Negative thinking is easy to acquire and once it becomes a habit, requires consistent effort to change. Defeating negative thinking requires you to first become aware of what your negative thoughts and when they occur. Next, you need to make a list of the negative thoughts. Then, you need to come up with a “better” thought to “replace” the negative thought and practicing thinking and saying the replacement thought whenever the negative thought comes to mind. You must practice saying the new healthier thought STRONGLY and PASSIONATELY in order to get a change at the feeling level.
Defeating negative thinking requires systematic practice. Here is a mental exercise you can practice with: (I use this with tennis players, although you can see how easily it can be adapted to use with other sports or even in non-athletic related situations.)
Here is a list of common negative thoughts associated with playing competitive tennis. For each negative statement, write a more desirable positive statement.
1. Oh no. I have to play this opponent in the first round, I have lost to him twice before.
2. I can’t believe I missed that shot. What’s wrong with me?
3. I am down 3-0. I don’t have a chance.
4. That’s the second backhand I missed. My backhand is the worst.
5. I double faulted on game point. I really suck.
6. I should be killing this guy. I’m so much better and I’m down 3-1.
7. It’s unbelievable. That’s the second shot of mine that hit the line and he called it out. What a cheater!
8. I was ahead the entire set and now it’s 5-5. I’m terrible. I’ll probably end up blowing the set and losing the match.
9. My overhead was great in practice all week and now in the match I have missed 2 of them.
10. I can’t get over that bad call last game. It was such an important point.
Write any additional negative thoughts that are specific to your situation on the back of this page.
On a separate sheet of paper for each negative thought, come up with a more desirable thought to counter the negative one.
Now you have completed the first step in defeating negative thinking.