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Personal Accountability

Replace Your Toxic Thoughts with Healthy Thinking

by Scot Chadwick

Toxic thinking can affect you more than you know. Negative thoughts rob you of joy and leave you hopeless for any positive outcome. What can you do to address toxic thoughts?

Your pattern of thought influences the quality of your life. Your actions flow from what you think about and value. So, replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts can help you increase your happiness, build hope, improve your health, develop relationships, and succeed in life.

How Toxic Is Your Thinking?

You declare your thoughts through words—sometimes in conversation with others and other times silently to yourself only. Whatever it may be, pay attention and listen to yourself. Do you find yourself saying these things to yourself or others?

  • “I don’t have what it takes. I am not good enough.”
  • “I am afraid that _____.”
  • “I didn’t do it perfectly, so I’m a failure.”
  • “What if I can’t finish in time?”
  • “But I might fail.”
  • “My behavior is not hurting anybody.”
  • “Sure, I did that, but it was because [someone else did or didn’t do something].”
  • “Why is this happening to me? I deserve better than this.”
  • “It’s too late to ____. I cannot change now.”
  • “I’m just too busy. I’ll do it later.”
  • “Nobody cares about my success.”
  • “Everything I do fails.”
  • “What do other people think about me?”
  • “They have it so much better than I do.”
  • “If I could only _____, then I would be happy.”

Hopefully, you see how these statements can stifle your progress and keep you trapped in despair. But what is behind these sayings?

The Heart of Toxic Thoughts

Beware of cultivating a mindset or attitude that nurtures destructive thoughts.

Toxic thoughts are false beliefs that negatively influence your life (and the lives of those who are close to you). Your thinking can also affect your health, sleep patterns, anxiety levels, and more. Consider these examples of toxic thinking:

  • Personalizing failure
  • Fearing rejection
  • Requiring perfection
  • Justifying bad behavior
  • Fearing failure and avoiding risk
  • Viewing self as a victim
  • Being hopeless about the future
  • Doubting yourself excessively
  • Procrastinating for no good reason
  • Shifting blame to other people or circumstances.
  • Fearing loss
  • Envying others
  • Worrying about things outside of your control
  • Making your happiness contingent on circumstances

You should expect to have occasional negative thoughts. You will face disappointment, rejection, and frustration. But will you orient your thinking around these negative situations? Beware of cultivating a mindset or attitude that nurtures destructive thoughts. Instead, focus on replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts that can carry you forward.

How to Promote Healthy Thinking

It is not enough to eliminate toxic thinking—you must develop healthy thinking to take its place. What are some things you can do to replace bad thoughts with good ones?

Give Thanks.

Foundational to other patterns of positive thought is the practice of gratitude. Be thankful and count your blessings. Before you address an apparently negative circumstance, pause to give thanks for the good things you can see in this. Look for the positive in any situation. Remember these words of the biblical figure Joseph who had endured many trials: “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good in order to bring about this present result, to preserve many people alive” (Genesis 50:20).

Be Generous.

As seen in Joseph’s life, related to an attitude of gratitude is the practice of generosity. Forget yourself and do good to others. What can you do to bless others who face difficulties? Foster compassion toward others and prove it by helping to meet their needs.

It is not enough to eliminate toxic thinking—you must develop healthy thinking to take its place.

Look for the Good.

Keep things in the proper perspective. Things are rarely as bad as they seem. Consider problems as opportunities for positive solutions. Look for the good that can come. And do not judge based on appearances only—things are not always as they seem. You might be surprised at the good that lies in a seemingly bad situation, or the bad that resides in what you thought was good.

Receive Instruction.

Yes, you will make mistakes, and you can always do better. When others around you point out your faults, take care to listen to the truth. Avoid taking correction as a personal attack and learn from it instead. Do not blame other people for your choices and actions. Identify what is in your control to change and focus on these things. The wise man Solomon said, “Give instruction to a wise man and he will be still wiser, Teach a righteous man and he will increase his learning” (Proverbs 9:9).

Plan and Do.

You might have valid reasons to delay the pursuit of a goal. But, while caution is helpful to avoid disaster, it can also debilitate you from taking appropriate action. Do not be paralyzed by constant analysis and avoid taking responsibility for things outside of your control. Set a goal, start with small tasks to build momentum, and work up from there. Take reasonable risks and periodically evaluate your progress. When you encounter obstacles, look for appropriate alternatives. But stay in the race and do not quit. Focus on what you can do to change your situation.


Today is the day to exchange toxic thoughts for healthy thoughts. What is holding you back? The more you validate false beliefs, the more you allow them to undermine your progress. Acknowledge your shortcomings and external challenges but focus on solutions that you can achieve. What can you do to learn, change, and grow?

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