Negative Emotions vs. Negative Thoughts

Today we’re talking about negative thoughts versus negative emotions. You might think those are the same things, but they are not. We’ll be talking about the benefits of negative feelings (trust me on this), and we’ll look at how we can change our negative thoughts.

Renewing your mind is so important because your thoughts make a huge impact on the course of your life.

Every word, every feeling, and every action starts as a thought first. If you can change the way you think, you can change your life. There’s a reason why Paul said, Take every thought captive and make it obedient to Christ.” It’s not just a nice verse. It’s vital to your success as a Christian.

What I’m going to teach you will change your life.

Resources Mentioned

The Mindset Reset
Walking in Confidence Bible Study
One Word Emotions Guide

Highlights from the Episode

Changing Negative Feelings

We have to start by talking about negative feelings. We have been taught to avoid negative emotions, but I want to suggest to you that negative emotions should be felt. I know it can be tempting to try and skip this step and move right into changing negative feelings.

But if you have a negative feeling, I want you to experience it.

You might think, “But of course I feel my emotions.” However, we tend to avoid our emotions by indulging in other things. That might mean that you overeat/drink, go on a shopping spree, fall down the rabbit hole of social media, or lose yourself in a good book. While those things aren’t wrong on their own, what matters is how and why you are partaking in them.

For example, if you eat an apple because you are hungry, that is okay. However, if you eat a bag of apples because you had a bad day, that is not good. It doesn’t matter that apples are good for you. What matters is why you ate them.

Earlier this year, I had a confrontation with another person, and I immediately wanted to go to the bucket of ice cream.

Instead, I stopped myself. The first thing I did was name the emotion I was feeling. There is so much power in knowing what you are feeling. I was feeling apprehensive.

Notice this is a one-word emotion. Most emotions are single words. You might say, “I feel that they wronged me.” That’s not an emotion. That’s a thought. You have to examine what emotion that thought is causing you to feel.

BONUS: Find a free list of one-word emotions on my resources page to help you name the emotions your feel.

I felt apprehensive because I was worried about how the conflict was going to affect other relationships in my life and because conflict makes me uneasy in general. I took a moment to sit down and identify how the emotion was affecting my physical body.

Thoughts are in our minds, but emotions are in our bodies.

When you are feeling difficult emotions, take a moment to sit down, close your eyes, and really examine how this makes your body feel. It might be making your shoulders tight, causing your stomach to feel sick, etc. When you try this, it might feel awkward, but the more you take time to address the effect that emotions have on your body, the more natural it will seem.

After I had identified both my emotion and how it affected me, I realized that I could handle the emotion. I didn’t need to go to ice cream. I was free to feel the emotion, and because I was able to experience it, the apprehension faded away. I read some verses about handling confrontation, handed my worries to God, and moved one.

If you resist feelings, they’ll get stronger. If you don’t experience the emotion, you’re bottling it up like soda in a can. The more you press your emotions down, the more pressurized they become. When you do finally open that can, your emotions will flood out uncontrollably like soda from a shaken can.

If you experience them instead, you learn a lot about yourself and you open the door for God to comfort you in the middle of your feelings

You can get to the point where you experience a negative emotion, learn about yourself, learn more about God, and move forward. This will happen as you not only address the negative emotion but also remove the negative thoughts. That leads us to our first step.

Step 1: Thought Download

You can choose to believe anything that you want.

For example, before Columbus, people thought the earth was flat. Until the 1980s, people didn’t believe that washing your hands could help prevent disease.

You can literally believe whatever you want. But what you believe can (and should!) change when you’re confronted with the truth. To believe the truth, you need to change your thoughts.

If you want to be more confident, you have to start with confident thoughts. If you want more peace, you have to start with peaceful thoughts.

The first step in changing your thoughts is to do a thought download.

Brainstorm and write down every thought that comes to mind. Write them all down on paper. There is something powerful about writing down our thoughts.

This causes you to think about what you’re thinking about.

If you can control your thoughts then it will change your life. It will also change your day-to-day experiences.

Once we’ve written down our thoughts and confronted them, we might start to realize that some of our thoughts don’t make sense. We see that they aren’t logical. Those thoughts will be the easiest to get rid of. Other thoughts won’t be so easy, and that’s what brings us to our next step.

Step 2: Shine God’s Word on Your Thoughts

Just like a flashlight brightens up a room, God’s Word shines a light on our thoughts.

If what you are thinking doesn’t line up with God’s Word, then look into God’s Word and determine what thoughts you should be having.

When I was upset about the confrontation I experienced, I could have chosen to think, “This is unfair. I was completely in the right. I don’t know why they are treating me like this.” Instead, though, I traded my thoughts for God’s Word, and He says, “Live at peace with everyone. Think of others more than yourself.”

When what we are thinking about lines up with God’s Word, we can change our mindsets. You will have to do your homework to know what God’s Word says, though.

Don’t settle for what other people say, even Christians. Even me. Line up what I say with God’s Word to see if I’m speaking the truth. When I tell you to take your thoughts captive, look up the Bible verse that talks about that. When I talk about renewing your mind, look up what the Bible says about that. See for yourself what God’s Word says.

Step 3: Take Your Thoughts Captive

You have to trade your thoughts for God’s thoughts. It sounds simple, but it’s not easy.

Individual thoughts create neuropathways in your brain. The more you think a particular thought, the more paved that neuropathway gets.

The thoughts you’ve been thinking for years and years are like highways in your brain, and it’s easier for your brain to think those thoughts.

When you start taking those thoughts captive and replacing them with what God says, it’s like hiking through a bunch of weeds. There’s no neuropathway for this new thought.

But the more you think God’s thoughts, it turns into a dirt path, and then a gravel path, and then a paved road, until God’s thoughts are second nature to you.

That’s why it’s important to have reminders. These might come in the form of a daily reminder popping up on your phone, a sticky note on your monitor at work, or a note on your mirror that reminds you to think the way God would want you to think. Let these reminders help you pave new paths.

That’s also why it’s so important to memorize God’s Word. The more that you can reroute your thoughts to God’s thoughts, the more your thoughts are taken captive.

We can’t do anything without God’s help. We have to ask Him to help us change our thoughts. It is important for us to know Him and His Word. This will help us change our thinking to His direction. Even the aspect of praying for His help with changing our thoughts is a step towards renewing our thinking because we are thinking of the help that He provides.


Start paying attention to what you are thinking so you can change your thoughts into God’s thoughts. Don’t avoid them. Experience them. Write down your thoughts and see if they line up with God’s thoughts. Shine God’s Word on them and start putting a detour on your thoughts to God’s thoughts. When you change your thinking, it will change your life.

Keep Going!

Take the time this week to put these steps into practice. When you find yourself experiencing negative thoughts and emotions, make the choice to change your thinking.

For more help with changing your life by changing your thinking, check out The Mindset Reset. You’ll find all sorts of tools and resources for changing your thought process to line up with God’s Word.

Thank you for reading, and I can’t wait to share with you again next week.

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- Ashley Varner

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