4 Negative Thinking Exercises to Improve Your Mental Health

By Kari

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We all have negative thoughts from time to time. They can be triggered by daily stressors, past experiences, self-doubt, or comparison with others. Negative thoughts can affect our mood and behavior, leading to anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

As women, we often face additional pressures and expectations from society, which can fuel our negative thoughts. However, we are also resilient and capable of challenging and changing our negative thoughts.

In this post, we’ll explore some effective negative thinking exercises and strategies for overcoming negative thoughts and improving our mental health.

What are the 4 Types of Negative Thinking:

Did you know that negative thinking actually comes in different types? That’s right, it’s not just one-size-fits-all negativity.

There are four types of negative thinking: all-or-nothing thinking, overgeneralization, mental filtering, and disqualifying the positive. Each type can have a different impact on our overall mental health and well-being.

All-or-nothing thinking

This type of thinking is exactly what it sounds like. You see things as either all good or all bad, with no in-between. This extreme way of thinking can be harmful because it doesn’t allow for any gray areas or nuance. For example, you might feel like you’re a complete failure because you messed up one project at work. However, this is an unrealistic and unfair way of thinking.

To combat all-or-nothing thinking, try focusing on the positives in situations. Make a list of things that went well or that you did right, even if it was just one thing. Additionally, try to reframe your thoughts into a more realistic perspective. Ask yourself, “Is it really true that I’m a complete failure because of this one mistake?”


This type of negative thinking is when you take one negative event and apply it to everything in your life. For example, you might fail a test and tell yourself that you’ll never be good at anything. This type of thinking can be destructive and prevent you from trying new things or taking risks.

To combat overgeneralization, remind yourself of times when you have succeeded or done well in a similar situation. Also, try to look at the bigger picture and how this one negative event doesn’t define your entire life.

Mental Filtering

This type of thinking is when you focus only on the negative aspects of a situation and filter out all the positive. For example, you might have a great day at work, but then focus only on the one negative comment your boss made. This type of thinking can lead to feelings of inadequacy and not being good enough.

To combat mental filtering, try to focus on the positive aspects of a situation. Make a conscious effort to notice the good things that happen in your day, even if they seem small. Additionally, remind yourself that no one is perfect and that negative comments or events don’t define your worth.

Disqualifying the Positive

This type of thinking is when you dismiss anything positive that happens, or reject compliments from others. For example, if someone compliments you on your work, you might think to yourself that they’re just being nice and don’t really mean it. This type of thinking can prevent you from acknowledging your accomplishments and feeling good about yourself.

To combat disqualifying the positive, try to accept compliments or positive feedback graciously. Allow yourself to feel good about your accomplishments and remind yourself that you deserve recognition for your hard work.

So the next time you find yourself stuck in a negative thought spiral, take a step back and see if you can identify which type of negative thinking you may be experiencing. Then take steps to challenge and reframe those thoughts into something more positive and empowering.

Ways to Overcome Negative Thoughts

Identify and challenge your negative thoughts: The first step in overcoming negative thoughts is to become aware of them. Pay attention to your inner dialogue and notice when you start to have negative thoughts about yourself or others.

Next, challenge these thoughts by asking yourself if they are based on evidence or assumptions. For example, if you’re thinking, “I’m not good enough for that job,” ask yourself, “What evidence do I have to support that thought? Have I received feedback from others or just assumed it?”

By questioning your negative thoughts, you can start to see them as opinions rather than facts and reduce their impact on you.

Practice self-compassion

Negative thoughts can be harsh and critical towards ourselves. However, treating ourselves with kindness and compassion can counteract their negativity. Practice self-compassion by speaking to yourself as you would a good friend or a loved one.

Acknowledge your strengths, accomplishments, and efforts, and don’t beat yourself up for mistakes or setbacks. For example, instead of saying, “I can’t believe I screwed up that presentation,” say, “I’m proud of myself for doing my best and learning from the experience.”

Engage in positive activities

Negative thoughts can make us feel stuck, unmotivated, and unhappy. By engaging in positive activities, we can shift our attention and mood towards the present moment and enjoyable experiences. Choose activities that bring you joy, relaxation, or a sense of accomplishment, such as exercise, art, music, cooking, reading, or volunteering. When you’re doing these activities, focus on them fully and savor the moment. This can help you break the cycle of negative thoughts and build a positive mindset.

Seek support from others

Overcoming negative thoughts is not always easy, and it’s okay to ask for help. Reach out to trusted friends, family, or professionals, such as therapists or coaches, to talk about your struggles and receive guidance. Sharing your thoughts and feelings with others can help you gain perspective, validation, and encouragement. Also, surround yourself with people who uplift and inspire you, rather than bring you down or trigger your negative thoughts.

Practice mindfulness and gratitude

Mindfulness and gratitude are powerful practices for calming the mind and cultivating positivity. Mindfulness involves being aware of and accepting the present moment without judgment or attachment. It can help you observe your negative thoughts without getting caught up in them or reacting to them.

Gratitude involves appreciating and acknowledging the good things in your life, which can shift your focus from what you lack to what you have. Practice mindfulness and gratitude daily, through meditation, journaling, or simply pausing to notice your surroundings and express gratitude for them.

Next Steps on Negative Thinking Exercises

Learning how to overcome negative thoughts takes time, effort, and patience, but it’s worth it for your mental health and well-being. By identifying and challenging your negative thoughts, practicing self-compassion, engaging in positive activities, seeking support, and practicing mindfulness and gratitude, you can break free from their grip and live a more fulfilling life.

Remember that you’re not alone in this journey and that you have the potential to create a different narrative for yourself. Keep going, and don’t give up on yourself.

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Your thoughts are extremely powerful! Learning how to switch negative thinking into positive thoughts can help you take control of your joy. Try these simple exercises...

About the author
Kari is the content curator and founder of Gorgeous Mindset. She lives in South Carolina with her husband and two sons. She's believes in the power of making small mindset shifts to create big life changes. Her most recent published works include the The High Vibes Manifestation Journal, The Daily Gratitude Journal, and Mastering the Mindset of Self-Love.

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