Why Do I Have Negative Thoughts
Negative thoughts are quite common. You might have negative thoughts because we’re more influenced by negative than positive, or have a negativity bias. It’s also possible that evolutionarily speaking, negative thinking was more conducive to survival. Negative thoughts could occur as a result of cognitive distortions. They can be symptoms of mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety.
Negative Thoughts And Anxiety: Is There Anything That Helps
Negative thoughts and anxiety go hand-in-hand and are incredibly common, affecting 40 million adults in the U.S. every year. While feeling anxious on occasion is normal, anxiety disorders can be debilitating, as anyone living with one will know. With this in mind, let’s explore both long-term and short-term coping strategies for negative thoughts and anxiety, so that you can let go of the unhelpful thought patterns holding you back .
Understanding Our Thoughts: How To Stop Negative Thoughts
Our thoughts are mental cognitions made up of our ideas, opinions, and beliefs about the world around us, but also about ourselves. These influences shape the point of view, the perspectives that we bring to any situation or experience. These perspectives can be for better, worse, or neutral.
While our thoughts are shaped by genetics, education, and life experiences, they are generally under our conscious control. In other words, with awareness of our thoughts and attitude, we can change them if we choose.
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Examples Of Negative Thinking
There are a number of negative thinking patterns that can play a role in maintaining anxiety. These patterns are known as cognitive distortions.
Cognitive distortions are irrational or exaggerated thought patterns that can lead to the onset of problems including anxiety and depression.
Such thinking patterns help to reinforce negative emotions and make it more likely that people will have negative views of themselves and the world. Examples of cognitive distortions that contribute to social anxiety disorder include:
Fighting The Thoughts Brings Them Back Harder
There are many important things to realize about these unwanted thoughts. First and foremost, these thoughts mean nothing about who you are. Everyone has the occasional weird thought once in a while. The reason you have them more often is because your anxiety brings them back. Think of anxiety like a disease – it wants you to experience anxiety more, so it brings the thought back into your mind to cause you that anxiety. Anxiety also changes the way your brain works so that it’s harder to have positive thoughts, which also pushes these unwanted thoughts back into your mind.
Another important fact about these thoughts is that studies have shown time and time again that the more you try not to think about something, the more you think about it. It’s a phenomenon known as thought suppression. Your brain doesn’t want you to forget anything, so when you try to forget something it reminds you about it more than if you didn’t care about the thought at all. So every time you try not to have the thought, you actually increase the likelihood of having it again.
Finally, compulsions also make these unwanted thoughts worse. Behaviors that you do to stop the thoughts end up reinforcing them, because it acknowledges that they’re something that causes fear. That’s why it’s so important that you try to break the compulsions in addition to the obsessions.
How To Combat Negative Thinking
In order to overcome your symptoms, it is helpful to learn how to deal with your negative thoughts. One way to do this is through a process known as cognitive restructuring, which is used during cognitive-behavioral therapy .
There are four essential steps involved in cognitive restructuring:
Below is a brief description of how you would go about putting each of these steps into practice in order to modify your negative thought patterns.
How To Stop Negative Thoughts That Cause Anxiety
Negative thoughts can easily spiral and lead to anxiety. Heres how to spot them, stop them and change them to more positive thoughts.
Do you experience negative thoughts such as: Im worthless, Nobody likes me, Things wont ever get better, I cant cope with this, or Im going to end up alone? Negative thoughts often pop into our heads automatically, uninvited. We all have negative thoughts, and theyre not necessarily a problem in themselves. But they become a problem when we believe them. Then they can escalate, and lead to anxiety.
The good news is that you can learn how to stop negative thoughts in their tracks and replace them with more helpful, positive ones.
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Step 5 Enjoy Inspiring Self
When you lack self-compassion, inspiring books can be a real lifesaver.
