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Knock Out Negative Thoughts

By Julia Tolliver Maranan

Whether you're a glass-half-full or half-empty type, chances are you get caught in a cycle of negative thoughts from time to time. But once you're mired in misery, how do you restore your inner Pollyanna? "It's all about perspective," says Judith S. Beck, PhD, director of The Beck Institute for Cognitive Therapy and Research in suburban Philadelphia and author of Cognitive Therapy for Challenging Problems: What to Do When the Basics Don't Work (Guilford Press). Here are her tips on how to get your thinking back on track and regain a sunnier outlook.

Pay attention to your feelings Your ability to fight negative thoughts hinges on identifying them as soon as they appear, says Beck. If you're feeling distressed, ask yourself "What was just going through my mind?" Often, it's something like "I'm not doing a good enough job" or "I'm not as good as other moms." Once you've identified the thought, look for evidence that it's accurate or inaccurate. Take the example of a mother who, at the end of a long day, doesn't read her toddler a bedtime story and later thinks "I'm such a terrible mother." Once you recognize that thought, you can evaluate it and change it to more accurately reflect the truth, Beck says. If there is a problem, like never reading to your child, you can take steps to change that behavior. But more likely you'll be able to say, "I wish I had the energy to read to him that night, but I was so tired and missing one bedtime story does not mean I am a bad mother."
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