Jump to content

Banish Negative and Self-Destructive Thoughts


There’s one person we talk to more than anyone else—ourselves. Our internal dialogue is constant most of our waking hours. Although unfortunately, the way we talk to ourselves is often irrational or untrue. Our self-talk when we make a mistake, or overthink a situation, is often demeaning and negative. We’d never say the things we think to ourselves to another person because they’re hurtful. Yet we often poison our happiness by speaking to ourselves in a negative or self-destructive manner.

Specializes in Leadership | Psychiatric Nursing | Education. Has 23 years experience.

How Do You Halt Negative Thoughts?

Banish Negative and Self-Destructive Thoughts

All day, every day, we analyze each thing that occurs with our inner thoughts to determine our view, which can make or break our day depending on our perception. We spend more time in the company of our thoughts than with anyone else. Isn't it time to work on a better relationship and start being nicer to ourselves? It's not always what happens that influences our self-talk, but our interpretation of it. If that inner self-talk is irrational and untrue, we can develop unrealistic expectations, damage our self-esteem, or undermine our performance.

Many things are out of our control, yet that doesn't stop us from blaming or criticizing ourselves. Sometimes we say demeaning or degrading things to ourselves that we'd never say to another person. This may be over petty things such as if we didn't do something, forgot something, or made a mistake. Often, it's due to holding ourselves to unrealistic standards. This ongoing negativity can derail enjoying our successes, or it may escalate into something self-destructive.

Notice Negative Thinking

We are a product of our thinking, and eventually, we may come to believe what we tell ourselves. Negative self-talk is usually a learned behavior, but we may have practiced it for so long that we're not sure where we learned it. Negativity may have become an automatic response. Our thoughts can hurt us, but when we are caregivers, we have the potential to transmit this negative energy to others.

A few examples of negative thinking include:

- Unrealistic expectations that leave us feeling guilty, hopeless or overwhelmed when things don't meet what we anticipated.

- Recurring negative thoughts that keep us stuck in old patterns instead of allowing us to move forward.

- A method of thinking that results in us never being satisfied since we view each task with an all or nothing mentality.

- Looking for problems when they don't exist instead of realizing we don't always need to solve a problem because maybe there isn't one.

- We assume we know what others expect, or that they know what we desire. When we don't want to ask for help, we don't always receive it. This may leave us angry or resentful.

- Any change is impossible. We cling to what we're comfortable with and avoid focusing on the positive things that may accompany change, or we choose the easiest option even if it's not the best one.

- Envy poisons our thoughts and we continuously compare ourselves to others and reduce opportunities for happiness.

- Overthinking every situation, which can result in unnecessary stress.

Break Through the Barrier

Sometimes the only barrier to reducing negativity is in our mind. Recognizing that there's an opportunity to choose negative or positive thinking may help silence negative thoughts by removing their power.

Our thoughts keep us stuck in patterns of negative thinking, which can lead to self-destructive thoughts or behaviors. These could include things such as making the same mistakes, continuously second-guessing ourselves, grasping for immediate gratification without considering long-term consequences, or being overly critical.

Steps to Reduce Negative Thinking:

  • Develop an awareness of negative thoughts so you can recognize them and take steps to reduce or eliminate them. Say the word, stop, or reword thoughts into something more positive.
  • Find the silver lining, the exception, the one good thing in the situation and focus on being grateful.
  • Fill your life with activities that you enjoy and friends that are positive influences.
  • Focus on being in the present moment through deep breathing, affirmations, positive visualizations, or inspirational books or podcasts that assist in developing mindfulness.
  • Make a deadline for decisions rather than dwelling on them and allowing them to control your thoughts.
  • Fake it until you make it by acting how you want to feel.

Sometimes negative or self-destructive thoughts are more than we can manage on our own, or they could lead to self-destructive behaviors. It may be necessary to seek additional help from a mental health professional if these thoughts lead to self-destructive behaviors such as excessive use of alcohol or drugs, excessive spending, getting stuck in bad relationships, intense ongoing sadness, or losing the desire for things we once enjoyed.

Be Kind to Ourselves

We're usually aware of the benefits of being nice to others, and how unkind words can produce long-lasting hurt. Perhaps if we tried to treat ourselves as kind as we strive to treat others, we would be able to reduce negative thoughts and have a more positive outlook that might benefit us, as well as those we care for.

How Do You Halt Negative Thoughts?

Maureen Bonatch MSN, RN draws from years of experience in nursing administration, leadership and psychiatric nursing to write healthcare content. Her experience as a fiction author helps her to craft engaging and creative content. Learn more about her freelance writing at CharmedType.com and her fiction books at MaureenBonatch.com

41 Articles   77 Posts

Share this post

Link to post
Share on other sites

5 Comment(s)

I'm a new nurse and honestly this post could not have come at a better time. I dread going in, but love the job once I'm there. Seriously doubt my abilities and beat myself up for not doing better. I've been in this cycle for a week. My silver lining is my great boss and the awesome people I work with. I've read some not so great experiences on here and am grateful for my supportive environment. :)

Davey Do

Specializes in around 25 years psych, 10 years medical. Has 42 years experience.

Great article, Maureen!

We spend more time in the company of our thoughts than with anyone else. Isn't it time to work on a better relationship and start being nicer to ourselves?

I've been working on the relationship with my Inner Beings since I was introduced to them back in the early 70's by my high school sweetie's mother who was very cool and into Dr. Eric Berne and Transactional Analysis.

Basically, my thoughts come from either my Parent, Adult Self, or Child. I identify my Parent as being more criticizing and my child as being more selfishly driven. Thank goodness, the majority of the time, my Adult is more prominent in my head.


It's also good that each Being in my head can be caring and very fun-loving.

I believe your article is also excellent article, Maureen, because it opens within me a plethora of different schools of thought regarding where our negative thinking comes from.

One such school of thought I like to asscribe to is the "Book on the Shelf" concept where , our thoughts are like books on a shelf, in that we choose which thoughts we dwell on much like we choose which book we wish to read.

Yeah! Good article!

Edited by Davey Do


Specializes in Travel, Home Health, Med-Surg. Has 20 years experience.

Thank you for the great article. Yes, we can definitely be our own worst enemy. Doesn't matter where we are in life because life is always changing and when it changes for the worse we have to try hard (and sometimes don't want to) to find that silver lining, but it is always there if you look hard enough. I like the idea of setting a time frame for decisions, I am one who will constantly go back and forth with should I, or shouldn't I. Maybe it is harder for nurses bc we are trained to critical think and we do that to ourselves also (overthinking every situation like you said). Also, I am a firm believer in positive thinking, I saw how that can affect people (physically and psychologically when I worked Oncology, it really makes a difference.

GAREAT article! Thank you.

Maureen Bonatch MSN, BSN, MSN, RN

Specializes in Leadership | Psychiatric Nursing | Education. Has 23 years experience.

I'm glad this article resonates with so many people and hopeful that it helps to remind us to be kind to ourselves.