What are negative thoughts?
We can all occasionally find ourselves worrying about what the future holds or how we would have changed past events if we could. This often involves remembering occasions that weren’t positive in our past and have left us with regrets. When we spend to much time reliving these events or worrying about the future, it can stop us from enjoying the present and living our lives to the full.
Negative thinking on occasion is something that affects us all, but if it starts to feel like it’s taking over, it can seriously affect our mental health, leaving us feeling emotionally and physically drained, causing feelings of stress, anxiety or depression.
Research shows that positive thinking can improve our mental health, reduce stress and increase our cardiovascular health. With practice we can replace negative thinking patterns with positive thoughts. Negative thoughts are associated with feelings of low self-esteem, self-worth or poor confidence, which can result in feelings of sadness, anger, frustration and worthlessness.
We often don’t recognise that they are negative thoughts as we don’t question them, believing they are reasonable and true. So what are considered to be negative thoughts?
Typically they can be things like comparing ourselves negatively to other people such as:
· I don’t feel as attractive as other people
· I feel like everything I do is wrong and that other people are more successful in life than I am
· I feel that I’m not worthy of happiness and success
· I don’t feel as though I’m a good person
· I feel like a failure as a parent, sibling, friend, partner, son or daughter
What Causes Negative Thoughts?
There is no single reasons for developing negative thought patterns. Intrusive negative thoughts can be a symptom of mental health conditions such as OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), GAD (generalised anxiety disorder) and depression.
The three most common causes are thought to be:
Shame about the past
People often focus on things that happened in their past that left them feeling embarrassed or full of regret. Rather than accepting that they are unable to change these events, and using the experience to ensure they don’t repeat the same mistakes.
Anxiety about the present
It’s normal to have some anxiety about the present, but always imagining the worst possible scenario can result in missed opportunities and stops us from enjoying the present.
Fear of the future
Fearing the unknown is natural as no one knows what the future will hold. Negative thinking can lead to the belief that everything will be a disaster causing unnecessary anxiety and stress, rather than accepting that this is a waste of our time and energy.
How to help overcome negative thoughts and behaviours
The internet is full of information about how to overcome negative thinking, practices such as mindfulness and meditation can teach us to relax and focus on positivity. Changes to our diet, exercise and good sleep will help lift our mood and reduce negativity. Keeping a diary of our thoughts will help us to recognise negative thinking and reinforce positive thoughts and behaviours. Confiding in family and friends will help as they can reassure us and help bolster our confidence and self-esteem. Therapy can also be helpful as it can help us to not only recognise but retrain our negative thinking and behaviours. Written by Jan, Jeana and Wendy at Barnsley Hypnosis and Counselling (UK). For more free information click above link.