Sickle cell disease: Reducing negative thoughts and increasing positive thoughts

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Learn how to replace negative thoughts with more positive thoughts to help reduce stress, tension and pain.

Key points

  • Negative thoughts and catastrophizing can increase stress and tension and make pain worse.
  • You can help reduce negative thoughts by practising noticing negative thoughts and then replacing them with positive thoughts.
  • You can use this technique whenever you have negative thoughts about pain or any other part of your life.

We know that automatic negative thoughts and catastrophizing make us feel bad. In turn, these feelings can increase stress and tension, which can make your pain worse.

So what can you do about your thoughts?

One strategy that can help you reduce negative thoughts and catastrophizing is replacing a negative thought with a positive thought.

Replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts

Once you notice that you're having a negative thought, try replacing that thought with a more reasonable or positive thought instead.

Example 1

Read this thought:

“This pain will NEVER go away!”

Now, enter a more positive thought:

Other positive thoughts might include:

  • “I can get through this!”
  • “I'm in a lot of pain, but I will still try to do what I need to.”

Example 2

Let's do another one.

“I’ve missed so much school because of pain that my friends are going to forget all about me.”

How could you replace this thought with a more positive thought?

Now, enter a more positive thought:

Other positive thoughts could be:

  • “Even though I’m in a lot of pain, I can try my hardest to go to school.”
  • “I can also make sure to stay in touch with my friends on days that I can’t get to school.”

Below is an example of how another teen with pain changes his negative thinking through replacing negative thoughts with positive thoughts.

Check out what Tyrell wrote about his thinking strategies when he was feeling stressed about missing school because of pain:

“This morning I found myself having very negative thoughts about missing class, thoughts that other people are having about my constant absences, and just that my pain would never really get better. I told myself to stop and then considered more positive thoughts: that it is very doubtful anyone is really thinking anything of the fact that I am absent again.

I then considered the classes that I would be missing. I remembered that I have extra time to make up missed work, so that really is no problem either. Then about the pain, I simply told myself that sitting here, complaining to myself about it would do no good and that there has got to be some reason why I am still going through all this. After changing the thoughts, I felt a lot better.”

When to use the technique to stop negative thoughts

You can use the technique whenever you have negative thoughts about your pain problem or other parts of your life.

Tip 1: Sometimes we catch the emotion we are feeling before the thought. If you notice you are feeling stressed or bad, go backwards and think about the stressor that caused those feelings, and then try to catch the negative thought.

Tip 2: It may help to schedule a time each day to practise the skills you are learning. For instance, you could practise the thinking skills for a few minutes each day soon after you get home from school.

Last updated: November 22nd 2023