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Unlearning Negative Thought Patterns

Do you remember vinyl records? When they had a scratch, the needle would stick in the groove and the same line would sing over and over and over until you moved the needle off the crack. Sometimes we can feel like we have that “broken record” in our heads, repeating negative thoughts, negative self-talk, doubts, worries. Sometimes it is the voices from our past who told us we would never be good enough, or didn’t try hard enough and now even though that person isn’t here, the voice plays on and on and on.

Negative Habits are Hard to Break

Repetition of something can soon become subconscious. If you hear something enough times, you might start to believe it, even if it isn’t rational. Training is often thought of being used with animals or pets. But actually, humans are “conditioned” every day. Ideally, we are conditioned to do the right and healthy thing, but sometimes not so much. Even if as a child your inner voice says one thing, like this isn’t safe, or this doesn’t feel good, if your environment doesn’t confirm that (i.e. a negative or abusive situation), you “learn” to doubt your inner voice. So although you know there is no logical reason why you are worse than anyone else, you have a negative inner voice that tells you otherwise; that broken record that criticizes and calls yourself names.

Replace Negative Thoughts with a Positive Mantra

They say it takes 21 days to break a habit. So to “unlearn” these negative thought patterns, we must replace them with positive ones, and do so over and over and over. The change does not happen overnight, but when you hear yourself saying negative self-talk, catch it and turn it around, catch it and turn it around. The mantra you use should be simple and believable, something you will remember and can use every day. Here are a couple of examples.

  • I’m not crazy.
  • I’m not alone.
  • I’m not the only one.
  • It’s not my fault.
  • I didn’t cause this.
  • I’m an adult.
  • I’m the boss of me.
  • I can do this.
  • I don’t have to be perfect.
  • I’m doing the best I can.
  • I will get through this.
  • I have handled hard stuff before and I will again.

Try practicing something like this on a daily basis and see if you can repair that broken record of negative thinking.

This entry was posted in Coping With Depression, Depression Treatments, Living with Depression and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Unlearning Negative Thought Patterns

  1. Great points! It really can be a cycle that is hard to break.

  2. cindyaka says:

    I definitely try to be aware of my self-talk,and for the most part am able to quell those voices. The ones that gets me is “I should have done…instead” and “I can’t believe I did this”. It is easy to dwell on past situations and get caught up in a negative point of view; it can turn into a vicious cycle pretty fast. When I find myself in that situation, I know tell myself that “This is in the past, and can’t change what happened, but I can change the way I look at it”.

  3. Eric says:

    I read through your article. It was helpful to me. Please keep me posted on any other article you write.

  4. Annie says:

    I like the idea of this, but instead of starting with “I am not” I find it more useful to think of the complete opposite so that I can make a positive “I am” statement. So, in place of “I am not crazy” I prefer “I am sane” or for “I am not alone” “I am loved” or “I am surrounded by friends.” etc. This helps to focus the attention on the positive rather than perceived deficiencies.

  5. SJ says:

    I have been a victim of emotional abuse (parental). I know it has been quite long back but it was brutal and it was almost everyday of my childhood. I used to live in a perpetual fear. Today the fear has been converted to anger, but anger and hate so deep that it feels suicidal. I know I can’t change it but I can’t get myself to moving ahead in life. Everyone has always controlled me as a kid and now when it comes to making decisions I feel helpless and hopeless. I only feel suicidal bcoz it seems like an eternal problem. Pls help.

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