Repetitive thoughts that focus on the negative are often called Automatic Negative Thoughts
. They repeatedly make us believe the world is a dark scary place with little room for sunshine and happiness. Negative thoughts also sometimes make you believe things will never change, that you are destined for misery for the rest of your life and that being alive may not be worth it.
In simpler words, the fear of the unknown, fear of the inability to cope, or anything else that you fear, can trigger negative thought patterns inside your head. These thoughts also commonly use ‘should’ or ‘must’ terms. Such as, “I should have studied harder” or “I must be a loser because I failed my exam”. These thoughts invariably provoke guilt trips and make us feel worthless.
Many of the negative thoughts, especially those like Overgeneralizing, work on two primary principles:
1. Disqualifying the Positive:
As the term suggests, it works by dismissing any positive acknowledgement that might oppose the illogical thought. The sole focus is on the negative. For example, if something bad happens once, we expect it to happen repeatedly, and
2. Maximizing and Minimizing:
This refers to exaggerating the negatives and understating the positives. It is like making “a mountain out of a molehill.” So instead of looking at your positive accomplishments, which you minimize, you magnify your perceived failures. An example would be if someone offers you a compliment, you vehemently deny the positive and focus on the negative.
COMMON TYPES OF NEGATIVE THINKING:
Excessive Need for Approval
“I can only be happy if people like me. If someone is upset, it’s probably my fault.”
2. All-or-Nothing Thinking
“I have to do things perfectly, and anything less is a failure.”
3. Negative Self-Labeling
“I’m a failure. If people knew the real me, they wouldn’t like me. I am flawed.”
“If something is going to happen, it’ll probably be the worst-case scenario.”
5. Mind Reading
“I can tell people don’t like me because of the way they behave.”
POSITIVE V/S NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
When we allow ourselves to think negatively we limit our potential in many ways. The worst thing is that we may be so wrapped in negativity that we cannot even see that there are ways out. However, there is always a choice. The key is your awareness of your own thoughts; then you can decide which type of thoughts you want to focus on. When you can distinguish between negative and positive thoughts, you also gain the ability to pick which ones you want to focus on using a lot of techniques. These techniques help you lead a healthier, happier life as they minimize the possibility of you being swamped by negativity.
Most of the time, this negativity is self-generated, and therefore the ways to get rid of them also emerge out of ourselves only. When were the ones causing the problems, it’ll be us who will be solving the problem also.
You may be deprived of everything else in this world, yet you can still choose your attitude towards what life throws at you. Daily affirmation is one way you can use to do that.
CONSEQUENCES OF NEGATIVE THINKING
These are some of the most common effects of negative thinking:
1) Feeling down-The extent of negative feelings can go from anger, frustration, irritability, to even anxiety
, passing through many other feelings, none of them pleasant.
2) Physical effects: The body lowers its defenses, as negativity subtracts from our energy. Because of the emotional negative state, we’re in, it’s also easier to see oneself less attractive and not care for our physical needs. Besides, an extreme negative emotional state can cause eating disorders: from over eating to a complete lack of appetite and not eating enough.
3) Closing oneself down to possibilities and the flow of abundance. When we are in a negative state, we do not attract elements that would help us advance in our life; rather we attract the circumstances that support us in thinking something is wrong, and we get stuck. Simply put, when we stay thinking negative, we attract negative emotions and events. Thus, when one is in a negative state everything seems to go wrong.
4) A negative effect on others. Have you ever wondered how you may be affecting other people because of the way you feel? Think about when a relative, a friend or someone at work seems to be having a bad day and how you feel when you spend time with them. You could be making others feel the same way when you are wrapped in your own negative thoughts.
HOW TO GET RID OF NEGATIVE THOUGHTS?
When something’s bothering you, you know that getting your mind off it is easier said than done. In fact, research shows that when people are instructed not to think about a specific topic, it makes it even harder to get that topic out of their minds. But rehashing negative thoughts over and over in your head, also known as rumination, can be unpleasant and counterproductive — and in some cases, it can even lead to chronic depression.
Luckily, there are a few techniques that can help you stop dwelling on negative thoughts and refocus your mind on something positive; it just takes a bit of distraction and a healthy dose of willpower.
