Last Updated on January 21, 2023
How to stop being pessimistic and overcome your pessimistic thoughts
If you want to know how to stop being a pessimist, keep reading!
When we’re surrounded by gossip, conflict, and negativity, we begin to see the world from that negative perspective. And the more negativity surrounds us, the more negative we become.
Positive thinking can make a lot of positive changes in your life. Developing your optimism can be beneficial to both your mental and physical health. Unfortunately, there are times in life, especially in certain situations, when it is very difficult to maintain positivity.
We don’t have to cut back on our thoughts and words so that they are 100 percent positive. But we should challenge ourselves to dig into the roots of negativity in order to understand its origins in ourselves and in those around us.
So, if you’re still wondering how to stop being pessimistic, let’s dive into it!
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Let’s talk about how you can beat pessimistic thinking
Evaluate your surroundings
To avoid negative thinking, you have to avoid negative people. It’s possible to work with your own negativity and change it. However, eliminating negative external influences isn’t actually that easy.
Instead of letting negative people hurt you, it’s wiser to change your reaction than to try to change them or the way they talk. Remind yourself that you have the freedom to do whatever you want, regardless of what other people think, so you also have the power to improve your mood and have a positive attitude.
If someone close to you tends to be very negative, it can be helpful to talk about it. This person may not be aware of how negative they sound, so when you mention it to them, they may want to change themselves. At the same time, there might be times when it won’t go so smoothly and you might face a conflict instead.
Try to avoid talking to negative people who will always force you to take a defensive position. If you find yourself in the middle of the drama, just stop it.
Say, “This conversation is going to turn sour, and it would be better to continue it another time if we both want to resolve the situation, not bring each other down.” However, if things still continue to go the old way, you need to decide if you need such a relationship at all. A psychologist can also help you with that.
Make a list of the people you spend the most time with during the week. For each person, list the values you share. Do you spend most of your time with the people who match your values the best?
Use the 25/75 principle. Have three uplifting people in your life for every negative person. Like in sports, being among the best players forces you to grow.
I don’t think you should take it literally and label all of your friends as negative or uplifting, but try to get the feeling that at least 75 percent of your time is spent with people who inspire you rather than tear you down.
Allocate time. Another way to reduce negativity is, if you can’t eliminate it, you can control how much time you spend with people, taking their energy into account. We face some challenges simply because we allow them to challenge us.
There may be some people you can only tolerate for an hour a month, a day, or a week. Think about how much time you can really spend with all those people, and don’t exceed it.
To combat pessimistic thoughts, get rid of jealousy
The evil cousin of envy is schadenfreude, which means you enjoy it when other people suffer. When we’re happy about other people’s failures, we’re building our house and praising ourselves on the fluctuating foundation of someone else’s imperfections or bad luck. It’s not firm ground.
In fact, if we find ourselves evaluating others, we should take note of that. It’s a sign that our minds are deceiving us into thinking that we are moving forward when, in fact, we are stuck.
The more we define ourselves by comparing ourselves to those around us, the more wrong we are. When assessing your own negativity, remember that even small actions have consequences. Even when we become more aware of how negative other people are and say, “They complain all the time,” we are being negative ourselves.
If you want to learn how to stop being a pessimist, change the direction of envy. Make a list of five people you care about but who also make you feel competitive. For each person, state at least one reason why you are jealous of them.
It can be something they have achieved, something they are better at, or something they have done well. Did this achievement really take anything away from you? Now think about how it has benefited your friend.
Visualize all the good things that they have received as a result of this achievement. Would you like to take away any of these things if it were possible, even knowing you wouldn’t get them for yourself? If so, envy robs you of joy. Envy destroys you more than anything your friend has accomplished. Spend your energy changing that.
Evaluate your negative comments
The biggest problem with thoughts is speed. Thoughts come and go, strongly influencing our feelings and behaviors, but we hardly realize what those thoughts are.
So, it would be wise to look at your thoughts from time to time and write down the negative ones. As you confront your negativity, you will quickly realize that half of it is completely useless.
To avoid pessimistic behavior, evaluate your negative comments first. Keep track of your negative comments during the week. See if you can make the daily number smaller. The goal is zero.
Counting and evaluating your negative thoughts and comments will help you look at their origins. Do you criticize a friend’s appearance, and are you just as harsh on yourself? Are you talking about a friend’s illness to draw attention to your compassion, or are you hoping to be more supportive of that friend?
