The Four Keys to Overcoming Negative Thinking…For Good

negativity overcomeNegative thinking can have a strong and sometimes devastating impact on all aspects of our lives.

With the four keys listed below, and a little practice, I believe anyone can break free of negativity for good.

Getting drawn into a pattern of negative thinking can be likened to building a prison in your own mind. It holds you captive. I know. I’ve been there.

People try many different ways to ‘break out’ of their negative thought patterns including distractions, diversions or ‘drowning their sorrows’ only to later mentally beat themselves up for being still stuck in their negativity. It can feel like a real internal battle.

If you are struggling with negative thinking, I can tell you from my own experience that it is possible to turn things around and cultivate inner peace and happiness.

I went from being a bulimic, self hating miserable person to ‘waking up’ out of the negativity that plauged me and into a freedom, joy and wholeness I could never have imagined in my darkest days.

With proper understanding and a little practice you can transform your life from the inside out. If I can do it from the dark place I was in, then I firmly believe anyone can!

Here are the four keys that transform a tumultuous inner environment into a peaceful and joyful abode.

Key 1. Recognize Negative Thought Patterns

Negative thought patterns are repetitive, unproductive thoughts. They serve no real purpose and directly cause negative emotions (emotions are a reflection of our thoughts, felt in the body).

Once we learn to recognise and identify these thought patterns as they occur we can start to have a choice about how to react. Here are the negative thinking patterns that are most common:

Anxious Thoughts and Worry

“My life has been full of terrible misfortunes, most of which never happened”. –Michel de Montaigne

Negative thinking can take the form of imagining or expecting that bad things will happen or that nothing good will ever happen for you. You might fret about your health deteriorating, your relationship going downhill, your car breaking down or your career being ruined— even though nothing has actually happened yet.

You might focus on the lack in your life and believe that nothing will ever get better for you. Stress related to your financial future, the welfare of your children or your partner leaving you fit into this category.

When the mind casts itself into the future and conjures up scenes and thoughts about what could go wrong or creates ‘what if’ scenarios you have become trapped in these kinds of negative thought patterns.

Criticism and Self Beating

Another pattern of negative thought is to constantly criticise. You may be very harsh on yourself, focusing in on all of your weaknesses and perceived flaws.

Likewise, you may extend this habit of criticism to others in your life. This can be the cause of tremendous strain on relationships. Negative self talk and self criticism often results in low self esteem and a lack of confidence.

One way some people cope with low self esteem is to compensate for these feelings by attaining status, achievements and recognition. Others may feel completely debilitated and unworthy, isolating themselves from others or never attempting to reach their goals.

When the mind continuously hones in on what is wrong with your self and others and disassociates from what is right and good, we can become stuck in negativity.

Regret and Guilt

Ruminating on mistakes made in the past creates negativity. Feelings of guilt and worthlessness may arise when you play over and over in your mind, ‘bad’ choices or ‘wrong’ actions you feel you have made.

There is nothing negative about simply reflecting on past experiences. This is how we can and learn and mature as people. Negativity arises when you dwell on a situation repeatedly with no real intention to learn and move on – but instead you are self beating or wishing things were different instead of being accepting of things as they are.


Negative thoughts often revolve around what’s wrong with your life. Your attention becomes fixated on, and exaggerates the so called negative aspects of your life. Here your mind will often downplay what is going well.

For example, you may have a wonderful family, food to eat and shelter but your car breaks down and it’s all you can think about and focus on all week long. You allow the situation with the car to dominate your thinking and negative emotions arise as a result.

All week you are frustrated, angry and depressed because of the car when your focus could be expanded to what is going well and what you’re grateful for.

The truth is that the car has a problem. It is no longer running and needs to be taken to the mechanic. That’s a simple fact. Ruminating continuously on the situation is not constructive at all and is another way we can get trapped in negativity.

If you have this habit of lamenting over your sorrows and problems you may constantly feel frustrated, anxious, depressed and apathetic. You’re so absorbed in what’s wrong, you’re unable to notice what’s right.

Not Enough

Obsessing over all the things that you ‘need’ to make you happy is another negative thought pattern. The Buddha noticed two thousand years ago that the incessant ‘wanting’ was detrimental to happiness.

