How To Stop Negative Thought Patterns With Powerful Questions

Challenge Negative Thinking and Reframe Your Mindset

We all experience negative thoughts from time to time, but what happens when we get into the habit of negative thinking? Negative thought patterns can rob us of joy and negatively impact the way we interact with our families.

In this article, I will show you how to get unstuck with the use of powerful questions. By using these powerful questions you can challenge the thoughts that don’t serve you. Get ready to learn how to break the habit of negative thinking for good!

What’s so powerful about questions?

“When we’re asked a question our whole brain is stimulated and serotonin is released. This release of serotonin causes the brain to relax and makes it most able to find answers and develop solutions.” 

Medium.com, article: What effect do questions have on our brain?

Questions gives us the opportunity to think and come up with solutions. If we simply take our negative thoughts as truth, we allow them to have influence over our emotions and decisions in a negative way. It’s time to take charge of your thoughts!

Imagine for a moment that you are listening to music and the playlist is not jiving with you at the time. It’s affecting your mood and not in a good way.

What do you do?

You change it!

This is what we have to do with our negative thought patterns. And the great news is, there are plenty of tools out there to help you do this. Challenging your negative thoughts by using questions is one powerful way to change the channel.

What are the Side Effects of Negative Thought Patterns?

So what’s the problem with negative thought patterns? Well, besides being an overall killjoy, negative thought patterns can:

Decrease productivity

Cause feelings of helplessness

Lower self-esteem

Inhibit goal setting

Lead to depression

Perfectionism

Increase anxiety

What is the Main Cause of Negative Thinking?

So, what’s the purpose of negative thinking anyway? Negative thoughts are meant to be beneficial for us. They can help warn us to be more cautious when danger might lie ahead.

As we take on stress our brains release more cortisol and our negative thoughts increase. We might experience stress brought on by lack of sleep, an argument with our spouse, poor diet, or too many activities in a given day.

Keeping stress levels low is one way to combat negative thinking. If you have been experiencing a lot of stress, create a regular self-care routine to melt the stress away.

However, if you are locked into a pattern of negative thoughts it might be the thoughts that are causing stress and anxiety. There is no better time than now to get into the habit of challenging your negative thoughts and stop the patterns for good.

What are negative thought patterns?

There are a variety of ways that we tend to convince ourselves that our negative thoughts hold truth. You might hear these negative thought patterns referred to as cognitive distortions or thinking traps.

Here are a few general thinking traps we might hold that distort our thoughts:

Personalizing

Personalizing is when something goes wrong, and you immediately think you must be the problem.

Filtering

Filtering is when you focus on the negative aspects of a situation, ignoring all the positive ones.

Catastrophizing

Catastrophizing is when you expect the worst outcome in a situation.

Polarizing

Polarizing is when you see everything as either good or bad, black or white. There is no middle ground in this type of thinking.

Check out this graphic from for more thinking traps that we can fall into. Do you see yourself using any of these types of thinking?

Infographic of 15 examples of negative thought patterns.
“Cognitive Distortions” https://positivepsychology.com/

Powerful Questions to Disrupt Negative Thinking Patterns

Ok, so now we are at the most important part! The questions! Use these powerful questions when you are disrupted by a pestering negative thought:

1. Am I 100% positive this is true?

Thoughts are not facts. Just because we feel it to be true, doesn’t make it so. Knowing this is such an important step to overcoming a negative mindset.

2. Is there evidence that contradicts my thought?

Break up the negative thought pattern by challenging your view of the situation.

3. Am I trying to interpret this situation without all the evidence?

I love how the video I shared above uses the example of putting your negative thoughts on trial. If there wasn’t sufficient evidence to hold up in court, the case would be closed.

4. Will this matter 5 minutes from now, 5 days from now, 5 years from now?

Place your negative thoughts in the perspective of time. How often in the past have you expected the worst out of a situation and it played out differently?

Also, think about how strongly you may have felt about a certain situation in the past. I bet you don’t feel as strongly about it as you did at the time.

