Thought Replacement Therapy

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I read this article in a magazine last week that really struck a chord with me. It talked about how our thoughts can really drive us forward towards the things we want most – or they can bog us down and hold us back and lead us away from what we really want. Most of us work hard to control our actions – we all know we need to do more of some things and less of others. While it may not be easy to change our actions, it is quite easy to see where we need to exercise more control. But when it comes to our thoughts, do we think about what we think about enough? I’ve never really made a concerted and sustained effort to control my thoughts. I’ve let my thoughts control me way too much.

Just like many women need “hormone replacement therapy” to help them feel more “even” as they age, most people (especially women, it seems) need to adopt some “thought-replacement therapy” to feel not just more “even” but more happy. I should be happy. I have every wonderful thing I ever dreamed of in so many ways – a handsome, good, kind, smart, patient husband, 5 beautiful, fun, sweet kids, a lovely home, opportunities to use my talents in many directions, a great extended family… But I feel unhappy a lot of the time. And I feel like I’ve finally more fully put my finger on why. It’s my thoughts. And I have the power to change them.

I often feel frustrated and angry and down. I don’t need to feel these things nearly as much as I feel them. I can control these feelings. We live in this world where people are always blaming all the problems they have on how they were brought up or what their nature is or what has happened to them in their lives. But really, our happiness or sadness comes from the way we THINK about what happens more than from the actual happenings in our lives. We cannot choose what happens to us in some instances, but we can always choose what we THINK about things – if we learn to control our thoughts, that is.

The article I read pointed out that you can’t just try to NOT think about something – you can’t replace something with nothing in your head. To really get rid of a negative thought, you have to replace it with a new thought – and you have do do that again and again until your thought processes become permanently altered – until your negative rut is replaced by a new, positive rut.

So this week, I wrote down a list of the negative thoughts that pop up in my head way too often – and came up with new thoughts that I’m going to use to replace those negative thoughts with. So far, it’s working pretty well. When the thought “wow, these kids are driving me crazy” pops into my mind, I replace that with “this moment will pass and I have great kids.” When the thought “what in the world is Jared doing?” pops into my head, I replace it with “I’m sure Jared is doing his best as always.” When the thought “I feel so overwhelmed” comes into my mind, I replace it with “OK, what’s the next small thing on my list that I need to do – I’ll just do that one thing for now.” And you know what? It’s really helping. I’m getting better at replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts. And I’m realizing how often I do think negative thoughts and how poisonous that is to my spirit and my happiness.

I want to be happy. I should be happy. But to be happy, I have to CHOOSE it, with my thoughts as well as with my actions. This will be a long battle in my mind between the negative and the positive thoughts. But the positive ones will triumph!

QUESTION: What negative thoughts tend to pop up in your head the most?  What positive thoughts could you plan on replacing them with whenever they rear their ugly heads?

CHALLENGE:  Make a list of about 10 negative thoughts and new replacement thoughts.   Work on one or two negative thoughts a week.  Share what works for you!

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Comments (13)

April Perry
Said this on 4-15-2009 At 10:18 pm
I loved this essay, Saren! I’ve been thinking about it over and over again, and it’s inspired me to come up with some good “replacement” thoughts. It seems like such a simple thing, but it really works! Lately, whenever I find myself in one of those crazy “mom” situations, I think, “Look at these little miracles all around me. I’m so lucky to be a mom.” Then I surprise myself because I can actually smile when I would have cried (that’s HUGE for me!). Thanks for the encouragement and the wonderful suggestions!
Kerry Hernandez
Said this on 4-11-2010 At 07:28 am

I am not alone! I know I think negatively all the time to myself.  I am writing them all down today (a long list already), and I love the idea of replacing it with another outlook on the situation. I am more aware of how this affects my actions, or lack of them.  I am very insecure in the workworld.  Thanks for discussing this. I so needed to hear that other women do this too.  I am doing the work and I know this will change my life. It’s a wonderful idea!

Allyson Reynolds
Said this on 5-6-2009 At 12:52 pm
I couldn’t agree more! As hard as the “battle of the bulge” is after having kids, the “battle of the brain” is even harder. I struggle with this every single day and really appreciated your insights and the challenge at the end. I would love a link to the article you read. I would also love to hear more about the hilarious comparison between women needing hormone replacement therapy and thought replacement therapy. Great title!

Lani Reynolds
Said this on 5-6-2009 At 07:08 pm
Controling our thoughts and what we put into our minds really will make a difference. But oh so hard. Thanks for letting me know I am not alone in this challenge, Saren.

Becky Timothy
Said this on 10-25-2009 At 09:16 pm
Saren, thanks for sharing this. I’ve been thinking how I need to change some negative thought patterns, and your ideas are helpful. It reminds me of a great quote my sister recently found by Martha Washington: “I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be. I have also learnt from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions and not upon our circumstances. We carry the seeds of the one or the other about with us, in our minds, wherever we go.”

Nancy Fairchild
Said this on 1-14-2010 At 01:37 pm
I loved this! Your idea of writing down the thoughts and then actively replacing them is a basic, yet brilliant idea. I’m on my lunch hour….begining my list!
Said this on 4-7-2010 At 11:18 am

I am so glad I came across this today, I truly needed this gentle reminder.  I know that I have the total control of being positive or negative but it’s so easy to let the negative creep in.  Thanks for the reminder.

Said this on 6-4-2010 At 01:21 pm

Saren, thanks for sharing this.  Back in the day they called it “negative self-talk.”  Just today I was thinking to myself that I could change how I feel about someone else and not feel so “grrr!” when they are around if I would just try to think something positive instead.  I will experiment upon those words!

