Mindful ways to nix negative thoughts

Woman at the beach with her eyes closed

Recognizing your thoughts, where they come from, and where they’re taking you is the first step to changing how they make you feel.

How you relate to your thoughts has a big impact on how you relate to life. Mindfulness exercises can put space between you and your reactions, by helping you notice how a thought or action makes you feel, and what other thoughts it leads to. Try this to get started:

Recognize the thought

Say you have a thought like, I’m not good enough or Life is unfair, or some other negative story that makes you feel bad. Take a moment to recognize that the thought is forming in your mind.

Relax your body, relax your mind

When you have negative thoughts, your body also reacts negatively. It might feel like tightness or tension, or maybe your heart races or your breath grows short. If you are experiencing sadness, it might make you feel heavy. 

When you notice a thought happening, take a deep, slow breath in. On the breath out, imagine that tension, stress, or heaviness leaving your body and carrying the negative thought with it. Do this a few times. Can you feel a bit of lightness or space open up?

Name a positive

Now ask yourself: What’s actually good in my life right now? What’s working? It could be that you’re healthy, you have a few good friends you enjoy, or your current job pays better than the last one. It could be a beautiful, sunny day outside, or you might have a good movie you’re looking forward to watching later. Whatever it might be, just name a few positives in your life, recognize them, and let your attention linger on each for a moment. 



Reviewed by Kaiser Permanente Clinical Ambassadors, including Mark Dreskin, MD, Sharon Smith, LPC, and/or David Kane, LCSW. September 2018.

Mindful, healthy mind, healthy life

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor.

Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage, Summary Plan Description or other coverage documents. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.