5. What would I tell a friend who was in this same situation?

Quite often we do not treat ourselves as kindly as we would a friend or even a stranger. Why the double standard?

6. How can I look at this situation differently?

Are you fixated on your perception of what happened? What if you challenged your perspective?

7. How can I look at the situation in a positive way?

This is taking the last question a step further. Do you know any positive people in your life? How would they respond to this situation? The best way to combat a negative is with a positive.

8. Is this thought helpful to me, how so?

Keep in mind the purpose of negative thoughts. Is this negative thought helping me stay out of danger or getting hurt? Or, is that a bit of a stretch?

9. Is there anything I can do about this?

If there is a negative thought or worry, is there something you can do to change the outcome? Sometimes, we just need to think a little deeper. If it is out of our control, and it’s best to let it go.

10. Has this happened before?

If this is a common occurrence for you, is there something you can do differently this time? We often handle situations in the same manner, but rarely do we explore different ways of handling situations.

This is a great question to identify specific thinking patterns so that you can directly challenge and overcome them.

11. If I am to think logically, what’s the worst that can happen?

This is a great way to place things in perspective and catch yourself thinking in absolutes.

If your thought process goes straight to:

‘I will never be able to figure this out.’

Reframe your thought to better suit you. Instead, you might reframe your thought to:

‘This will take longer than I thought.’

or

‘Maybe I need to find some help.’

12. Is this situation in my control?

Sometimes we worry about things out of our control. All that worry just gets us nowhere and only causes more stress and negative thinking. If it is out of your control and you can’t do anything about it it’s best to let it go and move forward in life.

13. Can my spiritual beliefs help me with this?

My spiritual beliefs challenge me to let go of my worries and anxieties. I find that encouraging and I value my faith. Explore what your spiritual beliefs say in the matter.

A mom holds hands in prayer on top of open Bible.

14. Will thinking this way help me become my best self?

If your thought patterns are not serving you or your future, it is time to dump them and practice a new way of thinking. Adopt a positive mindset to help your move towards your goals and become your best self.

15. What can I learn from this situation for next time?

We can’t go back in time, but we can learn from mistakes and failures for the future. This is an excellent way to transform a setback into a success.

16. Am I considering my strengths or only focusing on my weakness? (Bonus)

Are you only looking back at past mistakes and failures to back up your negative thought? Is that fair? Take another look and remind yourself of your strengths.

The Benefits of Challenging Your Negative Thoughts on Paper

When you begin to use powerful questions to challenge your negative thoughts, consider writing them down. By processing your thoughts on paper, whether a journal or a worksheet, you can start to recognize patterns in your thinking.

You might even see some of the examples of cognitive distortions in your thought processes. Gain insight as you discover patterns of specific triggers that might start the spiraling of negative thoughts.

Writing your thoughts down on paper is also therapeutic and can relieve stress.

I created a printable with the 15 Powerful Questions to Challenge Negative Thoughts discussed in this article. Print it out to keep as a reference the next time you feel stuck in negative thinking.

Pick a few questions that are relevant to your specific negative thought and write it down. My favorite place is in a spiral notebook that I keep near.

The printable is FREE to all subscribers and it is an instant download. Just make sure to check your email folder and confirm and download this handy resource.

When to seek help

If you feel your negative thoughts are overwhelming and affecting the quality of your life, seek out a therapist or counselor for support.

People who suffer from depression can often get stuck in a negative bias and have difficulty seeing the positive in things.

A counselor or therapist will be able to work one on one with you and give you support and tools to help you on your journey!

Challenge Your Negative Thoughts and Stop Negative Thinking Patterns

By challenging your negative thinking consistently, you can rewire your brain. The more you use these powerful questions to disrupt negative thinking patterns, with time and practice you can challenge your negative thoughts automatically. Get determined and break the cycle.

Just like any exercise, you will get better with practice. As you challenge your negative thoughts it will begin to influence what you say aloud. In turn, you will be fostering a positive environment for you and your family.  

Share with your kids these powerful questions so when they have negative thoughts can learn to challenge them too.

Practice it, model it, Achieve it!

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