How to Stop the Automatic Negative Thinking Process Without Meditation

How to Stop the Automatic Negative Thinking Process Without Meditation

Even if you are not suffering from depression or anxiety, negative thoughts can and will invade our day. I consider myself an optimist, however it would be foolish of me to claim, that unexpected bills, the drama of relationships and parenting,  and simply living in these turmoil political times do not affect me, my mood and my ability to focus on what is really important. If we are not careful, these negative thoughts can form a pattern and habit of thinking that makes it hard to stop. 

Through trial and error, however, I have combined strategies on how to stop the automatic negative thinking process that works at the moment – without having to stop in your actions, sit down and meditate, or without having to resort to therapeutic techniques such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. 


“You can either feed negative thoughts or you can starve the suckers.” ― Fawn Weaver


Both of these principles work well in the long run, but they are not necessarily useful during a busy day, or while we are experiencing automatic negative thoughts in the present moment.


5 Principles on how to stop the automatic negative thinking process


The following principles can be used whenever you are feeling overwhelmed, anxious, or are working through a task that fills you with dread. 


  1. take a deep breath – preferably three deep breaths – become present
  2. be aware of what you are doing – focus
  3. observe how you are feeling – awareness
  4. ask yourself: is it in my circle of control? If no – let go, and move on. If yes – move perspective to curiosity and gratefulness – perspective
  5. see if there is anything I can be grateful for at that moment  – gratitude


Step one is based on the principle of mindfulness. It stops the racing thoughts, without erasing them, but rather grounds you in the present moment. Breathing deeply refocuses into our body, calms our mind, and serves as a disconnect. 



Step two takes us from mindless scattered actions and allows us to be deliberate. Just like our thoughts, many of our day to day activities are done without thought. This practice gives us a chance to work on our ability to be in the moment. 


Step three connects us to our emotions, without judgment. The key is to observe them without judgment, without attaching a negative or positive label, and without the associated guilt that comes with this type of labeling. Awareness of our present emotions gives us the chance to control them in the next step.


“It is not what happens to you that matters; it is how you feel about it that does.” ― Shannon L. Alder


Step four is a question that is based on a principle of Stoic philosophy: Knowing Your Circle of Control. Often, we are concerned, worried, and consumed by aspects of our lives that we not only unable to control but should not want to. It gives us a chance to discern and move our focus toward what we actually can control – our judgment and response to a situation, our thoughts, and our own actions. If we take this moment to let go of taking on the responsibilities for that which is outside of our control, we can now direct our attention toward what we can actually do about a situation or task. That, in turn, gives us a sense of power, allows us to approach each situation with curiosity, and gets us ready for the next principle.



Step five gives us the chance to see any potential lessons, blessings or positivity within the current situation. You may feel a sense of resistance when I talk about finding a potentially positive aspect of your current situation, while you are struggling in some form or another. However, I have found that in most cases and situations, lessons can be found, if one chooses to look, even if it is only learning how to focus. 


Practicing these principles over a period of at least 30 Days decreases automatic negative thinking, and assists you to find a more productive outlook. 

Video: Breaking Your Addiction To Negative Thinking by Eckhart Tolle



15 Powerful Quotes About Negativity and Negative Thinking


  • “Stay away from people who gossip and spread rumors. They are choosing the path of emotional bullying and negativity.”
    ― Steve Maraboli
  • “Life has too many disappointments to make room for negativity.”
    ― Daniel Willey
  • “It is not what happens to you that matters; it is how you feel about it that does.”
    ― Shannon L. Alder
  • “There’s so much negativity in the world and what you only need to hear is all the love.”
    ― Miley Cyrus
  • “The beauty in the outer world can only be seen, when one stops focusing on the negativity in their inner world.”
    ― Anthony Liccione



  • “Negative people talk and your dreams begin to wither off. But they begin to sprout in the fragrance of hope when they find new soil! Change your environment!”
    ― Israelmore Ayivor
  • “You can either feed negative thoughts or you can starve the suckers.”
    ― Fawn Weaver
  • “Life is too short to dwell in the negativity all the time.”
    ― Michelle M. Pillow
  • “Lay down your cynicism, and believe in the transformational power of love.”
    ― Bryant McGill
  • “Don’t spread negativity, that stuff is contagious and ruins us. The good news is, positivity can also be contagious and it lifts us.”
    ― Joshua Neik


“Don't spread negativity, that stuff is contagious and ruins us. The good news is, positivity can also be contagious and it lifts us.” ― Joshua Neik


  • “Be wise. Banish the self-limiting words: “I don’t know how to …” “I can’t do that because …” “I never have any money …” Every negative phrase you utter in a day, is like poison to your soul. Your subconscious hears it and believes it. This limits you in ways you cannot even fathom.”
    ― Beth Ramsay
  • “You will be surrounded by negativity but you shall overcome it with positivity.”
    ― Alcurtis Turner
  • “Negativity is cannibalistic. The more you feed it, the bigger and stronger it grows.”
    ― Bobby Darnell
  • “Negative thinking will not produce positive changes – ever.”
    ― Taite Adams
  • “There is nothing more powerful against negativity than sustained compassion.”
    ― Odille Rault

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  1. Thank you for a wonderful post! This was exactly what I needed right now – meditation is great but we don’t always have the time to meditate. I meditate regularly but sometimes it’s just not possible. Is there any harm in doing both mediation and this technique? I love how you’ve given the reasoning behind each of the steps. Can’t wait to try this! 