Once I started reading one self-help book after another, it hit me: there are thousands of people who already solved many problems that you and I have. They have working solutions, and they already know how to overcome negative thoughts. So you only need to take their knowledge and apply it to your own life.
A Book That Will Show You How To Overcome Negative Thoughts
A truly spectacular book I want to recommend is The subtle art of not giving a F*ck by Mark Manson. Its an inspiring, eye-opening book, sold over a million times. The author isnt some kind of life coach or writer just a simple guy who cracked down the code of not giving that many f*cks. This book is perfect for you if you want to overcome negative thoughts, become happier, braver, and live a more fulfilling life!
You can get this as an e-book here: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck
Things To Avoid When Choosing Self Help Books
I can only name one. Its trying o read a lot of mediocre books instead of finding really good, bestselling books that give the most value . Hey, if a book is a bestseller, it probably has a good reason why! So instead of grabbing anything at the bookstore, browse online for opinions and recommendations. Book lovers all over the internet have already found the best books so there is absolutely no reason to skip their recommendations. I mean, they did your job for you!
A Couple Of Things Not To Do
- Do Not Judge Your Thoughts – A very helpful thing to do is to be sure not to judge your negative thoughts. If you judge them, you will only make more of them come. Plus, you will feel bad about yourself as a result of your judgments. Make friends with your negative thoughts. Dont be afraid of them. Accept them without judging them, and learn instead to stop believing them.
- Dont Try to Stop Your Thoughts – Dont try to stop your negative thoughts. This will only make more of them come. Again, the essence of what you want to be doing with your negative thoughts is to stop believing them in one way or another.
Anxiety causes people to worry and imagine bad things. Some forms of anxiety, like OCD, are also based on unexpected or unwanted thoughts causing distress. All of these are related to anxiety. There are several techniques that can be used to reduce the frequency of bad thoughts, and treating anxiety should provide additional relief.
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Negative Thoughts And Anxiety: What Helps
According to Dr. Lee Kannis-Dymand and Dr. Janet D. Carter, clinical psychologists and authors of How to Deal with Anxiety, the most effective way to overcome anxiety and negative thought patterns is by using the STEP Past Method. This is a five-step plan based on techniques from cognitive behavioral therapy . It was developed to help individuals overcome negative thoughts and anxiety, as well as conditions such as OCD and GAD .
Step one involves coming to terms with the problem so you can ask for support. You might decide to seek help from your doctor, tell a loved one how you are feeling or use a self-help book to develop goals for change. This step is about you acknowledging where you want to be and making plans to get there. You may wish to journal some self-assessment questions, such as:
How do I feel when I am anxious?How does anxiety affect my life?What does my life look like without anxiety?
Now, you will need to tackle the negative thoughts and anxiety that have been holding you back. This involves identifying negative or unhelpful thoughts and learning ways to combat them .
Make a list of the worries that help you, such as Worrying about my exams makes me study harder and the worries that harm you, such as Worry prevents me from functioning at home or work.”
P – Practice
What Are Emotions: How To Stop Negative Thoughts
Joy, fear, anger, and sadness are the most recognized emotions that come to mind when we think of them. For example, emotions can be triggered by something external, such as being witness to someone suffering or listening to your favorite music. We all experience emotions, but each of us may respond to emotions in different ways.
Sometimes our emotions can become intense, and some individuals may struggle to understand what emotion they are feeling.
All across the planet, human beings have different ideas, beliefs, opinions, and different thoughts. What we all do have in common, if not identical are feelings.
Emotions are also Contagious:
Have you noticed when someone smiles at you, you cant help but smile back? We have the tendency to pick up on each others emotions. We seem to have the tendency to mimic one anothers outward states. In fact, our outward states can affect our internal emotions, such as smiling can actually make you feel happy.
Emotions can also be influenced by other factors
- Genetics to be specific. The structure of our brain and personality, which includes self-control can affect an individuals or familys emotional expression.