It creates feelings of discontent and restlessness. This thought pattern can be particularly seductive. It’s easy to place your ability to be happy on external things, like getting that sports car or finding the love of your life. It’s easy to overlook the fact that this constant wanting for more creates constant feelings of unease and discontent.

In the west we are bombarded with advertising and subtle messages from our cultural conditioning, that we need more ‘stuff’ or a better life situation in order to be happy.

To many people, it seems normal to always be discontent and wanting more.   But when you always focus on what you want instead of appreciating what you have, it reinforces over and over that you and your life aren’t good enough now— that you need something outside of yourself, and in the future, to make things better.

Wanting thoughts are thoughts of ‘not enough yet’ and this negative thinking pattern can keep you stressed, uneasy and restless.

Key 2. Dis-identify From Negative Thinking

People trapped in negative thinking often feel hopeless because they don’t know what to do. You can’t always not think of things— you have to face your problems, you have to plan for your future and you have to deal with situations.

You can’t just bury your head in the sand and ignore everything. Trying to just ‘think positive’ about a situation that is truly difficult doesn’t seem authentic either.

So how do you move through life in a way that is practical and authentic without getting sucked into negative thought patterns?

Here are the remaining essential, tried and tested steps to walking out of the prison of negativity and into the freedom of your natural state of wellbeing. I have walked this path myself and can attest to its effectiveness.

Become the Watcher of Thoughts

In order to become free of negativity you must become more aware of your thoughts. Start to pay more attention to what is going on inside your mind at any given time.

Especially pay attention to any of those patterns of negative thinking that arise. Become a curious observer of what goes on in your inner environment.

The mind can be likened to a record playing the same habitual old tunes over and over. Through lack of awareness, the record can continue playing simply because it has a certain momentum and it’s used to moving in the familiar grooves.

By bringing your conscious attention to your thinking patterns, you bring in a new higher dimension of awareness – you become mindful. You’re able to step back from the thoughts and become the silent watcher. In this way, thoughts (and emotions) immediately start to lose their hold over you.

Each time your conscious awareness is brought to a negative thought pattern it’s like you put a little scratch in that habitual old record. After a while that record never quite plays the same again and eventually doesn’t play at all.

See if you can catch negative thoughts as they arise, before they gain too much momentum. If you’re unable to catch them in the beginning then you have another opportunity to ‘wake up’ to them when a negative emotion arises as a response to the thought patterns. When a negative emotion arises you can take your attention to the thoughts you are thinking and also the emotion being generated by these thoughts. Simply be there as the witness as they play out.

The Impartial Witness

When you observe your thoughts and emotions aim to do so as an impartial witness. You simply watch them and shine the light of your awareness on what is arising.

It is common the want to resist, change, ignore or try to be distracted from ‘bad’ thoughts and especially negative emotions, but here we are facing them fully without the need to push them away.

Instead, have a sense of simply allowing them to be. This can be tricky and even a little uncomfortable at first as we are so used to trying to avoid our negative emotions and thoughts but it is imperative to stay steadfast in the stance of the impartial witness. This can take some practice but in time becomes easier and easier.

As the impartial witness we also aim not to be carried away or get involved in thoughts and emotions. Aim to simply stay present as the watcher. What you’re doing here is creating a state of detachment from thought processes.

As the impartial witness you don’t believe all of your thoughts and you don’t take them all that seriously. You begin to see them as merely inner objects that you’re observing.

Key 3. Mindfulness of the Moment

Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness. —James Thurber

Notice that many negative thoughts mostly flow from two directions. The first is dwelling on the past—maybe you ruminate over mistakes, problems, guilt and anything in your life that’s did not go the way you believe it should have gone. The second is worrying about the future—fear of what may or may not happen for yourself, others or the planet.

This may take the form of stress over whether or not you will achieve certain goals or anxiety about the security of your finances or relationships. Or perhaps you may worry about getting old. Whatever your particular negative thoughts are notice that in order to engage in negative thought patterns the mind needs to cast its focus into past or future.

When lost in negative thinking we tend to be so engrossed in thoughts that we completely lose touch with the simple beauty and aliveness of the present moment.

To become more fully conscious and able to step out of thinking processes, redirect your attention out of thought and into the here and now. Give the present moment your absolute undivided attention.

