It can be hard to get to
and stay at a healthy weight. It takes healthy eating and regular exercise.
These can be hard changes to make. But you can help yourself succeed just by
thinking that you can succeed. If you tell yourself negative things—"I can't do
this. Why bother?"—change will be harder. But if you encourage yourself with
thoughts like "I can do this," you can raise your chance of success.
With time and practice, you can change what you say to yourself. You can
learn to think in a healthy way even when you make a mistake.
Healthy thinking is a way to help you stay well by changing how you think.
It's based on research that shows that you can change how you think. And how
you think affects how you feel and act.
, also called CBT, is a type of therapy that is often used to
help people think in a healthy way. CBT can help you learn to replace negative
thoughts with accurate, encouraging ones. These negative thoughts are sometimes called
irrational or automatic thoughts.
Working on your own or with a
counselor, you can practice these three steps:
The goal is to have accurate, encouraging thoughts come naturally. It
may take some time to change the way you think. So you will need to practice
healthy thinking every day.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is a type of
therapy that can help change how you think about yourself.
Cognitive-behavioral therapy, or CBT, is a type
of therapy that can help change how you think about yourself.
You need to see a counselor to do CBT.
You don't need to see a counselor to do CBT.
There are techniques you can learn and practice on your own.
Continue to Why?
Healthy thinking—along with healthy eating and being
active—can help some people reach a healthy weight. It can
help you stay on track when you have a slip-up. And it can keep you from
Say you've been limiting your portions and
eating more vegetables and fruit. But you go to a party one night and eat
several slices of pizza and a big piece of cake. All the way home, you get
angry at yourself for eating so much. "I don't know why I bother trying to lose
weight. I have no will power. I might as well forget about it."
The more you talk in a negative way to yourself, the harder it is to stay
focused on all the good changes you've made. The negative thinking makes you
feel bad. And that can lead to having more slip-ups and more bad thoughts about
yourself. It's a cycle that's hard to break.
But with practice,
you can retrain your brain. After all, you weren't born telling yourself
negative things. You learned how to do it. So there's no reason you can't teach
your brain to unlearn it and replace negative thinking with more helpful
Healthy thinking is good for your health in other ways.
If you feel bad about yourself, you could feel
depressed. Healthy thinking also can help you handle
stress better. Many people eat too much because they
Too much stress can raise your blood pressure and
make your heart work harder, which can increase your risk for a heart attack.
Stress also can weaken your
immune system, which can make you more open to
infection and disease.
Healthy thinking can keep you on track with healthy
Healthy thinking can keep you on track with
healthy eating. If you slip up with your eating, healthy thinking helps you to
see it as a temporary stumble. It can help you get over the mistake and get
back to your eating plan.
Healthy thinking can help your health in other
Healthy thinking can help you prevent or cope
with anxiety and depression. It also can lower stress. Lowering stress can
lower your blood pressure and make your immune system stronger.
Continue to How?
The first step is to notice and stop your negative thoughts or "self-talk." Self-talk is what you think and believe about
yourself and your experiences. It's like a running commentary in your head.
Your self-talk may be rational and helpful. Or it may be negative and not
The next step is to ask yourself whether your thoughts are helpful or unhelpful. Look at what you're saying to yourself. Does
the evidence support your negative thought? Some of your self-talk may be true.
Or it may be partly true but exaggerated. There are several kinds of irrational
thoughts. Here are a few types:
The next step is to choose an accurate, helpful thought to replace the unhelpful one.
Keeping a journal of your thoughts
is one of the best ways to practice stopping, asking, and choosing your thoughts. It makes you aware of your self-talk. Write down any negative or
unhelpful thoughts you had during the day. If you think you might not remember
them at the end of your day, keep a notepad with you so that you can write down
thoughts as they occur. Then write down helpful messages to correct the
If you do this every day, helpful thoughts will
soon come naturally.
But there may be some truth in some of your
negative thoughts. You may have some things you want to work on. If you didn't
perform as well as you would like on something, write that down. You can work
on a plan to correct or improve that area.
If you want, you also
can write down what kind of irrational thought you had. Your journal entries
might look something like this:
Stop your negative thought
Ask what type of negative thought you had
Choose an accurate, helpful thought
"I ruined my eating plan by
having so much pizza tonight."
"I wish I didn't eat so much pizza. But
it's only one meal. I stayed on my eating plan really well the rest of the
"I should never have pizza or
"Having dessert or pizza now and then is
okay if it's part of my eating plan."
"I can never stick with an
"I've had some problems sticking with an
exercise plan in the past. But that doesn't mean I can't do it in the future.
I've made other changes in my life."
"If I can't lose 10 pounds this
month, then I'm going to give up this eating plan."
All or nothing
"I'm going to try to set a realistic goal.
It may be a smaller goal than before, but I'm still working toward a healthy
Which of these thoughts is an example of healthy
This is an example of a negative or irrational
thought. By saying "never," you're overgeneralizing because of one slip-up.
You're also ignoring all your successes.
This is an accurate thought. It corrects a
negative thought. You're admitting that you got off track. But you're also
putting it in perspective. It's only one day, and you can start over
How can a daily journal help you have more accurate, rational
A daily journal can
make you aware of your self-talk. It also helps you think of helpful thoughts.
As soon as you write down an unhelpful thought, you can write a more accurate, encouraging
thought to correct it.
Writing in the
journal every day will help healthy thinking come naturally to you. It takes
some practice. It took a long time for negative thinking to become automatic.
So it may take some time to get used to having accurate, realistic thoughts.
Continue to Where?
Now that you have read this
information, you are ready to practice healthy thinking to help you manage
If you would like more information on how to stop
negative thoughts, see the topic:
Return to topic:
Other Works Consulted
Hart SL, Hart TA (2010). The future of cognitive behavioral interventions within behavioral medicine. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 24(4): 344–353.
Layous K, et al. (2011). Delivering happiness: Translating positive psychology intervention research for treating major and minor depressive disorders. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 17(8): 675–683.
Lightsey OR, et al. (2012). Can positive thinking reduce negative affect? A test of potential mediating mechanisms. Journal of Cognitive Psychotherapy: An International Quarterly, 26(1): 71–88.
McKay M, et al. (2011). Changing patterns of limited thinking. In Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life, 4th ed., pp. 27–45. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
McKay M, et al. (2011). Uncovering automatic thoughts. In Thoughts and Feelings: Taking Control of Your Moods and Your Life, 4th ed., pp. 15–25. Oakland, CA: New Harbinger.
Newman CF, Beck AT (2009). Cognitive therapy. In BJ Sadock et al., eds., Kaplan and Sadock's Comprehensive Textbook of Psychiatry, 9th ed., vol 2., pp. 2857–2873. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.
August 3, 2012
Catherine D. Serio, PhD - Behavioral Health
& Sue Barton, PhD, PsyD - Behavioral Health
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