Our genetic makeup cannot be altered our brain is a different story. According to the founder of the Center for Healthy Minds, neuroscientist Richard Davidson, the structure of our brains can be re-shaped with practice.
Cultural Beliefs and traditions:
Take An Appraisal Of Our Negative Emotions
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What Are The Automatic Thoughts Running Through Your Mind
This is the most important step in your thought record: List the thoughts and images that popped into your mind relating to that situation. Try to remember what you were thinking at the time.
Automatic thoughts can include:
- The world is an awful place.
- I cant cope with this.
- Im going to end up alone.
If you find yourself caught with ANTs like these, breaking down the situation into tasks may help shift your mindset away from the predominant mood controlling your thoughts.
For example, evaluate why the situation is causing you to think Im going to mess this up before you begin.
If its a work situation, ask whether youre afraid because of past projects that have gone awry? How is this situation different from past projects?
Play out the worst-case scenario and see how you feel about it. Break down your emotions and moods to see if your anxiety or automatic thoughts have any legs to stand on.
As you dig into the details, you might discover that this work situation is independent of your past and future.
Identifying your automatic thoughts is the first step in gaining control of your emotions. What are you telling yourself? Now how can you change it?
Any Anxiety Disorder Can Cause Unwanted Thoughts
While unwanted thoughts are most common with obsessive compulsive disorder, or OCD, every anxiety disorder can create unwanted thoughts in some way. From recurring fears to “worst case scenario” thinking, unwanted thoughts are extremely common with any type of anxiety.
The most important thing to realize about unwanted thoughts is that the more you try to fight them, the more common they become. That’s what anxiety does – it prevents you from focusing on anything else other than the things that cause you anxiety.
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Environmental Cause Or Irrational Thoughts
Irrational thoughts are likely also caused by your environment as well. By environment, we’re talking about everything you’ve ever experienced, seen, heard, etc.
For example, news reports of premature deaths could lead to fears over health. An embarrassing moment in front of your friends may lead to fears of social embarrassment. A bad relationship may lead to incorrect assumptions and beliefs regarding other relationships.
It may not be that simple either. Studies have shown that long term stress can actually create anxiety, and thus create irrational thoughts. Something must go on in your body or with your thought processes as a result of this type of stress. It’s likely that experiences create negative thinking, which in turn causes irrational thinking.
How To Overcome Negative Thoughts
Most people struggle with overthinking, negative thoughts, and worrying from time to time. For some, these habitual thought patterns can feel intrusive and take on a life of their own, causing them to feel anxious, pessimistic, and depressed.
While it might not be possible to eliminate negative thinking entirely, its important to remember that you can gain control over your thoughts and in turn, manage your emotions and feelings by practicing mindfulness and helpful thinking habits.
Acknowledge Your Thought Patterns
The first step in the process of gaining command over your thoughts is to recognize it when it starts to happen. Take a deep breath and notice what you are doing without applying judgment. This is a form of mindfulness that brings you back to the present moment, where you can be less reactive and think more objectively.
Here Are 6 Examples of Common Unhelpful, Negative Thinking Habits:
This is one of the ways people can work themselves into a depressive or anxious downward spiral. Dampening is an unconscious self-regulation strategy that people use to decrease the intensity of joyful and happy states, and shift into a dull mood out of comfort and familiarity.
Examples: A recurring pattern of getting sick or injured right before or after something really good happens. Picking fights or causing drama in a relationship when things are going well.
Black and white thinking and generalizations:
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The Way You Name It Matters
One important thing to note with name it to tame it. Make sure that when you mentally note youre using a soothing, kind and even playful tone of voice. This helps you to soothe your nervous system and invite compassion and resilience into that moment instead of aggression or struggle. Were not going to battle with the mind here. We are gently training it into new neural pathways of peace and ease. At a biological level, when you name it to tame it in a soothing voice you even get a squirt of soothing neurotransmitters in the brain! This brings feelings of calm, ease and comfort.