Negative thought process
Everybody experiences occasional negative thoughts over the course of their life and in many instances these thoughts can arise and pass without much impact on an overall mood or daily outcome. Sometimes though you may find you become stuck in a pattern of negative thinking which you can’t shake and this is the type of negative process we shall be focusing on today.
It can be very difficult to realise that you are stuck in this pattern. Do you suffer from negative thinking? Honestly answer the questions below to find out:
1. Do you feel heavy and have the weight of the world on your shoulders?
2. Do you struggle with too much or too little sleep?
3. Do you feel anxious and worried about the future?
4. Do you worry what other people think about you?
5. Do you struggle to take compliments?
If you answered yes to one or more of the questions above then you may well be suffering from negative thought processes. When these patterns become ingrained in a person it can be hugely difficult to unlearn and therapy such as CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) can be an extremely useful way to help you step out of these processes and begin to live a more fulfilling life.
Below I shall name some common patterns of negative thinking.
-All or nothing thinking
-Focusing on negatives
-Negative self talk
-Excessive need for approval
– Telling yourself you “should” be better
-Focusing on past or future
These patterns of thinking often get worse if left untreated and is a big cause of depression, anxiety and addiction.
Recognize the thought- The first step in moving towards a happier life is becoming aware of your thought patterns. It might be useful for you to print of the list above and tally up how many of the above you catch yourself doing over the course of the day. The earlier you are able to catch a thought the easier it is to stop it. Negative thoughts lead to feelings which spur on further negative thoughts so if your unaware what’s going on for you, your well-being is at the mercy of this negative cycle.
Don’t invest in the thought- Once you become aware that you are having an unhelpful thought, consciously identify what type of negative thought it is. By naming the negative cycle, you are aknowledging to yourself on some level that this thought is not an accurate representation of the current situation and this in itself can help in beginning to break the cycle. Writing down what your worries are in a diary can be a useful activity to further monitor this.
Focus on the present- You will become aware over the above actions that negative thinking focuses in two different directions. 1) on the past and what has happened or 2) the future and what may happen. You are unable in the moment to do anything about either one of the above options so try instead to focus on using mindfulness techniques. Mindfulness is the art of focusing on what’s happening in the here and now. You can use meditation, mindful colouring, deep breathing and many other activities to bring you out of your thoughts into the moment.
Constructive thinking- This is the art of allowing yourself to be happy when things are going well and being constructive when things are going bad. Negative thoughts are never constructive. Constructive thinking is being aware that there is a situation that needs changing and allows you to plan to do things in a different way. Useful questions to ask yourself when being constructive are
1) What can I learn from this situation?
2) Are there any positive outcomes from this situation?
3) What can I do to not get into that situation again?
This, however is not a quick fix and you will need to take time to practice these tools as well as conscious effort. Using a therapist can be really helpful in this time to support you in your growth in these new healthy habits and will keep you on track when negative thought processes rear their ugly head in the future.