To do this become aware of your present environment. Whether you’re in your home, at the office, in the park or on a subway, notice everything around you. Use your senses to their fullest. Don’t get into a mental dialogue about the things you see, just be aware of what you’re experiencing in this moment.

Be aware of the sounds, the scents, the sensation of the air on your skin or the seat beneath you. If you’re engaged in doing a task then give it your full focus. Do just one thing at a time and be there fully to experience it.

If your walking for instance, then perhaps be aware of the swishing of your clothes or the feel of the floor under your feet.

If you’re eating, be aware of the flavours and textures of your food and how the different parts of your tongue awaken to their sensations.

It is actually almost impossible to be both fully deeply present in the moment and also have negativity arising. Try it out as an experiment and find out for yourself whether this is true.

What is the problem right now in this moment only? When you’re truly in the present moment, the past and future have no power over you.

Key 4. Choosing Constructive Thoughts Instead of Destructive Thoughts

choosing a new pathNow that you have developed some inner awareness you can deliberately choose to change thinking so it is constructive rather than destructive.

Positive or constructive thoughts help you effectively face your day-to-day situations.

Dwelling or ruminating on the past is not helpful and will cause negative emotions, but you can use past experiences to help make decisions and adjust your actions.

Worrying will only cause grief and anxiety but there may be some constructive action you can take such as taking out travel insurance or fixing a leak in your home. Once you’ve taken that action you can then drop any thoughts about it.

Constructive thinking allows you to be happy when things are going good, to put problems in perspective and deal with them in a practical way.

From The Darkness of Negativity to The Daylight of Mindfulness

This is not a ‘quick fix’ method of turning around negativity (I don’t think there is a true one) but it is tried and tested and I can tell you from personal experience that it works.

The more you practice awareness of these thought patterns and what they’re doing to you, the faster you’ll begin to redirect yourself again to being mindful of the moment.

It’s like building a muscle and in time you become fit and mentally strong. In time the old habits are worn away and rather than being preoccupied with negativity, you’re being is engulfed in a deep sense of peace, as you’re connected to your life as it is unfolding.

It’s not that you don’t think or feel anymore; it’s just that these destructive thoughts no longer touch the essence of your being in the same way anymore. You become like a deep lake, less affected by the ripples on the surface. In time, your whole life is then transformed from the inside out!

Love Melli

p.s If you enjoyed this post you’ll also love How to use mindfulness to overcome negative emotions

p.s.s. If you have any questions or need clarification of any point here please jot them down in the comments section below. I’m always happy to help you.

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Join the Discussion


  1. Hi Sarah, your so welcome. I hope these 3 keys help you to live a more peaceful, contented and happy life. Let me know how you go!

  2. go girl says:

    Thanks…even i m goinh thru something like dis…unsure n confused most of d timez..worrying has become a habit , hp i can practice to overcone dis

  3. Hii, I am also In a situation of negative thinking all the time and I will surely try out this method but I am a little confused in the choosing constructive or destuctive thoughts part, what exactly I have to do in that part. Please help me out.

    • Hi, Wasim. I find one way to really generate constructive thoughts rather than destructive ones is to first of all notice if i am ruminating or worrying. I use the label and let go technique which you can read about here

      That gives me a way or recognising and stepping back from the thoughts i was caught up in.

      Then to generate a more constructive approach to a situation or problem I ask myself ‘high quality questions’ to change my thinking and how i feel as well.

      Questions such as ‘How could i approach this situation in a way that will energise me and nurture me?’ or ‘How could i see this situation in a new light or perspective’ or ‘What am i truly grateful for in my life right now?’ or also ‘What could i do today to make myself and others feel loved and supported?’

      Then let the answers come!

      These kinds of questions re-orient the mind and generate new kinds of thoughts, new perspectives and new ways of responding to life. Keep practicing this every time you find yourself feeling stuck in negativity and you’ll feel more and more empowered every day.

      I hope this is helpful. Please feel free to ask more questions if you’d like more clarity and support : )

      • Thanks so much for sharing some key tips. It feels refreshing getting a new sense of hope for my negative thinking. One question i have, i keep hearing that i should not try to fight or push negative thoughts and as you said be an impartial observer, but how exactly can i do that? how can i do it practically? can you give me an example so that i can apply it to myself?

