Above all, be careful what you think because your thoughts control your life.

Proverbs 4:23 ERV

Did you know that we have about 6200 thoughts every day, and a groundbreaking new study estimates that 80% of them are negative

Letting negative thoughts fill our minds results in stress, anxiety, low self-esteem, depression, relationship challenges, and communication issues. This research backs up what the Bible already told us: our thoughts determine how we feel about ourselves, other people, and the world around us. Our thoughts control our lives, and we should be careful what we think.

We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

1 Thessalonians 1:3 NIV

God wants us to be filled with faith, love, and hope. This is what we define as a “positive mindset” according to Scripture, and a negative mindset is the opposite. It’s unbelieving, self-focused (which can include self-critical and self-indulgent), and hopeless. 

The Christians in the Bible lived through incredibly challenging circumstances (their lives were threatened, they were uprooted from their homes, they lived through famine, they lost friends and loved ones, and they had conflicts with each other), but they still had faith, hope, and love. They didn’t give into despair or unbelief because their hope came from within, not from their circumstances.

One quick note: while everyone experiences negative thoughts, those with certain mental health conditions like anxiety and depression can experience stronger and more debilitating patterns of negative thinking, and may need more tools than this devotional can provide. We encourage anyone who is experiencing challenges in their mental or emotional health to seek treatment from a medical professional. 

In this devotional, we want to provide spiritual tools to combat the negative thought patterns that affect us all. First, we’ll learn to say no to our negative “thought worms,” and then combat the forces of negativity around us by filling our minds with Scripture, prayer, gratitude, purpose, and love. 

Say no to negative “thought worms.”

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.

Romans 12:2 NLT

We are bombarded more than ever with negativity through social media, video games, and news stories. In fact, many of these forms of media are intentionally negative because people click on negative headlines more than positive ones. If we don’t actively fill our thoughts with God and good, the world will pump negativity into them and create patterns or “thought worms” that are negative.

Researchers at Queen’s University in Canada came up with the term “thought worms” in recent research to describe how our brain links thoughts together. A new “thought worm” is formed when the brain is exposed to new information. Our thoughts are not independent of each other; they usually are linked in chains. So when we fill our minds with negative information, negative “thought worms” or patterns form and affect other thoughts. 

God can help us change how we think, but we have to take responsibility for what we fill our minds with. Here are some common things that fill our minds with negativity:

Excessive media use

Teens spend an average of nine hours per day on screens, including video games, movies, and social media. Adults spend an average of seven hours per day on screens. Much of this includes work, but the fact remains that we consume a lot of media that does not necessarily encourage faith, hope, or love.

Pornography

This can be an uncomfortable subject, but it is a common form of media that will create negative thoughts. Roughly 58% of adults in the US report watching pornography at some point in their lives; 27% said they watched it in the past month, and that number jumps up to 44% amongst male respondents. 

Past sinful experiences

Sin and guilt from our past can nag at us until we turn to God for forgiveness and freedom. Our minds will be negative if they are filled with sinful actions and images we can’t forget. God can change the way we think about our sins and guilt, but we have to let him. If we continually replay things we have done wrong, we will be filled with fear, shame, regret, and insecurity. 

Wash me clean from my guilt. Purify me from my sin. For I recognize my rebellion; it haunts me day and night. 

Psalm 51:2-3 NLT

Fears and worries about the future

Anxious thoughts have a way of multiplying. One worry leads to another worry until our minds are filled with fear. If we fill our minds with worst-case scenarios or possible bad outcomes that haven’t happened yet, it will be difficult to see the world with faith, hope, and love. Worry and anxiety can be helpful when they prompt us to take needed actions (i.e. worrying about a test prompts us to study), but sometimes our worry becomes unproductive. It doesn’t lead us to anything good but rather fills us with cycles of negative possibilities that paralyze us. 

When my anxious thoughts multiply within me, Your comforts delight me.

Psalm 94:19 AMP

“Your eye is like a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is healthy, your whole body is filled with light. But when it is unhealthy, your body is filled with darkness. Make sure that the light you think you have is not actually darkness. If you are filled with light, with no dark corners, then your whole life will be radiant, as though a floodlight were filling you with light.”

Luke 11:34-36 NLT

Jesus teaches us a few key things in this passage:

First, our eyes give light to our bodies, so any negativity we put in front of our eyes (in the form of media or online content) will determine the level of light or darkness we have in our hearts. As Proverbs 4:23 says, we need to be careful about what we think, and that includes being careful about what we consume. 

Second, the benefits of changing our mindset from negative to positive extend beyond ourselves. If we fill ourselves with light, we become radiant. Our light spreads to others. Likewise, if we fill ourselves with darkness, negativity, pessimism, shame, or insecurity, it will show in our lives and affect those around us. God wants us to be a light to other people, but we can’t do that if we fill our minds with negativity.

