Do you regularly find yourself thinking negatively about yourself and the world around you?
Most of us have negative thoughts every now and again but if negative thinking is a chronic, long term problem, it can have a very significant effect on your mental health and wellbeing.
At its worst, negative thinking can affect your quality of life and this can be a sign that you’re suffering from depression or an anxiety disorder.
Negative thinking can have a snowball effect and tends to be very hard to control. And the more you acknowledge them, the more these thoughts feel true.
Types of Negative Thinking
Negative thoughts can fall loosely into categories such as these:
- Predicting the future – “I’ll fail at this” or “this will be a total disaster”
- Reading other people’s minds – “They don’t like me” or “people think I’m boring”
- Catastrophizing and thinking the worst -Expecting things to go wrong and seeing a potential downside to every scenario
Negative thinking is often “all or nothing” and very much black and white.
Whereas someone with a more positive mindset may see shades of grey in their thinking that they can latch onto, negative thinking tends to be at the worst end of the spectrum.
You’re likely to think about all of the things that could potentially go wrong rather than focusing on the more realistic outcomes.
Overcoming Negative Thinking
One of the great things about our minds is the ability to change things up. Your thought patterns aren’t set in stone and with the right tools, it’s definitely possible to swap negative thought patterns for healthier and more positive alternatives.
Find the “Grey” Areas in a Situation
Negative thinking usually leads you straight to the worst possible outcomes in a given situation so you’ll need to stop your mind from thinking in such extremes. There will almost always be a number of more realistic outcomes that you can focus on instead and these “grey” areas are where your mind needs to go to instead.
One way to do this is to write down the worst case scenario that is running through your head and then list some of the outcomes that are more likely to happen. This forces your mind to think about alternative outcomes rather than focusing solely on the original negative thought.
Reframe Your Thinking
It’s not always that easy to put a different slant on your thinking, especially if you’re so used to being negative with your thoughts. Being able to find a more positive take on a situation can help you to see things in a very different light but this often means that you have to go against your natural tendency to think the worst and this isn’t easy.
This is where Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) or hypnotherapy can help you to refocus the way that you tend to think so that you can look at things from a different angle.
Not Over Generalizing Situations
Negative thinking often blows situations out of all proportion so that they take on much more significance than they probably should do. For example, a date that doesn’t work out can leave you thinking that “I’ll never meet anyone” or I’ll never be happy”.
If negative thinking wasn’t controlling your mindset, you’d be much more likely to chalk it up to just not being compatible with your date rather than fearing that it sets a precedent for the future.
Not “Mind Reading” Situations
Another big part of negative thinking is “mind reading” a situation when you don’t actually have the evidence to back up your fears.
If someone doesn’t text you back, you may jump to the conclusion that they don’t like you, for example. In reality, it’s a lot more likely that they’re just busy and haven’t had chance to respond yet or they were in the middle of something when they got your text and have forgotten to reply.
Neither of these scenarios is any reflection of how they feel about you
Spending Time in the Moment
Being “in the moment” gives you the opportunity to pull back from your thoughts and focus your attention elsewhere, namely on the things around you rather than yourself.