Negative thinking will never EVER make your life positive.
“I can’t trust anyone.” “It’s too late.” “There’s so much that could go wrong.” “I’m not good enough.” “It will never get better.” “I can never make a mistake.” “There isn’t enough time.” “I should be more…*insert desired trait here*.” “The world, and the people in it are truly awful.” “I feel like I’m getting nowhere.” “Nobody cares about me.”
Any of these thoughts sound familiar?
I know they do for me. For a long time many of these thoughts were the only things that ran through my head. Which might seem absolutely ridiculous as I am now known among all of the people in my life as one of the most positive and energetic people out there.
So what happened?
Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t easy, but it was necessary and oh so worth it. And now I’m going to help you do it!
So buckle up and get comfy because we are going to talk about…
When you worry or have negative thoughts, you actually trick your brain into thinking that there is an immediate threat that has to be taken care of.
This kicks in your fight or flight response system to deal with that stress.
Negative thinking has an immediate, destructive effect on your life. When you think negative thoughts, it turns on your inner panic buttons, while simultaneously turning off the creative parts of your brain and hitting the breaks on your immune system.
Your brain is hard-wired to respond to negative thoughts, words, behaviors and events more quickly than it does for positive ones (due to danger).
When your brain is faced with more complex tasks, negative thinking also limits your ability to process information properly and think clearly.
Thinking negatively about a problem or situation not only doesn’t help solve anything, it actually makes finding a solution much more difficult. This is because when you think negative thoughts, a section of your brain called the Thalamus (the area responsible for sending sensory and motor signals to the rest of your body) assumes it needs to prepare the body to flee. This is because it can’t tell the difference between actual danger and negative thinking. As a result, your body will experience real symptoms of an adrenaline spike that include; elevated blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and heightened senses.
Long Term Effects of Negative Thoughts
Long term stress from negative thinking actually creates chemical and hormonal changes in the brain. These changes may affect your likelihood of developing mental illnesses such as anxiety, depression and mood disorders. This happens because the moment you focus on negative thoughts, they already;
- Make you feel worse (about yourself, your situation or both).
- Keep you from achieving something that you want.
- Add negative value to your life in some way, shape or form.
Repetitive negative thoughts have a huge impact on your life and cause;
- Lower confidence and self esteem.
- Less happiness and enjoyment.
- Feelings of being weak.
- Low energy and motivation.
- Less success and drive.
- Health Issues
But the amazing thing here is that you can improve these things by replacing negative thinking with positive thinking.
So how can you change your negative thoughts?
Getting stuck in a pattern of negative thinking can be the equivalent of building a prison inside of your own mind. It holds you captive and traps you in. I know because I’ve been there myself, and I’ve seen it in so many others.
You may try different ways to cope with this mental prison, one way is by using distractions (like food, alcohol, sex or drugs – which can lead to unhealthy addictions – a topic for another day) but often once you realize that this distraction didn’t actually get rid of the negativity or help at all you will beat yourself up…feeling guilt and worthlessness because you are still stuck in that negative cycle.
This actually leads to a spiraling battle inside your brain, that usually leaves you feeling worse.
If you are struggling with negative thinking – there’s a light at the end of the tunnel! I can tell you from my own experience (and others) that it is possible to turn it around.
So we are going to go through the 4 steps to turn your unwelcoming, negative prison cell into a 5 star all-inclusive beach resort (if you like beaches of course)
- Recognize your negative thought patterns.
- Separate yourself from your negative thoughts.
- Be mindful of the moments your brain finds a negative thought.
- Choose CONstructive over DEstructive thoughts.
Important note: This is not a quick fix – and I truly believe (as with most things in life) there is actually no quick fix.
But I promise your mental health and quality of life improvements that these steps create are most definitely worth it.
You are worth it. Without a doubt.
So let’s dig into step 1…are you ready?
Recognizing your negative thought patterns!
Negative thought patterns tend to be unproductive, repetitive thoughts that serve no real purpose and directly cause negative emotions.
Once you can learn how to recognize and identify these thought patterns as they are happening you will start to have a choice on how you react to them.