  4. Salman Jawaid says:

    I often feel negative about sharp things around me and make me feel uncomfortable…….Why?

    • Hi Salman. We all have our different fears and worries. Sometimes the reason is apparent and other times we don’t know it. What is important and helpful is not necessarily understanding the ‘why’ but instead asking ourselves ‘how’. How do we want to relate to the thoughts and emotions that are arising in the present moment?

      We can choose new ways of relating to difficult thoughts and emotions. We can respond to them mindfully. Give this article a read as well. It will teach you how to deal with negative emotions mindfully and gain a new perspective on the negativity as it arises.

      I hope this is helpful : )

      • Salman Jawaid says:

        Thanks for the reference article, I have read this article many time and it was really very helpful and it help me to realize that I am not my fear and I have to be more generous toward my negative emotion rather than fight back.

        As I was trap in the negativity for quite long (more than 5 years) so it is very persistent within me, but I have to take care of it and Insh Allah soon this wounded part will be recovered fully.

        Can you guide further in this regard.
        Thanks again 🙂

        • Hi Salman, yes, you are not your fear! You are not your negative emotions, but still, we all need to learn to work more skilfully when these difficult emotions and thoughts arise. The best advice i could ever give you my friend, is to go ahead an begin learning the practice of mindfulness. Begin a daily practice even if it is only short (10 or 15 mins a day) and you will get better and better able to handle the challenges of life (both inner and outer ones). The best way to learn would be to find a local course or retreat to learn with a skilled teacher. Where do you live? Is these a way you can learn locally?

          Or perhaps you could simply begin with the free meditations i provide upon signup to my newsletter. there are also some cool apps out there you could try. go for it!

          • Salman Jawaid says:

            Thanks again, well I live in Karachi, Pakistan and I don’t know anyone in my locality who can teach in this regard, however I am trying myself to get rid of this negative feelings.
            I will try your meditation from now onward and hope to get your guidance as well 🙂

  5. This was exceptionally helpful, thank you. I have struggled with these cycles of destructive negativity for years, affecting relationships, work and my own capacity to feel happy. I think that having read this I can start on my own journey to learn how to be happy again, grateful for all that I have and have achieved, and not dwell constantly on the loss, grief and trauma. So, truly, thank you!

    • Hey Beno, seeing this comment made my day. I’m so glad this post has been helpful after your challenges. I’m pleased to be with you on your journey. Wishing you all the best my friend.

  6. I had an abusive childhood which caused me many many deep and long term emotional problems. After spending most my young adult life in and out of therapy I finally found Buddhism and meditation. I am now showing great improments though mindfulness. However, I have a hard time identifying and categorizing my negative thoughts in efforts to acknowledge them and address them.

    • Hi Martin,

      It can be helpful to label thoughts but you don’t have to worry about it to much. If your not finding it helpful to label thoughts then just drop that part of the practice.

      The main thing is that you observe thoughts/emotions and therefore dis-identify from them. As you watch the thoughts and emotions they lose their grip on you. They lose their power to ‘take you over’

      In time you’ll find it easier and easier. You might gain from also reading this blog post about working with difficult emotions. Let me know how you go

  7. I have been involved with a woman (about a year and a half now), who continually lies to me. I didn’t realize it until I was head over heels for her. Every time I think that she has changed, she does it to me again. I’m trying to let go and move on, but I can’t get her out of my head. I think of her constantly. My thoughts are obsessed with constantly trying to figure out the whys and ifs and whens. Our entire relationship began under an umbrella of deceit. How do I stop thinking about this situation long enough to allow myself to get past it, so I can once and for all let this woman go?

    • This may hurt but it sounds like the only person that is lying to you is yourself. You deserve better than having been in a (bad) for so long. Prepare yourself through the advise of this column not to continue or fix this relationship but make some positive adjustments with yourself so the start of the next relationship is predicated on respect. Thoughts from a filicide survivor 🙂

  8. William Bartlett says:

    I’m so glad I’ve found this article.It is true that once you’ve realized and acknowledged all your negative emotions it would be a good start to help battle it out.Overcoming negative thinking by putting in positive ones can be hard at first, but definitely worth it at the very end.This is really helpful.