Remember, freedom doesn’t mean saying everything we want, when we want, or how we want. True freedom means not feeling the need to say these things. If we limit our negative speech, we may find that we have much less to say.
Criticizing someone else’s work ethic doesn’t make you work harder. Comparing your marriage to someone else’s will not make your marriage better unless you do it thoughtfully and effectively.
Criticizing creates the illusion that if you see well enough to judge, you’re probably better, and if someone else fails, then you are probably moving on. In fact, we are carried forward by careful, thoughtful observations.
Notice, stop, replace
To combat negative thoughts, I use the “notice, stop, replace” technique. Most of us don’t register our negative thoughts.
Notice. Becoming aware of negativity means learning to notice toxic impulses around you. Sometimes, instead of reacting negatively to what exists, we make negative predictions about what might be. This is a suspicion.
What we criticize, envy, or suspect about someone else can lead us into the darkness within ourselves. In the same way, our envy, impatience, or suspicion of someone else speaks volumes about us.
Negative projections and suspicions reflect our own insecurities and become an obstacle for us. If you decide that your boss is against you, it can affect you emotionally. You may be so discouraged that you can no longer do your job properly, or you may ask for the pay rise you deserve.
Stop. Once you better understand the roots of your negativity, the next step is to address them. Silence your negativity to make room for thoughts and actions that add something to your life, not take it away. Start with breathing.
When we’re stressed, we hold our breath or clench our jaws. Keep an eye on your physical appearance throughout the day. Is your chin tense? Are you frowning? These are signs that you have to remind yourself to breathe.
Replace. After noticing and stopping the negativity in your heart, mind, and speech, you can begin to correct it. We can also consciously replace it with positivity. One way to do this is to use our negativity—jealousy, for example—to lead us to what we want.
Notice what evokes negativity in you. Take your envy of someone else’s social life and use it to inspire you to throw a party, reconnect with old friends, or organize a post-work meeting.
Talk to yourself
The thoughts in our heads repeat themselves and strengthen what we believe about ourselves. We’ve all experienced it when someone says, “You look amazing today,” and our subconscious mind replies, “I don’t look amazing. They say it to please me.”
When someone says, “You really deserve it,” you might say to yourself, “Oh no, I’m not sure I can do it again.” Our days are full of such habitual reactions. Change begins with the words you say in your head.
To stop negative thoughts, invest in your conscious mind. Just as your mind is not you, your thoughts are not you. Saying to yourself, “I don’t deserve love” or “My life is horrible” doesn’t make it a fact, but it can be difficult to reconfigure these self-destructive thoughts.
This may sound silly, but the best way to change the voice in your head is to start talking to it. Literally. Start talking to yourself every day. Feel free to address yourself with your own name and do it loudly wherever you are comfortable doing so (so maybe not on your first date or job interview).
The sound is powerful, and hearing your own name attracts attention. If your mind says, “You can’t handle it,” answer by saying to yourself, “You can handle it. You have the abilities. You have the time.”
Turn bad things into good things, rephrase them
If you hear yourself or other people expressing negative thoughts, try to repeat them by turning their meaning around. This way, you can reprogram yourself to stop pessimistic thinking.
To eradicate bad thoughts, you need to focus on creating a positive attitude, but there is much more to this than constantly telling yourself “think positive thoughts”. Besides, there’s no use in trying to talk positively if you don’t actually feel happy.
If you find yourself complaining about how boring your life is, turn it around and talk about what you want to achieve and how. For example, instead of complaining about the abundance of career choices, praise the fact that we have the opportunity to live in the 21st century and that women have unlimited opportunities.
Sometimes we’re all in a bad mood, but constantly expressing it isn’t going to make anything better. In fact, it has the opposite effect—it makes you even more unhappy. We need to keep up with the challenges of life, find the right solutions, and be positive. Positivity increases positivity—it’s that simple.
Rephrase your self-criticism. When you hear yourself say, “I’m tired, I’m slow, I can’t do it”, answer yourself, “You’re working on it. You’re getting better.” It reminds you that you’re making progress instead of amplifying your failures.
Many of the disappointments we go through can be seen as blessings because they inspire us to grow and evolve. To combat negative thoughts, try to put negative thoughts and circumstances into a continuum of perspective. Just as doctors assess pain, you can measure your problems on a 10-point scale.
