3 Strategies for Dealing with Negative Thoughts

Recognizing and Naming Thinking Errors

It may sound strange that some of our thoughts can be...errors? Also called cognitive distortions, sometimes we can get stuck in negative thought patterns. Naming and recognizing these negative patterns can help lead to more balanced thoughts, and in turn more positive, or at least neutral, emotions. Some common thinking errors are catastrophization (always jumping to the worst conclusion, when it isn't the most likely conclusion) shoulds (assumptions about what ourselves or others "should" do; becoming upset when the "rules" are broken) control fallacies (external control- good and bad consequences are the results of other's actions; internal control- others pain and happiness is dependent on our actions). 

Visualization- Falling Leaves

This is a visualization designed to help clear our minds of any thoughts, leading to a more peaceful and meditative state. Imagine you are sitting on a river bank. Across the river is a large tree. The leaves of the tree are gently falling into the river and being carried downstream. Now as thoughts enter your mind, imagine the thought is written on a leaf, and is carried down the river. As each new thought enters your mind, it is carried down and down until it is just you sitting on the riverbank in a meditative state.


Mindfulness is a powerful practice that helps take us our of our heads, and into our bodies, so to speak. Anxious and depressed thoughts are usually focused on the past or the future, rarely are they focused on the NOW. Using your 5 senses can bring you into the present, and relieve yourself of thoughts that can cause anxiety or depression. Ways to practice mindfulness include focusing on your breath. Also noticing what you can feel- how does the pen in your hand feel? Doing dishes? What is the water like as it runs over your hands? Focus on a background noise, like a ticking clock or traffic. It's hard for our brains to hold the thoughts and the mindful awareness at the same time.