  9. I find that I am often able to catch negative thoughts, but this also happens when I’m conversing with people. So, if someone asks me, “what are you thinking?”, I have no ‘constructive’ response just then. It takes me a pause in order to rearrange the negative thought; which if I look at closely, isn’t true whatsoever…. so I get a little worried that the time it takes to catch, examine, and re-direct… doesn’t really help me in that moment. I know people say think before you speak, but do you have any other suggestions on what to do if we can’t take as much time to do this introspection?

    • It take s time and practice to become more and more aware of what is arising in our internal landscape. I don’t think its uncommon for people to take some time to redirect attention inside to see what is there. We mostly have our attention very much in the external world so don’t worry – your not alone!

      Mindfulness meditation practice will help you become more self aware if you want to give it a go.

      All the best and happy 2015

  10. Hi Princess,
    I am a teen struggling with basically the same as you did/do, and I can’t wait to try out your method. I feel a lot more trusting receiving advice from people who have similar morals (not caring about body image rather than saying you need to change your body so people wont judge you etc) and want to thank you for holding on when it will have been so tough to just have let go of life and give in . Thank you for your sakes and oursakes for being alive and living this beautiful, majestic, magical day. After all, you are good enough. We all are.
    Peace out, Sophie

  11. Rebecca Van Sant says:

    Thank You so much for Blogging this wonderful information. I have been fighting the negative thoughts for a long time and also the negative emotions as well. With your 4 Keys that you have talked about I can now watch and see what causing the reactions that I have. I have to remind myself that it will take time and it is not one of these things that if fixed over night.

    But Time will help me a lot. Thank You again for taking the time and fore sharing with folks about what you went through and how to help others.

  12. Hi thank you so much for sharing such a great tips to over come negative thoughts.. I have been suffering these kind of ill thoughts leading to social anxiety, low self esteem, little pleasure in doing things, less motivation and depression.

    I have changed jobs after jobs to coz of this I have consulted doctor and awaiting face to face counselling to start, I have openly told my wife who is a strong character and supportive woman in my life.

    I am starting a new job tomorrow and start practicing your tips from day one to observe my negative thinking and being aware of my negative thoughts and not to act accordingly.

    am a strong believer of one GOD and I hope he protects me and makes me feel better and also bless me and the whole world to be motivated and be inspired to do good things and think positive.

  13. when someone undermines me or some bad thing happen tomeh again then i start doubting myself. Like whether im capable or not?

  14. Once we do achieve that inner moment-to-moment awareness, it’s amazing how much choice we end up having. If I choose to be happy, then I become happy. I would never believe it myself if i didnt experience it. But it does come from trust and quietness and stillness first. Then I have room to grow.

  15. Hi ! I love your website !! I just wanted an affirmation forim you really if that’s possible. I have spent years worrying about what others think of me when im talking to them. I always think im going red- So much that i actually do (and rashy) the last day I have tried to catch my thinking when im about to think this and instead think ‘I can be confident’ it is working because i can feel a shift in how i an feeling when i do this. However i just need an affirmation that this will get easier as time goes on because I am having to keep forcing myself to stop my original thoughts and think the new way. If you can affirm this for me then I know I will be more empowered !! Xxx.

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  17. Dude, great post. Can I also add that deep down you know what to do, it’s just the uneasy feeling that you are trapped in an emotional tornado that saps your confidence. Another big thing is talk to yourself as you would speak to your best friend if they came to you with your concerns.

    Good luck to all.

  18. V Lakshminarayanan says:

    I read both your articles :”The Four Keys to Overcoming Negative Thinking…For Good” and “How to use mindfulness to overcome negative emotions”. I should say it is completely brilliant article. I thank you very much . I was not able to stay present due to a recent change that occurred in my life for which I was finding very difficult to adapt. Your article changed my perception and I could stay present and mindful much more easily now after reading your post.

  19. Hi Melli,

    Thank you for writing this post, it’s given me great strength! I know you’ve written that this is not a ‘quick fix’ method, but how long do you think it took you to feel like it had worked? I know that’s a not a very ‘mindful’ question to ask, but some days I feel like I understand mindfulness and other days it’s a real struggle!
    {That being said, I’ve only been mindfully meditating each day for a little over 5 weeks!}
    Thanks, Hannah

  20. Gayathri says:

    hello sir…

    I felt that my thought is my enemy…

    I often think about third person instead think about me ..

    what others think about me ? like this
    I like to achieve lot of thinks but these thoughts makes me destroy

    its makes me to think m pulse points into minus example: I have a good face cut and physic but I compare with ugly persons “oh god what happen if I look like her”….

