By Misty Tafao
We all struggle with negative thoughts. However, it is what we do with those thoughts that matter. It becomes a problem when we allow ourselves to maintain negative thoughts. When we are constantly thinking negatively, it can impact our mental, physical, and spiritual health, as well as have impacts on other areas of life.
If you struggle with depression and/or anxiety, your negative thoughts feed them and create a greater manifestation of symptoms. Scripture tells us not to worry or be anxious about anything (Phil. 4:6). When we allow ourselves to be overcome with anxiety, we are exalting our thoughts (pretension) above God’s word. 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us that we can “demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” It is highly likely that your negative thoughts are contradicting the truth of God’s word, and God instructs us on how to handle it.
Satan is aware of the significance of what goes on in our minds. He knows how much power our thoughts have over our emotions and behaviors. If we do not take control of our thoughts, our thoughts can control us. As we take our thoughts captive and make them obedient to Christ, we are less likely to be conformed to the patterns of this world, and instead we can be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2). Many of us wonder, “How do you ‘renew’ your mind?” I am going to share with you 3 practical steps that you can use to begin renewing your mind immediately.
1. Catch it. Catch your thought. As I mentioned before, 2 Corinthians 10:5 tells us to take our thoughts captive; this is where it starts. We cannot change what we do not know, so it is important to begin identifying your thoughts, which are made up of statements or images. When we start catching our thoughts, we can identify which ones are harmful to us and contrary to Scripture. People do not generally think about what they are thinking about, so in the beginning this might seem a bit difficult, but it will get easier with time. I want to encourage you to keep identifying your thoughts. You are building a new skill! Start a thought log. It will be helpful to jot down thoughts as you catch them. While tracking your thoughts, use your emotions as an alarm to alert you to pay attention to what you are thinking. If you are feeling stressed, disappointed, angry etc., take a minute to notice your thoughts. What are you telling yourself?
2. Check it. Once you have identified your thought, you can check it by analyzing evidence to determine if your thought is true. Your evidence can include many different elements, and the more you have the better. You can use experiences as evidence. For example, if your thought tells you that you are not good at anything, consider the things you are good at doing (ie. good grades, good parenting, good cook, good at sports). If you make a list of the things that you do well, it disputes the idea that you are not good at anything. Another form of evidence is Scripture. Compare your thoughts with what the Bible says, for we know that if it contradicts Scripture it is a lie.
3. Change it. After you come to the realization that your thought is untrue, it is important to change it. This is where you make the thoughts obedient to Christ. If Scripture tells you that your thought is a lie, use what Scripture says as your truth. Begin speaking that truth out loud over yourself. Write it down. You can also hang it up somewhere so that you see it often and can be reminded. Memorize the Scripture and meditate on it. Hebrews 4:12 tells us that “the word of God is alive and active.” It is ALIVE and ACTIVE! That means when God’s word is within us, it is not simply lying dormant, it is judging the thoughts and attitudes of our heart and making changes that we cannot make on our own.
By using these 3 steps consistently, you will begin renewing your mind. You will see changes in your thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It is going to be challenging, but if you stick with it, you will see the fruit! If you find that you are struggling with your thought life and need some additional help, we here at New Vision Counseling and Consulting in OKC and Edmond OK would love to come along side you in your journey of transformation.
Creed, T. A., Reisweber, J., & Beck, A. T. (2011). Cognitive therapy for adolescents in school settings. New York: Guilford Press