    1. Author

      Glad that you enjoyed this article, Kendra – no you can use this technique in combination with any other technique or meditation that you choose to use. While I also find meditation essential, life does surely not always cooperate in that regard. 

      Have an awesome day


  2. Thanks for this great post.

    I don’t have depression and think I’m on a pretty level playing field mentally but I will be the first person to see the potential downsides to things.  You can call it being practical or a realist, etc. but, yes, I do have negative thoughts that lead me down these paths to give me that vision.

    I see it as a safety measure to help protect me from potential pitfalls (especially when making financial decisions and investments, etc.).  That said, sometimes I follow them down the rabbit hole to the point where I get concerned or even become afraid that the perceived potential outcome will come true, etc.

    I didn’t see it as an addiction but I can see the signs pointing toward that diagnosis.  Thank you for providing this post and the 5 principles on how to stop it.


  3. This is great information to have handy. I suppose that all of us are host to an unwelcome thought from time to time, but dwelling on it is not healthy. I’ve found that once I recognize a negative / unwanted thought, I can mentally delete it by thinking the word to myself “delete”, then moving on to a more welcome thought… as you suggest, spending a moment in a state of gratitude is very effective.

    1. Author

      I love that idea – it is similar to the counting backward that Mel Robbins preaches – anything that breaks a thought pattern. Blessings! 

  4. Having negative thoughts have been one of the biggest challenges faced by humans. Many people faced with such problems finds it really difficult to focus on something as they often see would believe its not going to work out fine. And once the mind starts getting signs of negativity, their is hardly a way one can achieve something good from his/her endeavor. My opinion, best regards.

  5. Hi Claudia,

    So good to come across your article! It does indeed not help to stand negative in life! The power of positive thinking and visualizing the positive outcome of everything that you do.
    So many people live by the idea that says “I don’t expect a positive outcome so I won’t get disappointed.” They don’t realize that they are setting up for failure.

    I meditate every day mornings and evenings visualizing my success using some teachings of Bob Proctor and Jessica Connor. It takes away my anxiety and gives me a great deal of power during the day to overcome the urge to complain 😀

    But you know what? All of that goes right out the door when I get in my car and end up in traffic :p

    And indeed what will always calm me down is to take a few breaths and self reflect on why I reacted the way I did and I will always come to the conclusion that my frustration was unfounded.

    Great article! Thanks again!

    Kind regards,

    1. Author

      glad that you found it helpful, Tom.

      I hear you about getting the car, and being right back into an old thought pattern as soon as the real world hits hard. I found that mindfulness – which is so simple, but surely not easy – has been one of the philosophies that made dealing with the real-life situations much easier for me. 

      Hope these techniques will help you as well


  6. Hi there

    I’ve been hearing the words ‘mindfulness’ and ‘gratitude’ a lot lately in my attempt to deal with negative thoughts that clouds my brain when things just aren’t going right! So reading your inspiring article has come at the right time. 

    For it to take 5 steps to overcome negative thoughts and processes makes it seem more achievable than mediating for 30 minutes. I’ve been working on a few of the principles you’ve mentioned already and will continue to work on those. Principle #4, however is new to me, so will try to incorporate that too.

    Thanks for an informative and important post – as constant negative thoughts will become a habit and eventually will become part of your personality.


    1. Author

      thank you Teresa – while I really do not follow the Stoic philosophy, and downright disagree with it in some areas, I do appreciate the point I made in Step 4 – Circle of Control. It really has helped me a lot over the last year, and hope it will do the same for you.



  7. Hi Claudia – I enjoyed your post.  Positive thinking is so important these days with all that’s going on in the world.  For me it’s the only way to survive.  I basically apply four of the principals you listed.  I haven’t done the breathing one and I’ll have to work on that one.  I like to be aware but not too concerned about things that aren’t in my control.  I’ve also learned not to complain about my situations and always look for the silver lining.  Some need to talk about their situations but I find it basically counter-productive.  I hold on to the fact that…all storms blow over.

    Thanks for the opportunity to view your post and website !

    1. Author

      Thank you, Nathaniel – I am glad that you are using most of the principles I described. It took me a little while to get comfortable with breathing mindfully, but once I made up my mind to follow through, I finally got the hang of it. You surely make some good points here – complaining is pretty much futile in any case. 

      Thank you for stopping by



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