Dealing with Head Trash and Negative Thinking

By Val Silver

Are you ready to reduce and eliminate the head trash and negative thinking that keeps you stressed and limited? If so, the following principles and techniques will show you how to relieve mental stress caused by holding on to long-held limiting beliefs, past negative situations and emotionally charged self-talk patterns that bring you down instead of lifting you up. These patterns make it impossible for you to fully relax because of the distressing thoughts churning in the recesses of your mind. 

There are many ways to deal with stress in everyday life. To really ease and erase head trash, you have to go beyond these techniques and remedies and do deeper inner work. This inner work helps you alleviate long standing negative self talk and the stressful emotional states that accompany it, while encouraging a positive change of mental and physical habits, attitudes and beliefs. 

Let me forewarn you that sometimes doing this inner work may create a ripple effect of temporary additional mental distress. Change is always a bit stressful. Also, making shifts in yourself and choices that threaten the status quo can upset other people. When this happens, use your favorite techniques to relieve mental stress and anxious feelings. Otherwise, you may get derailed and fall back into old patterns.

The payoff is that when you pull up the roots, or discard the trash, you will not be triggered into the stress response nearly as often. Over time, a natural by-product of these mental shifts and practices is a greater sense of inner calm and resilience.  Better health and a more relaxed mind and body will be your rewards.

9 Ways to Reduce Stressful Head Trash 

1. Practice Awareness. This first and often most important step in any healing process is awareness. Take some time to notice your stress triggers, how you react, and the ways you try to cope with the distress. Notice what happens in your mind and body. You may want to jot your notes into a journal.

You will notice certain symptoms, such as shallow breathing or restricted vision. However, much of what happens in the brain and body during times of stress are not consciously noticeable. 

2. Shift your perceptions. It is not a situation that is stressful, but rather your perception of it. This is why people react to the same exact circumstances differently. Some people will feel traumatized. Others may feel mildly upset. Others may find the silver lining. Depending on how you perceive what happened, how and to what extent you believe it affects your life, and how much control you feel, determines if and how strongly you trigger your stress response.

When you embrace the mentality of being a victim, you blame and complain. The truth is that, even though bad things beyond your control do happen, you are ultimately responsible for your own thoughts and actions. When you shift your thoughts, perceptions and beliefs, your responses and actions naturally change.

3. Be in the present moment. Bringing your attention to the present moment is a great way to relieve mental stress. Many people get all worried and upset fearing what may happen in the future or regretting what happened in the past. The truth is that the past and present only exist in your imagination. This mental habit activates the stress response for situations that are over and may never occur.

When you project yourselves into the past and future you sacrifice the energy and attention you could be using to live a happier, healthier, more fulfilled life right now. 

The Work, by Byron Katie, illustrates this principle beautifully.

4. Use the 'thought stopping' technique to stop negative thinking.

Remember how people used to snap a rubber band on their wrists to remind themselves of something? Well, the same technique can be used to snap you out of a negative thinking pattern. This popular psychotherapy technique was introduced by Dr. Joseph Wolpe in the 1950s to help his patients interrupt phobic, obsessive thoughts.  Equally important as stopping head trash from overtaking your thoughts is step two of the process.  After you stop the thought, acknowledge it. Then replace the negative thought with a positive affirmation or thought. Tell yourself the real truth.


  1. You are telling yourself, "I'm a fat slob, I'm a loser, I can't do anything right. What's wrong with me?"
  2. Snap the rubber band or say "Stop. Don't go there."
  3. Acknowledge that you had the thoughts and felt the emotion behind them for a few seconds only.
  4. Tell yourself the real truth and affirm the positive. "I may be overweight but I am still a good person who does plenty of things right. I am worthy of love and self-respect.

4. Let go of your emotional baggage. Relieve mental stress by getting rid of old traumas, attitudes, thoughts and beliefs that no longer serve you is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Remember that the bodymind responds the same whether an event is real or imagined.

When you relive old traumas over and over, you create a state of chronic stress that could have long term health consequences.

