Skip main navigation

Finding alternative thoughts

In this article we look at negative automatic thoughts and use a worksheet to help show possible alternatives.
© University of Reading

When we check and challenge an automatic thought what then? It’s possible that this process quickly highlights some thoughts that are easy to challenge and amend. Often it’s useful to replace negative thoughts with alternatives, and the alternatives don’t have to be positive. This is not about ‘positive’ thinking. What we’re aiming to do is to show that thoughts aren’t facts. Usually there’s more than one way to interpret or make sense of a situation and here we’re looking for plausible alternative thoughts.

The table below uses some of Emma’s negative automatic thoughts to show possible alternatives. We’ve filled out some examples.

Can you come up with some alternative thoughts for the blank spaces? What impact do you think that might have on Emma’s feelings? You can find a worksheet at the bottom of this Step to print out and fill in. Compare your answers to our examples here.

Thought – Feeling
– How strong is the feeling?
New alternative thought – Feeling
– How strong is the feeling?
I won’t understand what anyone’s talking about – Stupid
– 100%
If I don’t understand I’ll listen and ask someone later –Stupid
– 80%
The teacher will think I’m lazy – Embarrassed
– 90%
If I ask for help they will know I’m not lazy – Embarrassed
– 50%
I’m a real loser – Sad
– 100%
I’ll feel even worse – Hopeless
– 100%
Everyone will look at me – Embarrassed
– 100%

– Unliked
– 90%

I’m just not as popular as the others – Unliked
– 90%
© University of Reading
This article is from the free online

Understanding Depression and Low Mood in Young People

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education