These are some common negative thinking patterns;
Worry and Anxious thoughts
When you imagine or expect bad things to happen (or feel that nothing good will ever happen for you) this is a form of negative thinking. This could mean stressing about losing your job or your relationship. It can also be waiting for your health to deteriorate or your career to be ruined. Even when nothing has actually happened to justify these thoughts.
This can also look like you thinking into your future and focusing on all of the possibilities that “could” go wrong. Creating and imagining terrifying or stressful “what-if” scenarios.
Criticism and Abuse
Constantly criticizing is another form of negative thought patterns. This can come out with you being very harsh on yourself and focusing on all of your perceived weaknesses and flaws. It can also be extended towards the people around you and can cause extreme strain on your relationships. Negative self talk and criticism will lead to lack of confidence and low self esteem.
Coping with low self esteem usually tends to go one of two ways. You may try to compensate for these feelings by attaining status, admiration and recognition. On the flip side, the lack of self esteem can cause you to feel unworthy and close yourself off from everyone around you.
When the mind continuously focuses on what’s wrong (with yourself and others) it dissociates from what is good and right.
Guilt and Regret
Reliving mistakes that you made in the past only breeds negativity. Feelings of worthlessness and guilt will usually arise when you replay ‘bad’ and ‘wrong’ choices and actions you feel you’ve made.
Now don’t get me wrong here, there is absolutely nothing wrong or negative about reflecting on your past experiences. In fact that aspect is necessary in order for you to learn and grow as a human.
The negativity shows up when you dwell on certain memories with no real intention to learn and move on. When you choose to constantly wish things were different instead of accepting them.
Focused on Problems
Negative thoughts often Center around what’s “wrong” in your life. When you become fixated on the negative aspects of your life your brain subconsciously downplays the things that are good and exaggerates the bad. For example, everything in your life could be going good. Then when something bad happens (car breaks down, pipe is leaking, lost something etc.) you allow that situation to dominate all of your thoughts. All week you are angry, frustrated and depressed about what happened but fail to notice everything else that’s actually going pretty great in your life.
If you have the habit of focusing on your problems you will constantly feel anxious, depressed and frustrated. You will become so absorbed in what’s wrong you become unable to notice what’s right.
Focused on Not Having Enough
Obsessing over the things you “need” in order to be happy is another negative thought pattern. “Wanting” creates feelings of discontent and restlessness. It’s a very seductive thought pattern, and leads you to place your ability to be happy on external things. You are constantly bombarded with subtle messages and advertising that you need a better life situation, or more stuff in order to be happy.
To most people it seems normal to always be discontent and wanting more. But when you are always focusing on what you “want” instead of appreciating what you do have, it constantly reinforces that you and your life aren’t good enough now and that you need something outside of yourself to make things better and make you good enough.
All of these thought patterns are so easy to start. When you let one negative thought slip in here…and another shortly after. But when we focus on these negative aspects in our lives it causes so many bigger issues.
Now when you first start paying attention to your negative thoughts, it can be shocking just how many negative patterns your brain actually gets stuck in, but I promise you’re not alone.
So now that you’ve recognized your negative thought patterns…now what?
Well once you see a negative thought pattern arising in your head, it’s time to move on to step two!
Separating yourself from your negative thoughts.
When your trapped in a negative thinking prison it’s easy to feel hopeless because you don’t know what to do. It’s not always an option to just not think of something. Situations have to be dealt with, problems have to be faced and futures have to be planned.
Unfortunately just keeping your head down and ignoring everything isn’t possible, and as great as it sounds to just “think positive” it just doesn’t seem very authentic when the situation is truly difficult.
So how is it possible to live life authentically and practically without falling into those negative thought prisons?
First you’re going to have to become the observer of your thoughts. It sounds silly but bear with me…this works, I’m proof.
In order to separate yourself from the negativity you must first become more aware of your thoughts. You do this by paying attention to what’s going on in your mind at any given time. Especially paying attention to when any of the negative thought patterns arise.
I want you to become a curious observer of everything that goes on inside your mind.
By bringing conscious attention to your thinking patterns, you become more aware…or more accurately you become mindful.