Pause and reflect:

  • What are some of the main sources of negative thinking in your life? 
  • What could you change to let fewer negative influences into your mind?

Combat negativity with God and good 

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me-everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9 NLT

God calls us to fix our thoughts on the good. This takes intentional effort because, as we’ve covered, our minds will naturally skew negative and the world around us will bombard us with negativity. Luckily, God gives us some supernatural tools that can combat negativity and make our mindset positive.

Scripture makes our minds positive

“My thoughts are nothing like your thoughts,” says the LORD. “And my ways are far beyond anything you could imagine. For just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so my ways are higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts. “The rain and snow come down from the heavens and stay on the ground to water the earth. They cause the grain to grow, producing seed for the farmer and bread for the hungry. It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it. You will live in joy and peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song, and the trees of the field will clap their hands!

Isaiah 55:8-12 NLT

God does not think the way we do. Our thoughts might tend to get negative, but his don’t. His Word brings joy and peace into our lives, which is hard to do on our own. We can fight our negative thoughts by filling our minds with God’s Word instead of our own negative voice. 

There are a lot of creative, practical ways to do this, and here are a few ideas to get started:

  • Follow spiritual, Bible-based accounts on social media. Many of them will post Scripture throughout the day (including ours @deepspirituality).
  • Listen to God’s Word on the go through podcasts, music, and other apps. You could listen to the Streetlights audio Bible or, of course, our own Mini Quiet Times and Scripture Playlists.

Prayer makes our minds positive

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 NLT 

God wants us to take everything in our hearts to him. If our negative thoughts tend to be fearful or anxious, we can combat them through prayer. Every time we notice a negative “thought worm,” we can immediately pray it away. For example, when we have a fearful thought, we can choose to pray and trust that God cares about us and has a good plan for our lives. Even if hard things happen, we can be content and calm knowing God’s on our side, and we don’t need to be controlled by our worries and negative thoughts.

We can’t control what comes our way, but we can trust that God is good and his will for us is good. So we can cast our burdens on him and find peace in our hearts and minds.  

Gratitude makes our minds positive

Let’s revisit the passage we just read:

Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank him for all he has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:6-7 NLT 

God tells us to respond to worry by telling him what we need and thanking him for what he has done. Gratitude is a powerful force; it has been scientifically proven to make us happier. 

Gratitude in prayer changes the way we think, feel, and view the world. It sets our minds on what God has already done, which gives us vision and faith for what he will do in the future. 

Love makes our minds positive

The generous will prosper; those who refresh others will themselves be refreshed.

Proverbs 11:25 NLT

We get refreshed when we refresh other people. We can combat the negativity in our minds by thinking outward: Who can we serve? Who can we encourage? 

This can be counterintuitive because our negative thoughts can convince us that we have nothing good to offer, we will fail if we try to do something nice, and that nothing we do will make a difference anyway. But these negative thoughts are not true, even if they feel like they are. 

Keeping our minds focused on ourselves will lead to more negative thoughts, like self-criticism, self-indulgence, self-pity, and self-consumption. Instead, we can take practical steps to think of someone else, and we will find refreshment. 

There are many ways to love other people that are refreshing but not complicated:

  • Pray for someone. 
  • Write an encouraging card for a friend, just because.
  • Do something you enjoy with a friend.
  • Make a care package for a friend who is going through a tough time.
  • Call someone just to say hi and ask about their day.
  • Offer to serve a friend or family member in a way that would relieve them (do an extra chore or run an errand).

Spiritual friends make our minds positive.

A friendly smile makes you happy, and good news makes you feel strong.

Proverbs 15:30 CEV

Being humble enough to admit we need help from our friends is a powerful way to combat negative thinking. Our thoughts usually seem very true to us, and we need spiritual friends to help us change our perspective. Spiritual, faithful friends help us perceive the world differently when we are unbelieving, hopeless, or negative. 

Even David, “a man after God’s own heart” according to the Bible, needed a friend to help him have a faithful perspective when his life was in danger:

Jonathan went to find David and encouraged him to stay strong in his faith in God.

1 Samuel 23:16 NLT

If we are stuck in a negative pattern of thinking, we will struggle to change on our own. We need help from friends who will strengthen our faith in God, and we need to open up our thought life to our friends so they can help us see things differently. It may be vulnerable and scary to do this, but it will be worth it as our perspective changes. 

Final thoughts

Our thoughts are important. We shouldn’t dismiss them or ignore them; they determine the course of our lives. Negative thinking is extremely common, and our exposure to negative online media only makes this worse, but God gives us supernatural tools to change a negative mindset into a positive one. With the help of his Word, prayer, gratitude, and spiritual friendship, we can stay filled with faith, hope, and love no matter what comes our way. 

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This article was developed by the Deep Spirituality Editorial Staff.

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This article was developed by the Deep Spirituality Editorial Staff.

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Changing Your Mindset From Negative to Positive  6