How to clear your mind of negative thoughts

African elephant on the savannah

One of my friends is a lawyer in New York. He graduated from law school, passed the bar exam, got his license to practice, worked for a short time and then was laid off due to the failing economy.

I wanted to rescue him because I worried that like many lawyers in New York, he would be unemployed, would not be able to pay off his school loans and would not be able to maintain his apartment.

We worry, we obsess about the same things over and over again, we are anxious about things that never happen, we want more than we have, or something different from what we have, and we have expectations of ourselves and others that may never be met.

The mind is like a wild elephant that needs taming. If you have ever meditated and tried to quiet your mind, you will have experienced your thoughts as continuous and difficult to manage.

When we think negatively about ourselves and others, we do not experience the beauty and joy that can be found within ourselves and others.

A couple months after my friend was laid off, he met a colleague who offered him a job. All of my worrying was energy spent on something that never manifested.

Rather than worrying about my friend being unemployed, I could have thought positively about the situation. I could have thought about my friend’s strengths as a hard working, skilled lawyer.

I could have thought that the situation could actually end up to his benefit – he might find work he enjoys more than the work he was doing before he was laid off (which is what happened).

In meditation I practice working with my mind and I have experienced changing negative thoughts. First I become aware of my negative thoughts.

For example, I may notice that I am anticipating a negative outcome from working with a person with whom this has happened in the past, however, worrying about a situation in the future, when I do not know what the outcome will be, is wasted energy.

Rather than being concerned about working with the colleague, I could consider the positive qualities about the person and empathize with circumstances that might have made our interaction difficult for her.

She might have been experiencing personal or professional difficulties or have health issues or just see things differently.

When I think positively and with compassion, I am successful in clearing my mind of negative thoughts – it just takes awareness, mindfulness, understanding and compassion.

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20 Comments. Leave new

  • well im 8 and i have been going thrue baaaaaaaaaaaad thots and what u puplished relay helped me and i know that im not the only person in this world who i going thrue what im going thrue it has been going on for4 mounths and u r realy changeing people lives right now and i thank u

    • Dear Angel,
      I’m so sorry to hear you have had bad thoughts. I hope your thoughts
      are changing to good ones!
      Thanks so much for writing ;)
      Take good care,

  • […] Click to read more » […]

  • I have been experiencing bad thoughts lately and i have no idea how to stop thinking about them (they are scary thoughts). Can you give me some tips on how to get rid of the bad thoughts?

    • The thing is not to focus on getting rid of the thoughts. Trying not to think about something just leads to our thinking about it more. What you need to do is to learn to take your thoughts less seriously. Your thoughts are not you. Having a “bad” thought doesn’t make you a “bad person”. Try just noticing your thoughts, without giving yourself a hard time about them. You can know that they’re not the kinds of thoughts you want to act on, but at the same time just accept that they’re arising.

  • What you posted really made sense to me. But I always find myself worrying about things. Like I worry constantly about loads of different things and there never seems to be any kind of relief :(

  • Hello Tanya,
    I’m happy to hear what I posted made sense to you. I understand what you mean when you say you worry constantly – worrying can become a habit. The way to lessen worrying is to become mindful of it and then train your mind to worry less and less. Mindfulness take practice! So, when you become aware that you are worrying, think about something else or remember the times you have worried about something that never happened.
    All best wishes, Saddhamala

    • I’d agree with Saddhamala, although I’d suggest that learning to accept that we’re worried without reacting to it is a good place to start. Worried thoughts are just worried thoughts; there’s nothing intrinsically wrong with them. You can learn to just notice worried thoughts without worrying about being worried, and without criticizing yourself for having had another worried thought.

      You can also consciously work on being more appreciative and grateful for the things that are going right in your life. Here are a few articles that discuss how we can shift the functioning of the brain so that it’s a more positive place, and so that it’s harder for worry to take root.

      Five ways to increase your joy.
      A living web of gratitude
      How to feel gratitude
      Feed the mouse: using appreciation to generate inner nourishment

  • Thank you both very much for replying. I will take your advice on board and try my hardest to put it into practise.

  • This article definitely makes sense to me and I try to apply it in my everyday life, with most everything I do. It seems like if there is not one thing going wrong to worry about another one will surely happen and the old thing is still there to worry about. Is there any other exercise you can recommend?

  • Hello Jean,

    Thank you for writing.

    You wrote, “It seems like if there is not one thing going wrong to worry about and another one will surely happen and the old thing is still there to worry about.” That sounds as though you have a habit of worrying and an expectation that there will always be things to worry about. Perhaps, when you find yourself worrying, you can remind yourself that the worry isn’t helpful. You will become mindful, as you continue to be aware of worrying and reminding yourself that the worry only makes the situation more difficult. You can also remind yourself of past times when you worried and what you worried about didn’t happen. The more aware we are of our thoughts (in this case worry), the more we can understand and work with our thoughts.

    You might also try thinking of something soothing when you find yourself worrying – like a calm lake scene or a wooded area that is covered in snow and the stillness these images bring. You probably have a personal image that evokes stillness and calm.

    With all best wishes for ease,


  • I have this problem with negative thoughts and I am going crazy with it. JUST CAN’T GET IT OUT.

    • I’d suggest that you try saying to yourself “I haven’t yet found a way to get out of these negative thoughts,” Elijah, and see how that feels.

      I think it’s also worth seeing what, within you, is provoking a need to think negatively. Your negative thoughts aren’t arising from nothing; they’re a response to your own suffering. Can you turn your attention to that suffering and look at it compassionately?

  • I have recently set foot on my own spiritual path and have become very interested in, and begun meditating and attempting astral projection.

    I have two questions and I would be very happy to heard your answers/opinions.

    1. What is your stance on the use of binaural beats? I have heard mixed things on this subject and I am unsure what to make of them myself yet.

    2.( The important question) Doubt. I often encounter a feeling of deep doubt in things I am so sure of when attempting to meditate deeply. This feeling has also arisen ( although to a lesser extent than with meditation and such) while experimenting with altered states of consciousness using psycotropic plants/drugs. I am already well aware that this is most probably to do with my “shadow self” or Subconcious although the deeper I go the more the problem seems to elude me. Other forms of negative thoughs sometimes arise too but this is the one that troubles and breaks my focus the most.

    Thank you for your time


    • I don’t know anything about binaural beats, but I have doubts about any external thing that claims to be a form of meditation. Meditation is an internal activity.

      It’s hard to comment on your doubt. Your description of it is very general, so I don’t know what it is you’re experiencing doubt in regard to, or even whether what you’re calling doubt is what I’d call doubt. Do feel to write more, giving more detail…

  • Thanks so much. This article helps. I will work on my mind

  • Christine mcroberts
    July 4, 2013 10:35 am

    You’ve helped me to stop worrying so much thankyoun

  • Only one obstacle in my path of meditation is my negative thoughts..meditation has changed my whole life but still the negativity within me evokes time and again as a result of which i feel severe pains at my chakra points during meditation.. Any suggestions please how to remove this negativity or inferiority complex? Plz try to reply soon..

  • Hi,
    i have been hearing my own negative voice now for the last 4 years, i have tried all sorts of things from medication to meditation, surgical healer, hypnosis and also carry around crystals. It sounds like every noise i hear i can hear my own negative thoughts from thre timr i get up in the morning to the time i fall a sleep, please can you help me Thank you.


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