Once you can step back from your thoughts and just watch them, the thoughts (and emotions) immediately start to lose their hold on you. Every time you become consciously aware of a negative thought pattern, imagine it like putting a little scratch on a record. Before now, the record was continuously playing simply because no one has bothered to change it but after a while (and continuous scratches) it never quite plays the same again. Eventually it never plays again.
When you are observing your emotions and thoughts, try your hardest to do this as an impartial witness. Just watch them and pay attention to what happens.
You are going to want to resist, ignore, change or be distracted from these “bad” thoughts, it’s totally normal. Ignore those feelings. It’s time to face them and allow them to be, not push them away. Be strong, you’ve got this. And you are incredible for getting this far, don’t forget that.
This takes time, but with practice it does become easier and easier.
I know because I did it too.
When you are the impartial witness it is important to not believe all of your thoughts, and to not take them all seriously. As you do this you will begin to see them not as weights to keep you down, but as merely inner objects you are observing. I like to look at it like I’m people watching or watching traffic pass by.
Of all the steps, this one (in my opinion) is the most difficult but it’s also the most important. The more you allow your negative thoughts to control your emotions and how you see yourself, the thicker you build the walls around your inner prison.
It’s time to break them down. I did it, so can you.
Now for step three;
Being mindful of the moments your brain finds a negative thought.
Most (if not all) negative thoughts usually come from one of two places. The first is when you dwell on the past. That’s when you over analyze past problems and mistakes or anything in your life that did not go the way you had hoped or planned. The second is when you worry about the future. When you have fear about what may or may not happen whether it is about you, others or the planet.
Notice that in order to have negative thought patterns your mind needs to focus on the past or future.
When we get lost in our negative thoughts we tend to be so focused that we completely lose touch with everything in the present moment. To step away from that thinking process you need to redirect your attention to the here and now. Give the present moment your undivided attention.
To do this, notice everything around you, use your senses to the fullest. Don’t make an inner dialogue about it, just be aware of everything.
Be aware of the sounds you hear, and the scents of everything around you. If you are doing something, give it your full focus. Do just one thing at a time.
It is almost impossible to be both fully present in the moment and have negative thoughts. Try it and see!
What truly is the problem right now, in this exact moment only?
When you are really in the present moment the past and future have no hold on you.
If you notice your mind is heading in a negative direction…step away, observe, and focus on your now. Your life is better than you think it is.
Now for the fourth and final step on the path to changing your negative thoughts to positive ones!
Choosing CONstructive instead of DEstructive thoughts.
By following and practicing the first 3 steps, you actually build the self awareness that allows you to change your thinking process.
Positive, constructive thoughts help you face situations that you come across day to day in a much more effective manner than negative ones.
When you dwell on the past it is unhelpful and causes negative emotions. Use your past experiences to help make decisions, learn from it then move on. Worrying will only cause unnecessary stress and anxiety.
Take constructive action to be ready for situations (maintenance on houses and cars, travel insurance etc.) but then let the worry go.
Constructive thinking is what helps you be happy when things are going well, to help you put your problems into perspective and handle them in practical and appropriate ways.
The more you practice the awareness of these thought patterns and what they are actually doing to you, the faster you get at redirecting yourself to being in the moment. It’s just like building a muscle and over time it will get stronger, except the strength will be mental instead of physical(which in my opinion is 10x more important).
In time, your old habits will be worn down and go away. Instead of being preoccupied with negativity, you will feel the positivity and excitement from focusing on your life right now.
It’s not that you are no longer worried about anything, but because you have separated yourself from the negative thoughts…they no longer affect you the same way anymore.
So start right now, at this very moment.
What exciting things do you have happening in your life? Is there something positive and happy about your life that can be focused on instead of negativity? What do you plan on accomplishing this week, month, year?
Whatever it is, it’s going to be amazing…want to know why?
Because you’re going to now have the power to tear down your self built mental prison, so go do it!
The next time negativity comes knocking at your door…be too busy living your life to answer it.
You’ve totally got this.
I believe in you.
If changing your negative thoughts seems impossible let’s chat here!