Thought substitution is a simple technique to understand but might be difficult to master. I first learned them from reading a Brian Tracy’s book, who is a known motivational speaker and writer. It is based on the fact that a human mind can only hold one thought at a time. Thus, if you have negative thoughts in your mind that continuously stress you, it is possible through conscious effort substitute it with another thought, i.e. think of something else instead.


As you do not think of the problem, you reduce your level of stress. Of course, pervasive negative thoughts will try to return to your mind. You should take notice of them and immediately return to your substitute thought.

Examples of this technique can be seen in Relaxation Technique #1 – Breathing to relax and calm down – where the concentration on the air flow through the nostrils should substitute the previous thought you’ve had. Of course, you can just substitute your negative thought by thinking about your loved ones or reliving joyful memories from your past.

So, the next time you have troubling thoughts, take notice of them. Recall the fact that you can substitute your thoughts with better ones and start thinking positive ones.