in his early days of self-improvement. I’m sure it’s not original to me, but then again “spend less than you earn” is offered up as advice by everyone on the planet and that’s pretty old advice, too.

I made a comment once that I am very fond of complicating things. What do I mean by that? If I need to poach eggs, I will buy an egg poacher instead of using a pan. If I need to crush spices, I will buy a mortar and pestle instead of using a big spoon. Write a blog? Download LiveWriter. Paint a room? Buy 15 different types of brushes: one for corners, one for edges, one for broad strokes, etc. I have never seen a problem that I can’t complicate by attacking it with overwhelming force and a multitude of tools.

This trick, however, works so well for me that I always wonder why I don’t do it more often, or even 100% of the time. It probably comes from my desire to buy a book to conquer negative thoughts, or watch a DVD. None of that is necessary (although it probably doesn’t hurt).

The simple solution? Put a rubberband on your wrist. Every time you have a negative thought stretch it out and let it snap. Pow. That hurts. It may even leave a welt if your rubber band is too thick. Take it easy, you aren’t trying to maim yourself, but you are trying to create a little bit of a pain avoidance reflex with the negative thoughts.

I have done this exercise for days at a time, then stopped or forgotten about it for weeks or months, then done it again. Currently I’ve been doing it for about a week. My post yesterday, which was at best gloomy and at worst outright negative, was actually written about a week ago – right before I donned the rubber band.

Generally the rubber band is pretty effective. The biggest problem is that it looks a little odd, but I imagine if you’re a woman with long hair you can tell people it’s for your hair in case it gets unruly. If you’re a man you can tell people it’s to remind you not to forget something. Or you can tell people it’s a hot new accessory, the Vulcanized Rubber Happy Thought Maker, and sell them one for $3.99 on eBay. Lance Armstrong did it, after all.

Try it for a few days. Every time you feel a negative thought creeping in, pop! If you complain to yourself or someone else – pop! If you feel sorry for yourself – pop! If you feel tired, or irritated at work, or even let down about a sports team – POP! It’s strange but you’ll find if you do this simple exercise the negative thoughts start dying down pretty quickly, and you’ll feel a lot happier.

photo by Cristiane Sousa

20 Replies to “stopping negative thoughts”

  1. My mom tried to have me use a rubber band to stop biting my finger nails when I was in middle school. However, I was always too worried about hurting myself, so I just would snap it really lightly….

  2. I don’t use the rubber band, I found it ineffective for me. But I make a conscious effort to stop myself as soon as I have bad or negative thoughts. However, I also read that you should not totally supress your “negative” thoughts. It means something bothers you and you need to acknowledge it and work it out, move on to the positive. I aslo read a good tip, if you have doubts, bad or negative thoughts, write them down and then flip the page and write something good right away, positive. This way you are not putting your “troubles” into your subconscious mind.

  3. I have not tried the rubber band method, but it seems it is an exercise of diverting your mind rather than creating a pain avoidance reflex. It seems a quick fix at best. For me, I think Bubelah’s idea of coming to the root causes of your negativity would have a much more lasting effect. This approach has certainly helped me deal with my sometimes negative outlook.

    Kyle’s last blog post..I Got Reviewed at!

  4. BB, that is cool, my post above shows my last blog post, how the heck did you do that??

    Kyle’s last blog post..I Got Reviewed at!

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  8. Ahh, even more simple than my digital-timer-get-it-done tool! Yes, I’ve heard of this before (haven’t ried it), but I think you could coin your new title and it would sell like hotcakes. Really!

  9. you shouldn't incourage self injury. the rubber band thing is for cutters trying to stop. it's a step up for them, but still not good.

    but who am i to talk.?? me and my friends do it all the time, just the compare the welts.

  10. I read somewhere that approximately three positive moments are needed to counteract one negative one.

    Als, keeping a journal of daily positive moments helps you be less negative, suuposedly.


  11. Negative thoughts are always eat your life so in this article some great tips are mentioned thanks for great tips.


  12. Good day to you Sir . I am Gerrah Xenia June B. Catiel, 17 years old. I am from the Philippines and I am studying in Southwestern University,one of the schools here in the Philippines. I am taking up Bachelor of Science in Nursing, 2nd year student. As a nursing student Sir,we have this subject SCIENCE,TECHNOLOGY AND SOCIETY. During our final exam this coming March of 2009 Sir, our teacher required us to email a researcher or a professor who have different research regarding any matter. This made me think to go on your website and search for a professor that would help me regarding this matter. When I visited your website I found your name. Would it be alright to you Sir if i ask you a copy of any of your research? I really need your help Sir because Marrh is fast approaching. Would it be alright Sir? I am really begging for your help Sir. I would be very thankful with all my heart Sir if you help me regarding this project. I would be glad also Sir if you will email to me a copy of your research.
    > Thank you Sir for spending your time in reading my email. I am really hoping for your reply on my email to you Sir as soon as possible. Thank you very much Sir. May God bless you Sir and your family.

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