Home / Insights / 13 Powerful Exercises to stop negative thinking TODAY

By Adam Streeter | Mindset | January 11, 2024

13 Powerful Exercises to stop negative thinking TODAY

In this article, we will provide you with 13 Powerful exercises to stop negative thinking in its tracks! Improve your performance today and start to implement these techniques into your game.


Let’s get straight into it.


Negative thinking has been proven to be a self-fulfilling prophecy.


Simply this means, If we think that we’re not going to succeed, then our actions will not allow us to succeed. For Example,

1. We are less likely to put in the hard work that we need to in order to achieve our goals because we don’t believe we will achieve them.

2. We’re much more likely to give up when faced with failure because we know we’ve already given up on ourselves. 

When we think negatively, we enter a state of low energy and feelings of fatigue. Negative thoughts can be detrimental to our performance and creativity, as well as our mental and physical health.


Therefore the MOST IMPORTANT thing to remember is that negative thoughts are just thoughts and we have the power to change them! This is where exercises to stop negative thinking can come in to help how to stop thinking negatively.


Negative thinking can also affect our performance in sports. When we enter a state of negativity, we not only affect our mental and physical performance, but it also affects the other players on our team.


This is why it is important to learn how to overcome negative thinking and learn to get yourself back on track and in a positive mindset as fast as possible!


In this article we will tackle exactly that – we will understand the types of negative thinking & how to stop thinking negatively in order to overcome the negative thought. We will give you the exact ways to put them straight into your life profession or sporting career if you are an athlete or footballer.


Let’s go!

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Why do negative thoughts come to mind?

Negative thinking by its very name is not positive. So why is it that when we get 10 compliments, we remember the 1 negative criticism? This is part of our DNA and part of our fight or flight response.


Negative thoughts come from a need to survive and recognise threats. Our minds are fine-tuned to see negatives because it could be a threat to us. We are not naturally tuned in to see and recognise positives as they have no threat.

Types of Negative thinking

Each type of negative thinking can have different exercises to stop negative thinking, so read below to see which type of negative thinking you have.


Once you understand what type of negative thinking you have we can look at the exercises to stop negative thinking.

  • Catastrophizing: One type of crooked thinking is catastrophizing. That is when you put the truth out of proportion and see the negative as the only possible outcome. It is a common response to a situational problem and is difficult to stop. You can see this in footballers who may view one missed shot as a sign they will miss the next one too.

  • Discounting the negative: The type of crooked thinking that discounts the positive is called negative self-talk. The reason why people discount the positive is that they are not free from the mental habit of being negative. Negative self-talk is a habit that needs to be overcome just like other bad habits. We have to learn to affirm what is good instead of what is bad. By repeating affirmations, the habitual negative thoughts are weakened until it eventually disappears.

  • Mind reading: This could look like trying to predict what the coach or fans are thinking and tune in to it when you don’t actually know their thoughts.

  • Black and white thinking: It refers to having an ‘all or nothing’ mindset. Like “I had a good game,” or “I had a bad game.” Nothing in between.

  • Overgeneralizing: “I’m not good at something” suddenly becomes “I’m not good at everything.” 

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Exercises to stop negative thinking

Number 1: Exercises to stop negative thinking

Become aware of your negative thoughts

Spend 5 minutes writing your negative thoughts down. Be really clear about what they are about & be specific with what you are thinking. Write it all down, get it out and onto paper. This is the first step in healing your negative thought.

Number 2: Exercises to stop negative thinking

Challenge the Negative Thought.

Spend another 5 minutes to now think about the negative thoughts more clearly. Rationalise the thoughts and think objectively about them.


Ask yourself these 4 questions to understand the negative thought better;


1. Does the negative thoughts have any reality or evidence behind them?
2. Can I prove the negative thought is true?
3. Am I catastrophizing and making the negative thought bigger than it is?
4. What evidence do you have that the negative thought is not true?

Number 3: Exercises to stop negative thinking

Reframe the Thought.

The next step is to start to reframe your negative thoughts into something more positive and developmental. For example, It could be finding lessons from the mistakes you made.


Challenge and unpick the negative thoughts. If you didn’t play as much as you would like to, try and identify areas to improve on. Ask yourself questions like;

  1. What can I learn from this negative thought?
  2. What is the one lesson from the negative thought?
  3. What ownership and responsibility can I take to improve the negative thought?
  4. What is in my control to improve this negative thought?