Not getting a promotion at work seems like ten. Losing a precious watch – another ten. But if you have ever experienced the pain of losing a loved one, the scale shifts; your whole perspective shifts. Suddenly, the job loss is not great but tolerable. The watch is gone, but it was just an item.
Use awareness of what deep pain really means to keep minor problems in perspective. The point is not to diminish the impact of all negative experiences, but to gain a clearer understanding of them.
Make a list of negative thoughts you tell yourself. Next to each of those things, write how you would reply if it were someone you cared about who had such thoughts. For example, you might have the following thoughts, “I’m scared” or “I’m worthless”.
Now, if it were your sister who had such thoughts, you’d probably tell her, “The feeling of fear is okay. How can I help you with that? You feel worthless; let’s talk about what you love about yourself. Before we talk about how to change your thoughts, let’s list the things that make you feel important.”
When we talk to other people, we offer love, support, ideas, and solutions. We should talk to ourselves in exactly the same way. Try talking to yourself like you would talk to someone you really care about.
Zero means not scary at all. Ten is the worst thing in the world, something as horrible as “I’m afraid the whole world is going to die.” In fact, it’s probably eleven. All sorts of problems may seem to deserve a rating of 10, especially in the middle of the night.
If you want to know how to stop being a pessimist, you need to know that you have to be grateful. It’s hard to believe that gratitude can actually have measurable benefits, but science confirms it. Gratitude has been associated with better mental health, self-awareness, better relationships, and a sense of fulfillment.
Do not condemn things. As soon as you label something bad, the mind will begin to believe it. Instead, be thankful for setbacks. Keep going at your own pace. The universe may have other plans for you.
If something doesn’t go the way you wanted it to, tell yourself, “It’s not over for me.” You don’t have to think, “I’m so grateful I lost my job!” However, when you say, “It didn’t work, but it’s not over yet”, the energy shifts to a future full of possibilities.
The more open you are to possible results, the more you can make gratitude a reliable response. If your boss gives you feedback that you don’t agree with, pause before reacting.
Take a moment to think: What can I learn from that moment? Then look for reasons to be grateful: perhaps you can be grateful that your boss is trying to help you improve. Or you can even feel relief that your boss gave you another reason to leave the job.
Create a daily gratitude list. Think of 5–10 things to be thankful for each day: good health; family and friends; a house or apartment where you can live and feel safe; great parents; bees and honey; sun and rain; etc. Let your imagination fly and be grateful for what you have; don’t focus on what you don’t have.
When you make a list of things to be grateful for on a daily basis, you will begin to understand and notice how much you actually have to be grateful for. This list will help you focus on what’s good in your life instead of what has gone wrong. You will understand that showing your gratitude makes positive thinking much easier.
To avoid pessimism, remember to be alert
As you try to stop pessimistic thoughts and become more and more positive, you need to be wary of situations that may encourage negativity. Pay attention to how you talk in a stressful situation or when something goes wrong.
In difficult times, it’s crucial to keep a clear focus and confront negativity by asking yourself, “Is it really as bad as it seems now?”, “Did I set unrealistic expectations for this situation?”, “Does it matter in five years?”, “Will I learn and evolve because of it?” You can formulate the answers to these questions as positive ones. Try it, you can do it.
How to turn negative thoughts into positive ones?
- “I’m so depressed I don’t know what to do” or “I feel bad, but it will pass. A bad mood doesn’t make things better, so I have to think about what I can do to improve the situation right now.”
- “I just moved to another city, I’m so alone and far from home” or “When I’m friendly and open, I will soon find friends and get to know this exciting city that is my new home.”
- “I’m so fat” or “I can lose weight and start today”
- “I will be alone for the rest of my life” or “I’m single and it’s so cool right now”
Learn to be present
Note that negative thoughts come mainly from two directions: the past (you keep thinking about what went wrong) and the future (the fear of what may or may not happen to you).
Notice that in order for negative thought patterns to occur, your mind must focus on either the past or the future, which means that you no longer notice the moment you are actually in.
To stop pessimism, take a step back and take a moment to devote your full attention to them. Don’t enter into a mental dialogue with yourself, but notice what is happening around you at the moment. If you are truly in the moment, the past and the future have no power over you.
Think about the consequences
So, you’re probably here because you googled “how to overcome pessimistic thoughts” and you stumbled across that blog post. And, you know, I have a piece of advice that might help more than anything else.
