Relief at Last! Find a Thought That Feels Better

Posted on October 16, 2012 by

A Simple Technique You Can Use Every Day to Shift Negative Thoughts and Emotions.

If you are like most people, you sometimes don’t feel as good as you would like.  You might wake up feeling depressed or blue.  Or perhaps you might notice that you are feeling worried.  You may be able to identify the feelings and know what triggered them, or they may be more vague, like a general sense of unease.  You may feel time pressure or a general feeling of being stressed.

These feelings may be based on a pattern of negative self -talk that was learned during childhood.  This often happens for adults who often worry about self-worth, money, relationships, family, time, and work.  Adolescents often experience negative thoughts and feelings about their self-image and self-esteem and they worry about fitting in and figuring out who they are and what they will be. People with ADHD who get constant negative messages about not being able to sit still, concentrate, or get things done in time often develop a habit of negative self-talk.

Whatever the feeling, use this proven technique to help you shift your thoughts and emotions to something that feels better.  This will bring you a sense of relief.

  1. Stop.  Take a break from whatever you are doing and simply tune into what you are thinking and feeling.
  2. Breathe.  Take a breath in through your nose to the count of four and breathe out through your mouth to the count of eight with pursed lips like you are blowing gently on a candle.  Do it again to calm down your arousal state, relax and focus your attention inward.
  3. Notice what you are thinking about.  Tune in to what you have been thinking.  Most of us engage in self-talk of some sort.  This may be an inner running dialogue of automatic negative thoughts (ANTs).  Some examples might be:
    • I have so much to do – I will never get it all done.
    • I am always late.
    • How come she knows so much?  I feel stupid.
    • Nobody likes me.
    • I’m afraid to be alone.
    • I feel so stressed all the time.
    • I hate my job.
    • My kids never come to see me.
  4. Identify the feeling associated with the thoughts.  Pay attention to how you feel when you think these thoughts.  Do you feel helpless, hopeless, frustrated, angry, sad, afraid, happy, proud, hopeful, excited, exhausted?  Do your best to name the feeling.
  5. Relief!  Find a thought that feels better. Replace the negative thought with a realistic thought, that you can believe, that moves you in a positive direction.  Notice that as you do so, you will experience a sense of relief.  It’s like turning your boat so it floats downstream instead of struggling to paddle upstream.  Be careful not to go from one extreme to the other such as ‘I am feeling sad’ to ‘I feel happy’ because you won’t believe it and it won’t work. Here are some examples of replacing the negative thought with a thought that feels better:
    • I have so much to do – I will never get it all done.
      • I have a lot to do, but I know I can get most of it done if I break it into small tasks, prioritize it and do the most important task first.
    • I am always late.
      • I have trouble being on time, but I am aware of it and am using technology (me smartphone calendar and alarm) to remind me of appointments.
    • How come she knows so much?  I feel stupid.
      • She always seems to know the answer.  Although I sometimes feel stupid I do know lots of things.
    • Nobody likes me.
      • Even though I feel like nobody likes me, I can think of at least one person who likes me.  And when others get to know me better they will like me, too.
    • I’m afraid to be alone.
      • Although I am afraid to be alone, I usually find something to do that I enjoy and am learning to like my own company with no one to please but myself.
    • I feel so stressed all the time.
      • Although I get stressed out sometimes, I am learning to stop, breathe, calm down, and put things in perspective.
    • I hate my job.
      • Even though I don’t enjoy doing this task, there are some things I do like about my job.  And if I decide to, I can find a job I like better.
    • My adult kids never come to see me.
      • My kids have busy lives of their own.  But they do make time to visit when I reach out and call them and invite them over.
  6. Use this technique repeatedly throughout the day to replace negative emotions with a feeling of relief.  As you get used to practicing this process you will find it becomes easier and more automatic.  Gradually you will move in a positive direction towards thoughts that feel better and better on a more consistent basis.
Debra Burdick, LCSW, BCN, also known as ‘The Brain Lady’, is an international expert on ADHD and Mindfulness. She is an award-winning, #1 best-selling author of: Mindfulness Skills Workbook, Mindfulness Skills for Kids and Teens, ADHD: Non-Medication Treatments and Skills for Children and Teens and Mindfulness for Teens with ADHD. She is an international speaker and retired psychotherapist and neurotherapist, who has been helping all ages thrive for over 30 years.

I would love to hear your personal experiences with this topic.


  1. I heard you on the telacast would like to talk more with you on my add or PTSD not sure both mabey and what your fees? Are you covered by any insurance? if so, which ones? I got some helpfull information from you site as well.
    Hope to hear from you soon so we can talk, thank you Bill C

    Comment by bill on March 15, 2013 at 6:31 pm

  2. Hi Bill,
    Sorry for the delay in response. I just now saw your post from 3/15. I will submit to your insurance. I am out of network so your insurance will reimburse you if your policy has out of network benefits. I charge $150 per session with a discount for prepaid sessions. See Packages and Programs under Services for more detail. Please email me at and we can set up a free 15 min Get Acquanted Call.

    Comment by Debra Burdick on April 16, 2013 at 11:55 am

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