You may be pleasantly surprised at how quickly you can discard the head trash you thought you would have to live with forever. Meridian tapping and energy flow techniques can help. I have personally worked with people who released the energetic charge of unhappy memories after holding on to them for fifty years! It is not that you forget them, it is that your perceptions and  emotional states shift. 

head trash

5. Live a clutter-free life. De-cluttering your external environments is just as important as cleaning out your head trash. Your environments are often a reflection of your inner world. Likewise, creating calmer, more positive environments influence your inner landscape. Get rid of stuff you no longer want or need and organize the things you keep.

Cluttered or dirty spaces are associated with more chaotic beta brain waves and higher stress levels. Clean, orderly spaces induce more productive, creative, relaxed alpha brainwaves. Uncluttered open spaces feel better and are more conducive to a healthy, supportive, positive energy flow.

Here is a simple Feng Shui exercise to try for a week or more: Throw out or donate 27 unneeded items every day. Everything, including junk mail counts!

6. Realize that you do have choices.  Relieve mental stress and head trash by approaching your life from a place of personal empowerment, not entrapment, is one of the best ways to deal with stress triggering situations that would normally put you in a tailspin. Even though you cannot always choose what is done to you, you can choose how to respond.

Everything you do and think is a choice. Getting up for work in the morning is a choice. Eating junk food is a choice. So is saying "yes" to another project and letting repetitive negative thoughts drain your energy and haunt you mercilessly.

Become conscious of your unconscious choices and accept responsibility for all of them. Adopting this mindset empowers you and helps you realize you have more control of yourself in a given situation than you may think. Feeling a sense of control is important for keeping feelings of distress and its accompanying head trash talk at bay. 

7. Become more attuned to your true desires and rhythms. Listen to what your heart, mind and body are telling you. Perhaps some of what you are calling head trash is really not head trash at all. Perhaps, even though it sounds negative,  it is your inner voice trying to give you an important message. There is a positive side to some negative self talk. Tune into those messages and honor them. Have you been neglecting your needs and heart's desires? Also, be aware that as you evolve and change through different stages of your life, your likes, dislikes, needs, and desires may also change.

Developing this kind of unconditional love and  acceptance towards yourself and others will reduce that seemingly constant undercurrent of mental stress. Let yourself off the hook sometimes. Make time for doing activities you enjoy and spend time with people you love. Release what no longer resonates with you. Do you really have to keep that vase you now think is ugly just because you spent money on it, or is that head trash talking?

9. Take care of yourself physically.  When you feel good and are healthy, you are more resilient mentally and emotionally in a wider range of stressful circumstances.

Practicing habits of healthy living naturally lowers your stress load.  Research shows that getting enough sleep, nutrition, and exercise makes you less prone to feeling mentally distressed and suffering from its ill effects. Exercising causes your brain to release feel good endorphins. When you lack certain vitamins, minerals or sleep, you feel more tense in your body, making you more susceptible to outside triggers.

If you are like me, after three sleep deprived nights your nerves are on edge and you are no fun to be around. I get quite crabby and reactive. My very unpleasant, unproductive, unkind head trash talk runs rampant. On the other hand, when well rested and feeling good, that kind of self talk is much less prevalent and much easier to shift when it does show itself.

The benefits of dealing with stressful head trash can be profound and positively life-changing. Implementing them is an on-going process requiring consistency and diligence, especially at first. Do not get discouraged.

If you get stuck or would like assistance, seek help from a coach or mental health provider. Remember that even small shifts can reap big rewards, not only as a way to relieve mental stress, but in all areas of your life. Over time you will notice your head trash talk diminishing, and you truly are not bothered by the same things. When you do get triggered, you are generally less reactive and rebound quicker.

Reminder: If you are under professional care for mental health issues, or have serious mental issues that may require professional assistance, please consult with your health care provider before using techniques presented on this page and throughout the site.

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Source: Use ‘Thought Stopping' Techniques to Shield Yourself from a Spiral of Negative Thinking

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