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  • Writer's pictureJoanna Buckland

Negative Thinking and the Inner Critic: Change your brain with 5 effective strategies.

We have the power to make a change. Research shows that our brains are in constant flux, creating new neural connections in response to changing environments. David Eagleman coined "live-wired" to describe the brain's ability to rewire anxious, stress-filled, or negative thought patterns that are key characteristics in human experiences that impact our mental health,

such as:

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Chronic stress and Burnout

  • Anxiety

  • Low Self-esteem

  • PTSD

This phenomenon is neuroplasticity in action. When delivering wellbeing and mental health training for an NHS college, our training teams would describe how we have the power to rewire anxious or stressed thought patterns using this metaphor:

Imagine approaching a field with a clearly defined, well-worn path. Instinctively, we follow it without a second thought. Similarly, our brain's neural pathways are like these well-trodden paths, formed partly by repeated thoughts. To establish a new route in the field, we'd need to walk back and forth several times. With enough repetition, this new path becomes the preferred route, gradually becoming more prominent. Meanwhile, if the original

path is less travelled, it slowly becomes overgrown.

This concept mirrors how our brains function: it's a matter of use it or lose it. Negative thinking patterns that fuel stress, anxiety, and other mental health conditions and impact our mental well-being can be altered by forming new habits. Consistently practising new ways of thinking carves out fresh neural pathways. Over time, the brain prunes the less-used routes. This pruning process isn't just a metaphor; it's a real neurological phenomenon where old pathways deteriorate, paving the way for more serene thoughts, diminished stress, and improved mental health.

5 strategies from psychology and neuroscience

  1. Train Your Social Media Feed: Just as our diet affects our physical health, the content we consume on social media influences our mental wellbeing. Becoming conscious of the posts that negatively impact our mood or activate our internal self-criticism can create an online environment that keeps our comparison instincts from overdrive.

  2. Switch up the inner talk: Some people recoil at cultivating a kind or nurturing internal voice, but it can take on other forms. Internalising a personal coach, a motivator, or whatever floats your boat. It’s all about replacing negative thought patterns to prevent the build-up of stress chemicals and get the brain pruning those unhelpful thought patterns.

  3. Focus Training: There are many ways to train your focus, giving you the power to prevent negative thought patterns from beginning to spiral. Mindfulness or meditation has a wealth of research as an effective tool to help focus the mind, and it doesn’t have to be the sit-down kind. I teach focus methods such as counting the breath and seeing what number you can get to before the mind wanders as part of a daily practice. It’s an incredible way to strengthen the anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), a part of the brain that develops the ability to focus on healthier thought habits. Practising 10 minutes of focused training daily for 8 weeks is scientifically proven to reduce stress and anxiety and improve mental health.

  4. Develop Circuit Break Strategies- Just as household fuses protect against electrical surges, our minds also need a mechanism to interrupt thought patterns that put our system into overdrive, leading to a build-up of stress. A circuit breaker is any activity that demands full attention, preventing the mind from drifting into autopilot mode. Tackling complex word or number puzzles, detailed drawings, and anything that requires our full attention. Finding what effectively serves as your mental circuit breaker may require some experimentation, as what works varies from person to person. NB- it’s helpful to have activities that don’t need tech, as the light influences sleep patterns when it’s dark.

  5. Challenge Negative Beliefs: Beliefs aren’t always rooted in fact; they are often perceptions or ideas about ourselves, others, and the world that we've adopted over time. When these beliefs are unhelpful, they can form obstacles to developing healthier mental habits. Take time to critically assess any self-limiting beliefs that the inner critic brings to the forefront. If these beliefs are proving difficult to shift, attending a training course or seeking a trained coach or counsellor can help. Such professionals can provide guidance and support as you work towards your objectives, helping you replace negative beliefs with more constructive ones.


 At WellBe, our mission is simple. We provide the tools and techniques for individuals and organisations to implement strategies and habits that steer towards optimal wellbeing. Grounded in the most current neuroscience and psychological insights, we offer strategies and resources in our mental health training and therapy packages to improve health, wellbeing and resilience. Stress, anxiety, burnout, and poor mental health have become more prevalent than ever, but it doesn’t have to be. However, in today's fast-paced world, understanding how to adapt to support human health and wellbeing is not only essential for human health, but also for businesses.

Follow us on social media for more or call us today to see what changes you can make.

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