Challenging negative thoughts can be overwhelming and can affect our mental and emotional well-being. While there are different ways to address negative thinking, one powerful approach is to turn to God for help. In this blog post, we will explore some practical steps to stop and challenge negative thoughts with God’s guidance.

By the way, what if I told you your feelings aren’t inherently bad or sinful? You don’t need to fear or suppress them. They can be a guide. If you’re interested, I have a free 3-day study on living by faith while processing emotions. Check it out here!

How Are Thought Patterns Formed

Over time, repetitive thoughts, coupled with emotional responses, contribute to the establishment of cognitive biases and automatic reactions.

The most basic way is that an event occurs, you create a thought about it (what it means to you), and then it develops whether you continue to feed it OR based on how you feed it. A thought pattern is formed through repetition.

In my book Face Off with Your Feelings, I do a deep dive into thoughts, emotions, feelings, and reactions.

What Influences Our Thought Patterns

Thought patterns, also known as cognitive patterns, are developed through a combination of genetic, environmental, and experiential factors. They shape how we perceive and interpret the world around us. Here are some key contributors to the development of thought patterns:

Genetics: Genetic factors play a role in shaping cognitive tendencies. Some individuals may be predisposed to certain cognitive patterns due to their genetic makeup, which can influence aspects of personality and cognitive processing.

Early Childhood Experiences: The experiences we have during early childhood can have a profound impact on the development of thought patterns. Positive or negative interactions with caregivers, family dynamics, and early environmental stimuli contribute to the formation of cognitive habits.

Social and Cultural Influences: Cultural and societal norms, as well as the values instilled by one’s community, can shape thought patterns. The beliefs and attitudes of the surrounding culture contribute to the development of an individual’s cognitive framework.

Traumatic experiences can significantly impact thought patterns. Negative events, especially those that are emotionally distressing, may lead to the development of negative or maladaptive thought patterns, such as cognitive biases or distorted thinking.

Repetition and Reinforcement: Repetition of certain thoughts or behaviors can reinforce neural pathways in the brain, making it more likely for those patterns to become ingrained. Habits of thought, whether positive or negative, can become automatic through repetition.

Coping Mechanisms: The strategies individuals use to cope with stress, challenges, or emotions can shape thought patterns. For example, someone who consistently uses positive coping mechanisms may develop more adaptive thought patterns.

Theology of God: What we believe about God impacts us on a deep level. This will also impact how we think and how we see the world around us.

Recognizing the influences behind our negative thought patterns and acknowledging the role of faith in God are vital for nurturing mental well-being and spiritual growth. Our thoughts, whether positive or negative, profoundly impact our emotions, actions, and overall perspective on life.

Negative thought patterns can arise from various sources, including past experiences, societal pressures, and internalized beliefs. Faith in God provides a sense of hope and guidance, reminding us that we are not alone in our struggles. It encourages us to surrender our worries and fears, knowing that divine love and wisdom are always available to support us.

Examples of Negative Thoughts Patterns

These examples illustrate how negative thought patterns can distort reality and lead to unnecessary stress, anxiety, and self-doubt. Recognizing these patterns is the first step toward challenging and reframing them to promote a healthier mindset.

  1. All-or-Nothing Thinking: John receives feedback on his presentation at work. Despite receiving mostly positive comments, his mind fixates on one minor criticism. He concludes that his entire presentation was a failure, ignoring the aspects that were praised.
  2. Fortune Telling: Sarah is invited to a social event but declines because she predicts that she won’t enjoy herself. She convinces herself that everyone will ignore her and that she’ll feel out of place, even though she hasn’t given it a chance.
  3. Labeling: After making a mistake at work, Emily tells herself, “I’m such a failure.” She defines her entire identity based on one error, ignoring her successes and positive qualities.
  4. Catastrophizing: Before an important exam, Tom imagines the worst possible outcome: failing the exam, being expelled from school, and never finding a job. These catastrophic thoughts create unnecessary stress and anxiety.
  5. Filtering: Despite receiving numerous compliments on her artwork, Maya fixates on one negative comment. She dismisses all the positive feedback and convinces herself that she’s a terrible artist.

By recognizing specific examples of these patterns, such as all-or-nothing thinking, fortune-telling, labeling, catastrophizing, and filtering, individuals can begin to break free from the constraints of negativity. Through mindfulness, self-reflection, support of trusted individuals and trusting God, it becomes possible to replace destructive thought patterns with more constructive ones, ultimately leading to greater resilience, peace, and fulfillment in life.

Understanding the Root Causes and Challenging Negative Thoughts and How God Can Help

Why do we feel these feelings of anxiousness in our bodies?

Is it because it’s just the way we feel?

Common symptoms of anxiety are (that can result from negative thoughts):

  • Racing heart
  • Uneasy or queasy stomach
  • Unable to sleep at night
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue 
  • Headaches
  • Tight shoulders

This happens because your body is preparing to protect itself from danger or to flee because there is some sense that you are in harm. Your body is designed to protect you. When anxiety-producing and negative thoughts come, your body will find ways to cope according to what you have hardwired it to do and believe.  Learning how to stop negative thoughts will help you find peace in your body. 

But in the case of anxiety-producing and negative thoughts, sometimes they aren’t actually real. Those things haven’t happened. There’s not something to fear, but we interpret it that way. Therefore, our body activates. 

When those beliefs get challenged (anxiety-produced thoughts), our fear response (or stress response) kicks in and takes over. When we operate from fear and stress, (some of the roots of our anxiety) we lose our ability to reason and think more clearly. Over time, it can continue to compound when it’s not addressed. When we learn how to stop negative thoughts it helps us to manage the anxious feelings that try to come. 