1) Keep Positive Company
If you can’t get troublesome feelings out of your mind, it may have something to do with your social circle. In a 2013 study, Notre Dame researchers found that it’s common for college students to pick up rumination-like behaviors from their roommates. Because rumination often involves worrying and thinking aloud, it’s a habit that can be easily mirrored by other people, the researchers say. Avoid perpetually negative people when you can, or at least be aware of what habits might be rubbing off on you.
2) Physically Throw Them Away
According to a 2012 Ohio State University study, people who wrote down negative things about their bodies and then threw them away had a more positive self-image a few minutes later, compared to those who kept the papers with them. The trick is simple. Every negative thought you have on a daily basis has to be put on a piece of paper, and then the piece of paper has to be thrown away. With that piece of paper, your negative thoughts are also taken off your mind, and find a way to the bin.
3) Reframe Your Situation
It is necessary to reframe or reappraise the situation in your head. If you get stuck in the airport for hours because of a cancelled flight, for example, don’t think of what you’re missing out on. Instead, see it as a chance to get work done, or to call your parents or an old friend. Once you’ve successfully reframed your situation, it may be easier to distract yourself with a visualization exercise. The trick is to interpret the negative situation as something else- something more productive and as something that fights off the negative thought and replaces it with a rather positive one to make yourself feel better about the situation.
4) Challenge negative thoughts
Whenever you have a distorted thought, stop and evaluate whether it is accurate. Think about how you would respond if a friend spoke about herself that way. You would probably offer a good rebuttal to his or her negative view. Apply the same logic to your own thoughts. Ask yourself if you are assuming the worst will happen or blaming yourself for something that has not gone the way you wanted. And then think about other possible outcomes or reasons why something turned out differently than you hoped. The idea is to get yourself a new perspective on the same thought, so that a negative outlook can be fought with a positive one.
5) Release judgment.
We all judge ourselves and others, usually unconsciously. Constantly comparing ourselves to other people or comparing our lives to some ideal breeds dissatisfaction. When you can let go of judgment (not easy, but possible), you will likely feel more at ease. Some ways to take a break from judgmental thoughts include recognizing your own reaction, observing it, and then letting it go. Another helpful technique is to “positive judge.” When you notice you are negatively judging a person, yourself, or a situation, look for a positive quality, too.
6) Positive evaluation of people
More often than not, our sources of disappointment are people. Their actions affect us more than they should and we end up feeling gloomy because our hopes and expectations of them are not met. Asking someone to have “no expectations” out of others is unreasonable as that’s not something that can be achieved easily. Therefore, a better evaluation of people is necessary. Not having an idealized view of them, and simply taking all their actions as them unfolding reduces your value of expectation attached with them, saves you the cycle of disappointment, and helps you keep your thoughts in order.
7) Practice gratitude.
Research shows that feeling grateful has a big impact on your levels of positivity and happiness. Even when you are experiencing a challenging time in your life, you can usually find things (even small things) to be grateful for. Noticing the things that are going well and making you feel happy will keep you in touch with them. Keeping a gratitude journal and writing a few things in it every day is one easy and effective way to do this.
Ultimately, negative thoughts can be challenging and can be severely detrimental to our mental health if not taken care of. Therefore, giving them, adequate attention is necessary to keep them in order, and to prevent them from having drastic, untreatable effects. If you, by yourself are unable to manage all the negativity surrounding you, its best to ask for help. This help can be received in the form of social support, or in the form of material support, depending on individual preferences. If this also does not help, then the final option, professional help must be availed. No matter how much our friends and family tries, sometimes the support and help given by them is simply not enough, and at times like these it is important to reach out to someone who can provide more, and better quality and quantity of help, i.e. a professional. Counselors and psychologists are trained individuals who can help you manage your negative thoughts and help you lead a healthier and happier life by significant changes in your lifestyle that you by yourself will not be able to bring about.
The difficulty isn’t that we have negative thoughts. The problem comes when we believe our thoughts are true. Therefore, the most important task while fighting this negativity is to question the authenticity and reliability of these thoughts, and to not fall in the trap of believing them to be true without any evidence suggesting otherwise.
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