Changing our thoughts from negative to positive
The Sober Journey

Changing Your Thoughts from Negative to Positive – Silence Your Inner Critic

Many of the issues experienced when we try and quit drinking come from the way we think, people convince themselves they can’t do it because some of the thoughts they have tell them they can’t.

I hear statements like this all the time:

‘I can never quit drinking, I have always been like this and will never change’

‘I am going to a party at the weekend, I know I will drink, I have already made up mind’

‘If I keep drinking I will end up with serious health problems, but I can’t stop’

These negative thoughts pop into our heads without invitation and leave us with a bunch of uncomfortable feelings and emotions. This can lead to a negative mindset and low-moods resulting in us getting stuck in the same old neural pathways and a loop of negativity over and over.

The solution to disrupting the loop of negativity is to work on the way we think, our brains are developing and learning all the time and we can create new positive neural pathways instead of continuing to trudge down the same negative ones over and over.

All of the statements above (and many more just like them) come from a default of automatic negative thinking and then without consideration for the thought (stopping and thinking about it) we allow ourselves to act on the negative thoughts.

By learning to be aware and recognising when we have negative thoughts and then changing the way we think and act around them we can learn to change them resulting in a much more positive outlook and frame of mind.

You don’t have to listen to your personal negativity or ‘inner critic’ and you can work on silencing them altogether.

Below is a table showing the most common negative thoughts along with examples of how you might currently act on them. The table also provides an example of a more positive way to act that is sure to help you achieve a long-term positive frame of mind.

You should be able to see 4 columns in the table below, if not, turn your mobile device sideways to see them all.

Type of Negative ThoughtWhich meansAnd you tell yourselfHow to change the way you think
Thinking all the timeYour mind produces negative thoughts constantly and you use words like, always, never, why, everyone or everything.It always happens to me, why does everything go wrong. You have the power to change anything. Each day offers a new opportunity and a chance for a fresh start.
Black & White thinkingEverything is either good or bad with no in-between.I slipped and drank, everything is ruined.We know this isn't true, you made a mistake and you are upset because it matters to you, learn from it and do better tomorrow.
Believing what you are thinkingYou rely on what your feelings tell you and act on them without seeking proof.I feel like my life will by boring if I stop drinking.You don't know this, you haven't tried life without drinking long-term so you have no evidence. Life wasn't boring when you were young but you didn't drink then.
Negative thoughts/filteringYou always see the negative and filter out the positive, even though the positive is there.I made a mistake at work, I have ruined everything and may as well quit and find a new job before I get fired.You made a mistake today, but you have also had 5 years in the job where you didn't make a mistake and your employer values you. You now have extra motivation to be even better at work and impress.
Thoughts of guilt and regretYou allow thoughts of guilt or regret to control your behaviour and use words like 'should have', 'have to' and 'must'. I should have gone to the gym today, but I didn't. I will never get fit.So what, you can go tomorrow and you know you don't need to hit the gym every day to get fit. This is an opportunity to make a training programme and stick to it.
Catastrophic thinkingYou always think something awful or disastrous is going to happen.What if I didn't turn off the oven, my house will burn down.How many of those past catastrophic thoughts turned into reality, none of them. Stay rational and work on learning to calm your mind and thoughts.
Predicting the futureYou anticipate the outcome before it has even happened.I have always drunk, I will never be able to change.These negative thoughts can be self-fulfilling. Use them as an opportunity to make change and know that you are probably very wrong about your future predictions.

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