    I often get fear about, “is that me like her and her face cut and boady structure”

    I hope that u surely laugh about following words:

    1.sometimes I think or command my mind ” what u r doing I too don’t know alphabets then how could you read u can’t read” like this …

    plz let me to know what is my problem…

  21. Rachael M says:

    I just want to thank you for your tips. For years I’ve battled with overthinking and negative thoughts. I’ve always tried to find things to do to help with but nothing has worked but I will definitely try this way. You pretty much described me to the T!

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  24. Thank you so much!
    I was really suffering from this negative thoughts which was arising day to day. I always think of injustices happening in the world and society and social anxiety and now I’m practicing your steps and it’s helping me 🙂 and I’m going to get rid of this and achieve my goals for my future without any negative thoughts and distractions. Thanks again!! 😀

  25. Daniel Nashet says:

    Hi Mrs. Mindfulness,

    Thanks a lot for this article.
    All what you wrote make clear sense, but I wished if you have touched on how to reach deep seated believes, and negative patterns which may stay out of reach of our awareness.

    Kind Regards

    Daniel XXXX

  26. This is by far, the absolutely best written and described “Guide” on this subject i have ever read, it makes perfect sence!
    thank you!

  27. Hi, thanks for sharing your experience.
    I’m battling with bulimia at the moment and would really appreciate some advice from you… My pitfall in recovery seems to be when I relapse.. I lose hope and fear another relapse, so I just allow myself to waddle in negative thoughts.. How did you pull through?

  28. Nourhan says:

    Hi, I want to thank you for this great post that I have been searching for for long time. Before reading this I did not know that I am having a problem with negative imagination, I used to think of it as day dreaming that I had to stop but could not. Sometimes I think that someone will be harmed or will lose one of my beloved and start crying, other time I imagine something funny but not true and will not happen, I get angry of my self in both situations as I am living in a different world than reality. I want to know how can I watch my thoughts and when I catch negativities, what should I do other than resisting them? Are there any techniques to keep myself fully aware of the moment? An last, if we would call this imagination a talent, how can I make use of it positively? Thanks, Nourhan.

  29. Hi Mrs, Mindfulness,

    I really like this article and I start to apply it, but I didn’t get this point “the impartial witness”.
    you said, “have a sense of simply allowing them to be, creating a state of detachment from thought processes, and begin to see them as merely inner objects that you’re observing”. So, how I can allow them to be and at the same time being detachment from thought processes? how I avoid them and at the same time see them as inner objects that I observe? May I have authentic simple example to get the idea please?

  30. Bodyblissgirl says:

    Thank you so much. I’m currently trying to rid myself of negative thought habits and let go of things. All whilst trying to save my marriage. I feel like a changed person after this. I appreciate it so much.

  31. I keep thinking negative about others weak points and think about their weaknesses whether they be my close relatives or friends or my own family.Becoming a loner and hating every one. Please help me by guiding me.


  32. Influenced says:

    Hi Mrs. Mindfulness, I’m not sure how you can help me because I like to take care of my depression, negative thinking and critical judgments through active exercises. By active exercises, I mean practising mantras or writing or changing my lifestyle through diet and exercise. In other words, I like to move forward instead of think of the past (so no thought journals!). On the other hand, it does not mean meditating or being quiet/still. I am already this type of person. The problem is that I’m also being influenced by someone that I spend time with daily. Thus, I feel like all of my efforts “go down the drain” because I have to lift someone else too. What do you think about all this?

  33. ikenna Edwards says:

    hello Mr’s mindfulness, Honestly I have been suffering from a mental trauma for the past six months Now, well because am looking for a job, and also wants to do my gospel music as a musician. so since then I have having destructive negative thinking and it brought me down. but with this I think I would move forward Now. worry too and anxiety has a way of dealing with my mind. but I would key Into this. I still need more help regarding this thanks

  34. indeed!

  35. Dawn Latoza says:

    hi…your article seemed so good helps a lot when i read this…


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