Skip to main content
Scottish government logo

The way we think affects the way we feel, so negative thoughts can make us feel bad. No one wants to think negative thoughts. The trouble is, they tend to pop into our heads of their own accord! Sometimes, you can acknowledge the thought and then dismiss it. But sometimes, worrying thoughts get stuck. Here are some tips for getting rid of them.

Jump to a section in this article

Tips for dealing with negative thoughts

Tip #1: Challenge your thoughts

Ask yourself what evidence there is for the thought. Is it based on fact? Would someone else agree with your thought? Would you even be having this thought if you weren’t feeling tired or stressed or upset?

Read more

Tip #2: Look at it from another point of view

Try to catch yourself if you start ‘catastrophising’. This is when you turn a situation into a disaster without thinking about other outcomes. Often this can be quite irrational – but your brain doesn’t see it that way. By questioning the thought and looking at other, more positive outcomes, you can make it go away.  

Read more

Tip #3: Practise looking for the positives

If you practise being positive, you’ll get better at it! Every day, try to write down three good things – these could be things that have made you smile, good things that have happened to you, things you’ve done well, things that you’re grateful for, or even nice stories you’ve seen online. 

Read more

Tip #4: Think about the things you can control

Often, we worry about things that we can’t do anything about. Instead of dwelling on these, try to think about the things you can control, like how much news you read, how often you contact friends and family, how you structure your day and what you do to exercise and relax. This may help you feel calmer.

Read more

Tip #5: Talk to a friend

Muslim woman talking to a friend outside

Talking to someone else – a partner, family member, friend or someone from one of the support organisations listed below – can make all the difference. They can help you do all the things we’ve listed above: see the issue from a new angle, challenge it and turn it round to see the positive side.

Read more

Tip #6: Take time out

If you’re worn out with overthinking everything, try to set any negative thoughts aside and tackle them later. You might like to try some mindfulness exercises to clear your head. There are lots of suggestions on the MIND website. NHS Inform's Mind to Mind website features more tips for taking some time out.

Read more

Tip #7: Distract yourself

If you can’t stop worrying, try distracting your mind. Here are some ways you can do this:

  • Name everything you can see around you.
  • Count down backwards from 100 in 7s. 100, 93, 84...
  • Name all your family members, their ages and one of their favourite activities.
  • Name all the characters you can think of in your favourite film or TV programme.
  • Try to remember all the lyrics of a favourite song.
  • Read something backwards, letter by letter.
  • Draw an object or an animal in your head or in the air with your finger. Think about its shape as you do.
  • List 5 things you can see, 4 things you can feel, 3 things you can hear, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.
  • Try doing a puzzle like a crossword, Sudoko game or jigsaw.  
Read more
Back to top

Further information

You can find lots of resources to help improve your mental wellbeing on NHS Inform’s Mind to Mind website.

Back to top

You might also be interested in