Said this on 6-17-2010 At 12:09 pm

Dear Saren,  I just finished reading your Father’s book, Life Before Life, today and after reading up on your family and linking to this blog I am so comforted and inspired by the things and suggestions I’m reading about here.  I have a strong faith and testimony in the gospel and Plan of Salvation, but I struggle with many issues like most of us women.  One of my two main struggles in life is exactly what you’ve written about here.  Negative thoughts!!  Thank you for sharing what you have learned with us.  I so appreciate finding other women who share my struggles…and have found ways to help themselves become better.  I look forward to reading more as I follow the blog…thank you!

Lindsay Bay
Said this on 7-1-2010 At 07:27 pm

Thank you for this article Saren, it was definitely something I needed. I’m new to P.O.M and decided to read a few articles tonight. I’ve been struggling lately with frustrations of what my parents didn’t teach me and wanting to blame them for some of the issues I’m facing. I will absolutely benifit from “though replacement therapy” and am so comforted to read that you and many other women struggle with the same thing. Thoughts are such a powerful tool, for good and bad. I just hope and pray that I can be as successful as you!

Said this on 8-22-2010 At 12:28 am

Saren, I too am grateful you wrote this.  I started to read some of your parents’ writings a few years ago when I did joy school with my 2 kids, now 7 and 10.  I have always struggled with the negative thought that others are much more capable than I am in just about every area of life. I especially felt that way about people I look up to: successful authors, for instance.  I just assumed that because of the work your parents have done, surely the Eyre children never struggled with the same issues I torment myself with.  When you said you were unhappy a lot of time, and “often feel frustrated, angry, and down”, I couldn’t believe what I was reading.  I felt a burden was being lifted from me.  “I’m not an ungrateful, crazy shrew! This happens to successful people I admire!” Thank you for being so candid and helping me feel I am normal and I can change my thoughts from, “what’s the use?” to “I can handle this!”

Janette Wright

Said this on 9-13-2010 At 05:47 pm

Since I am at the age of needing “HRT” I really know what it feels like when your hormones take over your brain.

I also have children ages 26 to 4 and what all is going on in each of their lives can be overwealming.

So my trick at this stage in life is to get up and go for a walk in the morning.  Get out in the air, with some time to myself and think, sing…yes, to myself and pray.  I seem to be able to put things back into perspective when I arrive home with the demands of a four year old and teenager.

All the many negative things through the years have never come to reality…so it really does start in our minds….the worst battlefield.

Thanks for the article….it  encourages me to take every thought captive and replace with something  pleasant instead…and just learn to Laugh more!!!!

Deborah Gardner
Said this on 10-8-2010 At 08:50 pm

What a great article Saren, and so timely for me. I have been struggling with negative thoughts about my life, kids, house and marriage for a long time. I don’t like feeling this way! I want to change how I think and I don’t want to have a bad attitude, yet, until this article, I didn’t really feel like I had the tools to do it. I do try to keep uplifting music playing in my home almost constantly, pray and read scriptures, but somehow, the habit of negative thoughts still corners me. So! I’m going to try your method of writing down some specific phrases. Such a great idea! Thank you!


  1. says

    thanks for the reminder. I highly recommend Byron Katie’s work – her book “Loving What Is.” It has made a world of difference in my relationship with my kids. It’s all about looking at a thought and asking yourself if it is true. Really true, deep down. And, if it makes you unhappy, realizing who you would be without that thought. Then choosing another thought that is true instead.

  2. momnificent says

    Great article Saren. I like the idea of writing the negative thoughts down, along with the replacement thoughts. It forces you to stop and put that replacement thought into your brain. This in turn begins to create that new neural pathway in our brains that will actually bring about the “real” change in our lives that we so desire.

  3. momnificent says

    I like the idea of writing the negative thoughts down, along with the replacement thoughts. This forces us to stop and repeat the replacement thought, which then begins to create the new neural pathways in our brains. These new neural pathways in our brains is what brings about the “real” change in our lives. Thoughts become things.

  4. Tara says

    I appreciate the honesty of this article. On top of the negative thoughts comes also the guilt of having the negative thoughts when truly we are blessed to live in safe neighborhoods, be able to feed our children, and have only “first world” problems to contemplate. I worked with a therapist following a battle with leukemia at the age of 37. I had lots of anxious thoughts, and negative thoughts, and was overwhelmed daily by them. It was challenging to continue to be the mother I was grateful to be, and yet battle these negative thoughts and emotions. My therapist said the exact same things about the ability to replace negative thoughts with positive thoughts. These kind of thoughts are called “ANTs” Automatic Negative Thinking. For some people, they are truly automatic. It takes practice and concentration to work around them, like a detour. Eventually the positive thinking comes easier and more second-nature. I work hard at it and it is still a struggle. But, I appreciate the article and the honesty that so many women do struggle with this despite their circumstances.

  5. says

    Thanks! This is a great idea. I didn’t realize I was kind of doing it already. I am newly pregnant with baby #4 and feeling pretty exhausted these days. When I look around and start to feel overwhelmed I’ve thought the same as you “I will do one more small thing that needs to be done. I can do that.” and it does really help. It also helps to take a break, put my feet up for a few minutes and read an uplifting book or article too. I had an English teacher in college that used to say “Garbage in, garbage out” meaning the things we read will really affect our thought output–so reading uplifting things (like Power of Moms) is another way to help fight the blues when they hit! Thanks for the good advice.

  6. Jeanne says

    Thanks for the reminder. One of our ministers recently spoke about thoughts and how we can’t control what comes into our minds but we can control how long it stays. When we banish the wrong thoughts then there is room for God to give us thoughts from Him and our days can be sweet!

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