Think about the consequences of negativity. Think about the consequences of your negative thoughts. Sometimes, these thoughts can become self-fulfilling prophecies.
For example, a person who thinks, “I’m probably not invited to this job interview” may put less energy into getting this job interview, and, as a result, reduce their own chances of getting the particular job they want.
So, make a list of all the effects that negative thinking can have on you, such as on work, relationships, behavior, and feelings. Once you’ve done that, make a list of how positive thinking can change these same things and be useful to you. Which option do you prefer, negative or positive? It’s all up to you.
Practice positive affirmations
Affirmations are our natural way of influencing ourselves. Everything we tell ourselves begins to shape us.
Because we were strongly influenced at a very young age by people close to us who were literally telling us what to think, we may not be fully aware of what we are instilling in ourselves. Even less likely have we paid attention to whether these ideas will help us move forward, take us back, or hold us back in certain situations.
Conscious use of affirmations means choosing the ideas we want to materialize. Be careful here. We don’t want to lie or keep repeating affirmations without really meaning them. That leads to frustration. We want to change our beliefs.
If you randomly select some thoughts that you like and start repeating them randomly, it has little effect, and it’s not a really good way to avoid pessimistic thoughts. You have to work consciously with affirmations. You really have to start embracing these ideas. Only then will they have an effect on your behavior and results.
1. Choose a group of people who know you well—a diverse mix of people you’ve worked with, family, and friends. Three is enough, but ten to twenty is even better. 2. Ask them to write down the moment you showed your best side. Ask them to be specific. 3. Look for patterns and common themes. 4. Write down your own profile, gathering feedback as if it doesn’t talk about you. 5. Think about how you could put your best skills into action, so you could use those skills this week. Or in different circumstances or with different people.
Let’s talk about how setting goals is a bulletproof way to combat negative thoughts. Our self-belief increases when we see movement—when something is done, something is achieved, or some goal is fulfilled.
When you have goals to work toward, it is much easier to tolerate setbacks and remain positive. From time to time, various obstacles and problems arise in life, but the goals you’ve set are the motivation to overcome these obstacles. Without clear goals, it’s more difficult to make decisions and evaluate your progress.
Learn to relax
Relaxation allows you to turn off this self-opinionated critic inside you who has something bad to say all the time. By doing regular relaxation exercises, you will gain the ability to easily let go of these negative thoughts because, just as you relax, they will move away from you.
The tenser you are, the harder it is to let go of things. I’ve written two great posts about that: one about how to calm your anxiety with some stress-relieving techniques and another about some self-soothing techniques for anxiety.
Find and weaken your triggers
People who think negatively have a distorted mindset. It’s like a big wheel, where negative thoughts create negative emotions, which in turn create negative actions. If you can’t get out of this wheel and let that wheel rotate endlessly, it will do a lot of physical and mental damage to you.
In addition, when negativity occurs frequently, it can lead to depression and anxiety disorders. The key to stopping the negative cycle is to understand what makes the wheel turn for you.
Once you’ve identified your trigger, the next step is simple because you can train yourself so that you don’t trigger yourself and can protect yourself before you get hurt.
Negative thoughts can be caused by different thoughts, feelings, and sometimes even physical reactions to certain situations. Each individual trigger has a small amount of power to change your mindset or emotions.
Know your triggers. In order to not fall into a negative cycle, you need to know the stressors that trigger your cycle, to which you are more receptive than others. As soon as you are positive or in a safe environment, you can avoid negative thinking. If you don’t have a safe environment at that moment, think about it and visualize yourself in the middle of it.
Weaken your triggers. Make a list of your own positive qualities and positive things in your life. It may take some time for everything to be written down, but this work is worth it. To fight your negative thoughts, you need the equivalent of positive truths that disarm those negative thoughts.
For example, if you think, “Everyone hates me and I’m not lovable,” get rid of that negative thought as soon as it occurs. You can fight this with the thought, “My husband and children love me and are always happy to see me when I come home.”
Be honest with yourself and celebrate the good in your life. Take five minutes each night and write down all your accomplishments, good qualities, and things that make you happy. Such activities provide a natural defense against negativity. To break a cycle, it’s necessary to break its pattern.
These were the 14 ways to that will show you how to stop being a pessimist
How do you combat a pessimistic attitude? Do you have any additional tips about how to stop the negative thoughts you might have in your head? Let me know in the comments below!