Your body follows your mind. Stop the negative thinking today and start reframing!

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Number 4: Exercises to stop negative thinking

Enhance the positive


After each training session, match or situation force yourself to see through things you did brilliantly.


This might sound a little forced but we are naturally so hard-wired to see the negatives the process of thinking about the positives will encourage your brain to start identifying the things you’re doing well as opposed to the ONE thing you did not do as you would like.


This exercises to stop intrusive thoughts is a proactive way of stopping negative thoughts before they start.

Number 5: Exercises to stop negative thinking

Reflect

Get into a reflective habit. This stops random or chaotic thoughts from entering your mind to start with.


If you have already considered and reflected upon the day or week it is unlikely you will start dwelling on something negative that pops into your mind because you have been proactive and already thought about it and moved on.


At the end of the week, reflect on your positives.


Write down three positive things after each match or big event.

Number 6: Exercises to stop negative thinking

Talk

This one is easy: Talk to teammates and your coach about what they felt you did positively in the training sessions or a match – this again gets you more used to thinking positively rather than focusing on negatives. Talking is always a brilliant way to deal with negative thoughts.

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Number 7: Exercises to stop negative thinking

Breathing exercises for negative thoughts


Although this sounds silly. To help stop a cycle of negative thinking simply do 5 cycles of;

5 seconds inhale,

Pause for 5 seconds

5 second exhale

x5 repetitions

Can stop negative thoughts in their tracks. It brings calm to the body and mind and allows you to start to reframe or refocus on something more positive.

Number 8: Exercises to stop negative thinking

What is the worst possible outcome right now – visualise it

These exercises to stop negative thinking are great ones. Take a moment to consider what is the worst situation that could happen from this. Consider what it would feel like, what would happen and how you would deal with it.



Once you have fully considered this – move on to exercise number 9.

Number 9: Exercises to stop negative thinking

Reframe the worst possible outcome

Now is it time to reframe the worst-case scenario.

  1. Think of all the positive things that might come out of it if it did happen.
  2. Think about exactly what you could do if it did happen



    Finally, in this task move on to exercise 10 to protect yourself against the worst-case scenario.

Number 10: Exercises to stop negative thinking

Protect the downside

Now you understand what it would look like if the worst-case scenario did happen, now you can put in place everything you can think of to make sure it doesn’t happen OR if it did you are still ok.



If it did happen what do you need in place? Is it a second job / is it a friend to talk to?

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Number 11: Exercises to stop negative thinking

Get used to coping with criticism

Another good exercises to stop negative thinking are to get used to criticism. Before you think someone is going to say something critical, take a breath and think “I love that this person is going to give me some critical or negative feedback.


You can reframe this critical feedback to become positive because when they tell me this negative feedback I can learn how to develop and be better. At the very least, I can learn how they are preserving something differently to how I want it to come across”


When everything becomes a lesson to you, you are indestructible!!”

Number 12: Exercises to stop negative thinking

Reduce your expectations: Should Do’s & Must Do’s

Sometimes negative thinking can simply be the result of setting unreasonable expectations on yourself or others?


For example, do you ever think;

“I need to do these 10 jobs today, or else I have failed”,

Or “I should be perfect or I should be able to do this brilliantly”

or “I should be able to do this as he or she does it”?



This thinking style can lead to a lot of stress, anxiety and disappointment. When in fact you are just putting unnecessary pressure on yourself.


SO how to stop thinking negatively can simply mean reducing your expectations and going a little easier on yourself and you will find life a lot easier and less stress will come your way. This doesn’t mean don’t strive to be the best you can be but look to manage your own expectations.


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Summary on Exercises to stop negative thinking

In this article, we have answered the question of how to stop thinking negatively. We have given you 13 exercises to stop negative thinking and all the detail needed to try them for yourself. Here is the summary of what we talked about.

  1. Become aware of your negative thoughts
  2. Challenge your negative thoughts
  3. Reframe the thought
  4. Enhance the positives
  5. Reflective practice
  6. Talk
  7. Breathing exercises of negative thoughts
  8. What is the worst possible outcome
  9. Reframe the worst-case scenario
  10. Protect the downside
  11. Coping with criticism
  12. Expectation management

Useful links

Here are some links to some other related articles which you may be interested in.

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