What’s the worst thing that could happen? Tools to help overcome negative thoughts

What’s the worst thing that could happen? Tools to help overcome negative thoughts

overcoming negative thoughts, four people sit on a couch and have their finger up to their lips in a silence position

What’s the worst thing that could happen? Tools to help overcome negative thoughts

In this empowering video, Karena and James delve into the common challenge of negative thinking and explore effective strategies to overcome it. We can experience more than 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts a day, that's up to 3,000 thoughts in an hour. Negative thoughts often lead us down a path of worst-case scenarios and self-doubt, impacting our mental well-being and decision-making. However, by learning positive self-coaching and detective inquiry skills, you can regain control of your mind and navigate challenging thoughts with confidence.

Key Takeaways:

  • How to recognize and become aware of your negative thoughts
  • Negative thoughts are a normal part of life, but it's important to learn how to manage them.
  • Positive self-coaching and detective inquiry skills can be used to challenge negative thoughts and shift them into a more positive direction.
  • Asking yourself, "What's the worst that can happen?" can help you diminish catastrophic thinking.

Mastering Your Mind: Overcoming Negative Thoughts

James explains that when a negative thought enters your mind, it's important to recognize it and become aware of it. Once you've identified the thought pattern, you can then kick into positive self-coaching mode.

One way to do this is to ask yourself, "What's the worst that can happen?" This question helps you diminish the catastrophic thinking that often accompanies negative thoughts. By doing this, you can calm your anxious mind and focus on more realistic outcomes.

In this week's mental health tool kit we have a number of solutions to help you to overcome negative thinking.

How Do I Identify Negative Thoughts?

Learning to identify negative thought patterns is the first step in overcoming them. Negative thoughts have patterns to them, and learning to recognize common negative thinking patterns such as catastrophizing, black-and-white thinking, and personalization. Recognizing these patterns can be the first step toward changing negative thinking and improving mental well-being.

Negative Thought Patterns:

  1. All-or-Nothing Thinking: Viewing situations in black-and-white terms, without recognizing any middle ground. For example, thinking "If I'm not perfect, I'm a total failure."
  1. Overgeneralization: Making broad generalizations based on a single event or piece of evidence. For example, thinking "I failed one test, so I'll never succeed in school."
  1. Mental Filter: Focusing exclusively on negative aspects of a situation while ignoring the positive. For example, dwelling on one critical comment and overlooking numerous compliments.
  1. Discounting the Positive: Rejecting positive experiences or accomplishments by insisting they don't count. For example, thinking "I only did well on that task because it was easy."
  1. Jumping to Conclusions: Making negative interpretations without definitive evidence. This can include: "mind reading," like when you assume you know what others are thinking and that they view you negatively, and "fortune telling" which is when you predict that things will turn out badly without any concrete evidence.
  1. Magnification (Catastrophizing) or Minimization: Exaggerating the importance of problems or shortcomings (magnification) or downplaying the significance of positive qualities or successes (minimization). For example, thinking "This mistake will ruin everything" or "My achievements are no big deal."
  1. Emotional Reasoning: Assuming that negative emotions reflect the way things really are. For example, thinking "I feel anxious, so something bad must be happening."
  1. Should Statements: Using "should," "must," or "ought to" statements to set up unrealistic expectations for yourself or others, leading to feelings of guilt or frustration. For example, thinking "I should never make mistakes."
  1. Labeling and Mislabeling: Attaching negative and extreme labels to yourself or others based on specific behaviors. For example, calling yourself a "loser" for failing a test or labeling someone as "useless" for making a mistake.
  1. Personalization: Taking responsibility for events that are not entirely under your control. For example, thinking "It's my fault my friend is upset, I must have done something wrong."
  1. Blaming: Holding others responsible for your emotional pain or problems, often ignoring your own role in the situation. For example, thinking "My life is miserable because of my boss."
  1. Fallacy of Change: Believing that others must change their behavior for you to be happy, often leading to frustration when they don't change. For example, thinking "If my partner would just be more affectionate, I would be happy."
  1. Always Being Right: Constantly putting yourself in a position where you have to prove that your opinions and actions are correct, often leading to conflicts. For example, thinking "I must win this argument at any cost."
  1. Heaven's Reward Fallacy: Expecting that all your hard work and sacrifices will pay off in the end, and feeling bitter or angry when it doesn't. For example, thinking "After everything I've done, I deserve to be recognized."

Be A Negative Thought Detective 

If you find yourself in a negative thought or spiral, pause and breathe, and analyze the thought. Giving a name to it can help. It’s important to take a moment to observe the thought, and consider what is bringing this thought to mind. Is it tied to an incident, or a fear? Remember to be patient and have compassion for yourself as you analyze the thought and go through the process of tracing its origins.

James mentions using detective skills to help you to recognize, analyze, and overcome negative thoughts. Uncover the root causes behind your negative thoughts by applying detective-like questioning. Understand why you think a certain way and challenge the validity of your assumptions. 

Don’t be on autopilot, get in touch with your thoughts! What kind of beliefs are going through your mind? What are you thinking about yourself? Start becoming aware of what you are thinking. It takes time, practice, and intentionality. Start slowly.

A few questions you can ask yourself to challenge the negative thought: 

  • How does this thought make me feel?
  • Who would I be without this thought?
  • What's the worst thing that could happen?

