Understanding Positive
and Negative Thinking 

Your positive action combined with positive thinking results in success....

Important Information
The way we think affects the way we feel and act. Our thoughts come from our life experiences and how we make sense of these experiences. There is usually more than one way to understand the things we experience. Some ways of thinking may move us forward in life. We refer to these as positive thoughts.

Negative thoughts, however, may get in the way. These negative thoughts make us feel bad, bring us down, and stop us from taking steps to improve our lives. The big problem with negative thoughts is that we often accept them as true even when they’re not.

Sometimes we accept some ideas and beliefs as true even though we haven’t looked at them very closely.

 It’s common for people who have had disappointments in life due to mental health problems, substance use, and other problems to get stuck on negative thinking.

It may be especially helpful to pay attention to thoughts that lead to feelings of guilt, shame, hopelessness, anger, and fear. When we act on negative thoughts, we are more likely to make poor decisions.

This Lesson Gives Us an Opportunity to Figure Out:
 What kinds of negative thoughts might be getting in the way of moving forward?
 How to replace negative thoughts with thoughts that are positive and real and that move us forward in life.

Why is positive thinking important?
 People who focus on the positive are more likely to accomplish their goals.
 Positive thinking builds a person’s confidence and motivation even when the going gets tough.
 When people focus on the positive, they are more likely to take the steps that will lead to more success and satisfaction.

How Do We Overcome Negative Thinking?
The 3 Question Test
A good start to overcoming negative thinking is to be aware of your thoughts. Take a close look at your thoughts and apply the 3 Question Test.

Question 1: Are these thoughts really true?
Question 2: Are they helping me or holding me back?
Question 3: What other things could I say to myself (positive thoughts) that would be closer to the truth and helpful?

Thinking About Negative Thoughts That Could Get in The Way of Your Recovery
Below is a list of common negative thoughts. These negative thoughts are beliefs and ideas that may get in the way of recovery.

These ideas and beliefs may seem true at first. But when you examine them more closely, you may find that they are not so true. In fact, holding on to these beliefs as true may be one of the most important barriers to your personal recovery.

As you read the list of negative thoughts, check off those that you believe are true for you.
Examples of Common Negative Thoughts
• I can’t have a normal life. I’m different from people who don’t have mental health or substance use problems.
• Recovery is for other people, not for me.
• I can’t change who I am.
• I can’t trust anyone. Don’t be real with others; they’ll use it against you.
• I’m to blame for the problems I have; I don’t deserve to succeed.
• Normal people wouldn’t want to get to know me.
• I’m too sick to work, or go to school, or live on my own.
• I don’t have mental health problems so I can’t get anything out of mental health services.
• I don’t have substance use problems so I can’t get anything out of substance use services.
• The worst thing is having people not like me.
• I should never try something new unless I know I will succeed.
• There’s not much I like about myself, so people aren’t going to like me.
• Failing is the worst possible thing.
• Taking small steps is a waste of time.
• If I can’t do it perfectly, then it’s not worth doing.
• There’s no way I can learn to manage my stress and symptoms.
• Better not to think about my mental health or substance use problems. It will just depress me.
• There’s no way I will be able to reduce drinking or taking street drugs. I’ve got no will power.
• Nobody really cares about me. This is all a waste of time.
• Other negative thoughts that concern you.

Discussion Points:
• Which statements did you check?
• Are any of the statements you checked something you would like to change?
• What feelings seem to go along with some of these thoughts?

Choose A Negative Thought That You Most Want To Change
Negative thought that I want to change is:

What Feelings Go Along with This Thought?

Take some time to examine this thought very closely with a friend, family member or counsellor.

Put Your Thought to The 3 Question Test:
Question 1: Is This Thought Really True?

Question 2: Is This Thought Moving Me Forward or Holding Me Back?

Question 3: What Other Things Could I Say to Myself (Positive Thoughts) That Would Be Closer to The Truth And Helpful?

Printable Worksheet

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