Encountering negative thoughts is common. We all experience that. However, if the thoughts are persistent and affect your daily life, you need to do something. Otherwise, you may experience stress, anxiety, or even depression. But how to get rid of negative thoughts?
Well, if you have the above question in mind, we have the answer. In this blog, we'll discuss what negative thoughts are and how to get rid of the same. So, read in full.
What are negative thoughts?
When you think negatively about your surroundings or yourself, we call such thoughts negative.
For example, some people just before the exam think," What If I failed this exam." And some, just before proposing their would-be partner, think," What if he/she said no."
Such thoughts are just in your mind and aren't shared by anyone else. And these thoughts lead to unnecessary stress, anxiety, depression, etc. In some situations/cases, you may even end up hurting someone else or losing a friend altogether.
So, the thoughts that focus on just the negative while ignoring any positive outcomes are known as Automatic Negative Thoughts.
Why are negative thoughts so powerful?
Humans are hard-wired for negativity or negative thoughts. When a negative thought strikes our mind, the brain activity in the critical area of the brain increases, and this activity is way more than what you experience when a positive or neutral thought strikes our mind.
This is why negative thoughts are so powerful and influence our attitude more than positive or neutral thoughts.
Why do we have negative thoughts?
Well, there can be several reasons for that. But majorly, it’s our thought process which is based on our previous experiences.
For instance, if you failed your science exam last year, you may think negatively about it the next time. Or Let's say a person mocked you in front of others. Now, you might think that the person will mock you again if you meet him.
Such experiences, fear of future events, shame from past events leads to negative thoughts.
Are Negative thoughts harmful for us?
According to a study, prolonged negative thoughts hamper your ability to reason, think and create memories. Another study reported that negative thinking increases the risk of dementia.
Even in a general sense, negative thoughts can have a bad impact. For example, some people think that everyone will reject them. And due to this, they never put the effort to befriend anyone, let alone propose.
Also, sometimes thinking only about the negative consequences can show you in a bad light. For example, people might not want to interact with you. And this can make you lonely, sad, anxious, angry, and even depressed.
How to identify thoughts which are not helpful?
There are several ways of recognizing negative thoughts, such as:
1. Over Generalizing Things
In this case, a person considers a negative event a sign that everything is negative. For example:
- "I always fail at this"
- "I knew something was wrong."
2. Black & White Thinking
Here the person thinks either the things are in favor or not. The person denies accepting the fact that there could be something in the middle of yes or no. For example:
- "They love me, or they hate me."
- “If I am not perfect, I have failed”
3. Mental Filter
Here, the person pays attention to just the negative thoughts while ignoring anything positive. For example, after a conversation with someone, you just remember the one bad thing they said about you while forgetting the other six good things that they said.
4. Minimizing the Positive
Sometimes when you first recognize something good in you and then say:
- "It doesn't count."
- Or "Anyone can do this."
5. False Mind Reading
Here the person tries to interpret what others might be thinking about them. For example:
- "The people at the party were looking at me. I must have done something stupid."
6. Jumping to Conclusions
Making unnecessarily negative interpretations without backing them up with facts, for example:
- "Everyone is laughing at me.”
7. Trapped in Should Statements
Should statements impose a harsh set of expectations that are unlikely to be met, as a result, we get disappointed and frustrated in stressful situations.
- I am smart. I shouldn’t struggle in work.
8. Fortune Telling/Magical Thinking
When we think we know or predict the future based on past experiences, for instance, one bad dating experience does not mean that all the dating experiences in the future will be bad.
- I will never be financially stable.
- I will never be able to get into a stable relationship again
9. Self - Blame or Personalisation
Blame causes us to feel inadequate or sometimes it can also lead to feelings of shame and guilt. It refers to the tendency to blame over things we cannot control.
- My colleague is upset about not getting the project. I wouldn’t have tried so hard to get it myself if I had known he wanted it so bad.
10. Emotional Reasoning
We mistake our feelings for facts and allow our emotions to take decisions. Our self – talk sounds like ‘I feel this is true, therefore it is true’
- I know she is the one for me. I can feel it.
- I feel that no one understands me, so I am often misunderstood.
How to overcome negative thoughts: Top 10 Ways
1. Identify your Negative Thoughts
Before doing something, you need to first identify the type of thought. Only then you'll be able to deal with it. The most common thought distortions or types are listed in the above section. You can use them to identify your negative thoughts.
Once you label a particular thought as negative, your mind will remember it. And this way, you can tackle it better.
2. Evaluate your Thoughts
When you identify your thought, evaluate it. First, find whether or not it's justified and accurate. Think how you would have responded if your friend was going through similar thoughts.
You'll most probably offer a good solution or genuine view of your friend's thoughts. Use the same suggestions you would give to your friend in your case and improve.
3. Limit your Time with the Thought
Try to stay with the thought for as short as you can. Let's say for five minutes. And then get busy with something else. Alternatively postponing the thought for 30 minutes will help you find perspective.
4. Practice Gratitude
Whenever something negative happens, think of what you have instead of why you do not have. Think of a small thing to be thankful for. This is what we call gratitude. And gratitude, as per research, can make you feel positive and happy.
5. Focus on Positive
Always diminishing the positive is not good. Sometimes, you need to truly embrace your strengths over weaknesses. This will make you feel good and content.
6. Opt for Self – Validation of thoughts and Be Yourself
If you come across the should or must thoughts, ask yourself why you don’t have the right to feel the way you do. Believe in yourself and validate your efforts.
7. Consider all the possible outcomes of the situation.
While predicting the future in a negative manner, try to consider the past experiences where you have gone through both right and wrong outcomes. If you have been wrong before, is it possible that you can wrong about your future now?
8. Don’t take it personal
Unless you did something specific to evoke a reaction, you have no responsibility (or control) regarding those thoughts or feelings. Try to be mindful when you are taking something too personally and remind yourself that it isn’t about you.
9. Become self – aware of your emotions
While it’s important to listen to, validate, and express one’s emotional reasons, it’s equally important to evaluate reality and reason them with the help of evidence. The ability to be aware of yourself, the skill to be honest about your deeds, to access what’s right or wrong is self-awareness. It can be difficult to achieve but not impossible!
10. Professional help
If none of the above tips/solutions seems to work, go for professional help. You can find several therapists that can help you rationalize and seek clarity on your unhelpful thoughts
Negative thoughts slowly eat up your mind. So, make sure to identify such thoughts and follow the above-mentioned ways to deal with them. This way, you can prevent negative thoughts from overpowering your mind and having a harmful impact.