The prefrontal cortex can shut down, allowing the amygdala to take over and causing us to shut down all rational thinking. 

Where the fear or the anxiety takes over so much that we can’t really reason in our mind, or we’re feeling a little stuck, we can’t see our way out of it. It’s literally our brain being hijacked by the fear response leading to anxiety-producing thoughts. 

We can’t continue to ignore our pain anymore. Jesus is ready to take your hand and walk you through this journey. A journey that may feel hard, heavy, and impossible to get through. 

We can not control other people, but we can manage our inner world with the guidance of the Holy Spirit learning how to stop negative thoughts. 

Learn more about how to challenge negative thoughts in my program, Untangle Your Thoughts. 

How to Stop Negative Thoughts with the Holy Spirit 

In John 14:26, Jesus told his disciples, “the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26, ESV).

The Greek word “Parakletos” in this passage is translated as “Helper” in the ESV, “Advocate” in the NIV, and “Counselor” in the KJV. The meaning of this word relates to “legal counsel.”

The Holy Spirit provides wise counsel to Christ’s followers. Jesus knew he would be going away and that his followers would need the Holy Spirit as a helper and an advocate to remind them of his teachings. Therefore, the Holy Spirit helps us to stop negative thoughts. 

The Holy Spirit is God’s presence in the lives of believers. 

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, ESV)

“These are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except for their own spirit within them? In the same way, no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10-11).

God gives His followers the Holy Spirit so we may know Him better. Since the Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit, it knows the thoughts of God and reveals those thoughts to believers. The Holy Spirit opens believers’ eyes to the hope of salvation and their inheritance in Christ.

Jesus knew that his disciples would need the power to carry out their mission to be witnesses to the entire world.

Learn more about how to challenge negative thoughts in my program, Untangle Your Thoughts.

challenging negative thoughts

How to Replace Negative Thoughts with Positive Ones Using God’s Word

Negative thoughts can be challenging to overcome, but with God’s help, we can overcome them. By following these steps and seeking God’s guidance, we can transform our negative thoughts into positive ones and live a life filled with hope, peace, and joy. Remember, “whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

Identify negative thoughts.

The first step in stopping negative thoughts is to become aware of them. Negative thoughts can be pervasive and subtle, but once you recognize them, you can start to take control of them. Take a moment to notice your thoughts and write down any negative ones that come up. This step will help you identify patterns and triggers that contribute to your negative thinking.

Challenge the negative thoughts.

Once you have identified negative thoughts, it’s time to reframe them. Reframing means looking at the situation from a different perspective. In this case, we can look at the situation through the lens of God’s word. For example, if you have negative thoughts about yourself, remind yourself that you are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).

Pray for guidance.

Prayer is a powerful tool to overcome and stop negative thoughts. When we pray, we acknowledge our need for God’s guidance and ask Him to help us. Pray for wisdom, strength, and peace to overcome negative thoughts. Remember that God’s grace is sufficient for us, and His strength is made perfect in our weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9).

Focus on positive thoughts.

Negative thoughts can be all-consuming, but we can counteract them by focusing on positive thoughts. One way to do this is to meditate on God’s promises. Spend time reading and reflecting on the Bible, and choose a few promises that resonate with you. Memorize them and repeat them to yourself when negative thoughts arise to stop negative thoughts.

Surround yourself with godly influence. 

We are greatly influenced by the people we surround ourselves with. Surrounding yourself with positive, uplifting people can help you overcome negative thoughts. Attend church, join a Bible study group, or connect with other Christians who can support and encourage you in your faith journey.

Learn more about how to challenge negative thoughts in my program, Untangle Your Thoughts.

3 Strategies to Overcome Negative Thoughts

We can learn to contain our anxiety-producing and stop our negative thoughts and the emotions that come with it in a healthy way. 

1. Containment. For example, closing your journal after being honest with God about your feelings is a symbolic act of containment. 

Once you close the journal, you leave distressing emotions, memories, sensations, and thoughts there. You know they are safe there. This isn’t the same as ignoring your feelings. Little by little, you can take them out of containment and process through them with the Lord and trusted people. 

2. Another example is visualizing (since our imagination is so powerful), giving each individual feeling over to God. I want you to close your eyes for this and picture yourself and Jesus with you, with his hand outstretched, taking every feeling from you. 

Slow down. Take a breath, which activates the rest and digestive side of the nervous system, which helps us return to a calm state. It also helps lower our heart rate. 

3. Do your ABCs to stop and challenge negative thoughts. A is the activating event. So I will write down what was the activating event. I had to think about the thing that triggered me. B is what were the behaviors that followed? What did I do right after that? You know, or maybe what were the automatic thoughts that followed? And then C is consequences. How do I want to now respond to this situation? 

Doing your ABCs helps you to take control of what’s happening with yourself and the situation instead of letting it run you. I think self-control comes from paying attention to your emotions, not bypassing them. Because when you bypass those things, then they’re ruling you. 

It’s leaning in and paying attention to what’s going on in your brain and body and saying, “Okay, I’m going to reframe and reclaim this situation.” I say to myself, “Healthy Jessica is going to respond to this not old, Jessica.”

I think our feelings can feel so overwhelming it makes it hard to discern between what is true and what is a lie. Challenging negative thoughts isn’t just about distracting ourselves or memorizing more Bible verses to try and cover up the pain we do feel. 

To challenge negative thoughts, we need the power of the Holy Spirit at work within us. 

Learn more about how to challenge negative thoughts in my program, Untangle Your Thoughts.

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