Maybe you already know that your negative thoughts are inaccurate, and you regularly find yourself in a shouting match inside your mind, defending yourself from your own disparaging comments. Or you try to ignore your thoughts—but they return with a vengeance. Louder. Meaner. More stubborn. Either approach leaves you feeling awful. Because you end up at the mercy of your thoughts. So, what’s the solution? 

Fortunately, we can change how we relate to our thoughts—so instead of empowering the cruel, vicious cycle, we empower ourselves to go after our goals, bolster our emotional and mental well-being, and feel better overall. The key is to be curious, non-judgmental, and gentle with ourselves. Try these five steps: 

  1. Acknowledge the negative thought from the perspective of a gentle outsider, such as: “I’m noticing some worry about this appointment,” or “I’m having the thought that….”
  2. Label the thought, such as: “Hello, Mr. Anxiety,” or “There you are, Nervous Itch!”
  3. Remind yourself that your thought will eventually pass, such as: “This thought isn’t part of me, but I’m big enough to let it pass through me. I can watch it as it goes.”
  4. Ground into the present moment by focusing on your breath and relaxing your body, such as: “I am here, sitting at my desk, and I am going to breathe in through my nose and out through my mouth, slowly.”
  5. Visualize the thought passing, such as: “There you go, thought. You were a dark cloud, but now you’re breaking up,” or “I’m watching that worry float by, like a leaf on a stream.”

When it feels like your thoughts are running your life and making sure you lose focus on what actually matters to you, remember that you aren’t helpless. You don’t have to argue with your thoughts or sweep them under the rug. You can acknowledge an upsetting thought as it arises without agreeing with it. You can hear it out, andyou can send it away. After all, you are in charge and you are powerful. Just because we sometimes forget that doesn’t mean it’s false.