Try Thought Exercises to Enhance Your Mental Health & Well-Being

Posted by Seraine Page on Wed, Feb, 15, 2023

How often do you think about how powerful your thoughts are?Thought Exercises

Your thoughts have the power to make you feel energized or drain you. They also have the power to influence your mood and how you perceive the world.

Just like muscles, your mental health needs exercise, too. During stressful times — like the flailing economy, lay-offs, and more — thought exercises can be helpful in keeping you grounded. These simple mental health activities can help you better cope with life’s challenges, too.

If you need to break your negative thinking loop, this post is for you.

Below, learn what thought exercises are, how they can benefit anyone, and ways to boost mental health through exercises.

What are Thought Exercises?

Thought exercises help you free yourself from thoughts that might otherwise hold you back, distress you, or even make you overanalyze a situation. It gives you the power to take control of your thinking instead of letting your thoughts get on a runaway train.

Common types of thought exercises are:

  • Journaling
  • Visualization
  • Brainstorming
  • Positive affirmations
  • Mindfulness meditation

You can try one or try them all to see what works best for you.

The Benefits of Thought Exercises

Need to see something a bit more objectively? That’s where thought exercises can be helpful. These exercises are a great way to regain control and your perception of life and events.

Benefits of thought exercise include:

  • Mindfulness of triggers - By increasing your awareness around uncomfortable feelings, you give yourself an opportunity to pause. Doing so can make you better aware of events, activities, or conversations that might derail your thinking.

  • Reduced symptoms of anxiety - When you pause the rushing of thoughts, your mind becomes aware of what causes you strife. You can stop yourself and ask if the thought is fact or fiction. This in turn can make it easier to be aware of triggers and ways to alleviate them the next time a thought comes barreling too fast, which happens often with anxiety.

  • Enhanced sleep - Imagine changing the way you perceive your to-do list that often keeps you up at night. Letting it go and knowing it will be there tomorrow and that it’s a new day to tackle your projects can be empowering — and more sleep-inducing.

  • Increased sense of control and well-being - Taking control to enter positive thinking can also offer a person a sense of control over a scary or intense situation. This in turn can lower anxiety, depression, and fear.

One Stanford professor declared that “our minds actually change reality,” which is an incredible realization for those who believe in the power of the mind. 

5 Thought Exercises to Show Your Brain Who is in Charge

The next time your thoughts are giving you the run-around, take charge in a new way. Don’t let the negativity get the best of you. Try one of these five exercises to combat feelings of stress or overwhelm and see how it helps:

1. Say “Stop” Aloud

When a negative thought is circling your mind, say the word “stop” aloud. This allows you to mentally and physically interrupt your thought circle. Replace it with more positive phrases, words, or mental conversations.

2. Imagine the Opposite

When you’re feeling crummy — whether after a job loss, a bad break-up or something else — it’s easy to sit and let the misery wash over you. How can you change your perspective in a moment like that? Imagine the exact opposite. Argue for the positive side and instead of a worse-case scenario, imagine way beyond this moment of pain or sadness.

3. Guided Imagery

Calm your thoughts with guided imagery. This is great to do when you’re alone and have some quiet time to reflect. It’s a focused quiet moment that involves all five senses. Lie or sit down and close your eyes. Imagine a peaceful scene and envision your experience going through that scene. Guided imagery has often been used for those with PTSD to replace traumatic moments with positive imagery.

4. Express Gratitude

Research shows that gratitude is a simple way to put your mind into a more relaxed and grateful state. It has compounding effects, too. Each day, consider taking a few minutes to think about what you’re grateful for to seek out the positive aspects of your life. It’ll boost your sleep quality and overall health, too!

Related: How Gratitude Benefits the Body, Mind, and Workplace  

5. Put Those Thoughts “On Trial”

Your thoughts have the capacity to put you in a terrible mood, a great mood, or even put you in a downward spiral of an anxiety attack. This exercise encourages you to act as the prosecution and defense and the judge, allowing you to have the final say on the accuracy of the thought.

Here’s a look at how it works:

  • Prosecution and Defense: Now is the time to gather your evidence that supports and goes against the thought. It MUST be a verifiable fact. No guessing. Definitely no opinions. The defense shows the evidence for the thought; the prosecution will provide evidence against it.

  • Judge - The ruler of the thought. Now is the time to reflect on your thoughts. Is it fair? Accurate? Could you use other thoughts to back up the facts?

Using this method allows you to sensibly and thoughtfully derail negative thinking or anxiety-provoking thoughts.

Important note: There’s a difference between negative thinking and on-going, clinical depression. If you’re feeling hopeless, lethargic, sad, or you want to hurt yourself, it’s time to seek the help of a medical professional like a mental health counselor.

You can also text 494949 any time of day or night to connect with a confidential SoulMedic to listen to you and help for free.

How Can I Further Improve My Thoughts?

Just as you think your negative thoughts, you can challenge those inner critical thoughts with positive thinking — any time.

Thoughts have a powerful way of impacting us within situations and even our daily outlook. Your brain and thoughts are so powerful, in fact, that you can be immobilized if negative thinking becomes standard for you.

Take action and try positive thought exercises as a way to improve what comes in and through your mind.

Ask yourself these questions to challenge negative, intrusive thoughts:

  • Is there substantial evidence for my thoughts?
  • Is there evidence contrary to my thought?
  • What would a friend think about this situation?
  • Am I attempting to interpret this situation without all the evidence?

Become curious and challenge your thinking often. Doing so can encourage your mindset to look at your thoughts differently over time. Ultimately, this can lead to better — and more positive — ways of thinking.

Take a look at why optimism is excellent for the workplace. Download our free guide: The Power of Positivity at Work today.

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Topics: Healthy Workplaces


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