Dr. Daniel Amen has an acronym for negative thoughts: ANTs, or automatic negative thoughts. His recommendation is to write them down, and then challenge the thought. Keep track and you'll be able to notice them better and overcome them.

How and why to overcome negative thinking with Dr. Daniel Amen:

A Shift in Perspective: How to cultivate more positive thoughts

The next step after being a negative thought detective is to implement positive self-coaching techniques that challenge the thought and break the patterns. Every thought that we have directly determines a feeling and emotion, and those feelings and emotions directly determine our actions and behaviors. 

With more than 6,000 thoughts a day, think how important it is to have healthy, kind, loving, and positive thoughts. Debbie Whitehead share her tools for cultivating more positive thoughts with us on #DebbieDaily.

#DebbieDaily's tool - TFA: thoughts, feelings, actions



In Finding Your Zen: Actions are Your True Belongings Koshen Paley Ellison shares his wisdom and share examples with Karena about how our thoughts affect and change our reality. The thoughts are the lens for how we experience life. 

How do my thoughts affect my reality?

Cultivating more positive thoughts can significantly improve your overall well-being and outlook on life. Here are some strategies to help you develop a more positive mindset:

Practice Gratitude

  • Gratitude Journal: Write down three things you’re grateful for each day. This helps shift focus from what’s wrong to what’s going well. 
  • Express Appreciation: Regularly tell people in your life why you appreciate them. This fosters positive connections and reinforces positive thinking.



Mindfulness and Meditation

  • Daily Meditation: Spend a few minutes each day meditating to clear your mind and focus on the present moment. 
  • Mindful Breathing: Practice deep breathing exercises when you feel stressed or negative thoughts arise. This can help calm your mind.

Positive Affirmations

  • Affirmation Statements: Create positive statements about yourself and repeat them daily. For example, “I am capable and strong,” or “I am deserving of happiness. 
  • Visual Reminders: Use your phone screensaver, sticky notes, or your planner to keep your affirmations with you.



Surround Yourself with Positivity

  • Positive People: Spend time with friends and family who uplift and support you. Establish boundaries around relationships and situations that impact you negatively and leave you feeling depleted.
  • Inspirational Content: Read books, listen to podcasts, or watch videos that inspire and motivate you.
  • Reduce exposure to negative news and social media. Curate your feeds to include more positive and uplifting content. 
  • Create a living and working environment that is organized and filled with things that bring you joy. 

Engage in Activities You Enjoy

  • Hobbies and Interests: Dedicate time to activities that make you happy and allow you to express yourself creatively. It can boost your self-esteem and help improve your self image, too. 
  • Physical Activity: Regular exercise can boost your mood and overall sense of well-being.

Set and Achieve Small Goals

  • Setting achievable daily and weekly goals can offer a sense of accomplishment. And don't forget your long term aspirations, too. You deserve to live the life you want. Take steps towards your dreams and desires and celebrate your progress along the way! 
  • Follow through on promises you make to yourself. Put yourself first if you need to, definitely don't put yourself last!



Acts of Kindness

  • Helping Others: Engage in acts of kindness, whether big or small. Volunteering or helping someone can boost your own happiness.
  • Random Acts: Perform random acts of kindness, such as leaving a positive note for someone or paying for a stranger’s coffee.

Healthy Lifestyle Choices

  • Not feeling your physical best can lead to increased mental stress. Eating a healthy, balanced diet, staying adequately hydrated supports your physical and mental health.
  • Getting restful sleep every night helps to have a healthy mind. 
  • Setting up and sticking with a daily routine improves your mental health.

Reflect on Positive Experiences

  • Write down happy moments and put them in a jar or a special journal. When you’re feeling down, read through them to remind yourself of good times.
  • Keep photo albums or digital galleries of happy memories and revisit them regularly.

Get Support

  • It's OK to not be OK. If you are struggling to overcome negative thoughts, consider sharing them with a safe and trusted friend or loved one. 
  • Consider speaking with a therapist or counselor to work through negative thought patterns. 
  • Join support groups where you can share experiences and gain insights from others who are also seeking to cultivate positivity.

Implementing these strategies can help you cultivate more positive thoughts and improve your overall mental and emotional health. Start with a few that resonate with you and gradually incorporate more into your daily routine.


How are you really feeling? We'd love to hear about your week, or share your favorite tools for the week in the comments!

The Big Silence Foundation, Inc is a U.S. tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to changing the culture of mental health. Consistent with IRS guidelines, all gifts are tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law. Donate to bring change with us!


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The information provided is for educational purposes only, and does not substitute for professional medical advice. Users are advised to consult a medical professional or healthcare provider if they're seeking medical advice, diagnoses, or treatment.

**Please note that if your thoughts start becoming hopeless or suicidal, contact emergency at 988 or 911 andcrisis services immediately. You can find more resourceshere. Text HELLO to 741741 to be connected with a trained crisis counselor.




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The mental health foundation was founded in 2021 by Karena Dawn, a wellness entrepreneur and leading mental health advocate, based on her experiences growing up in a family impacted by mental illness (shared in her memoir, The Big Silence). It’s our goal to support people’s mental health journey from childhood to adult and to create a more joyful and loving place. 



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Founder Karena Dawn shares her personal story in The Big Silence: A Daughter's Memoir of Mental Illness and Healing, shining a light on the eternal struggle we all share—how to move past the pain and suffering of our personal battles to experience life’s joys.