What Are Negative Thoughts?

Do you ever catch yourself thinking that a situation won’t work out for you? Or telling yourself that the new person you met yesterday was just pretending to like you? Perhaps you find yourself questioning why your boss gave you a promotion at work because you don’t think you deserved it. If any of these examples feel familiar to you then it’s likely that you experience negative thoughts.

Negative thoughts are negative beliefs that we might hold about ourselves, others, and the world. These thoughts often have no concrete evidence to support them. We can all think negatively sometimes. However, when negative thoughts take up a large amount of our thinking then they can become unhelpful. Negative thoughts can affect our mood and contribute to problems such as anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem.

Where Do Negative Thoughts Come From?

Negative thoughts are very common and we all have them sometimes. Nevertheless, having spiraling negative thoughts can be linked to stress. Negative thoughts can also be symptoms of underlying conditions such as anxiety or depression. Some suggest that negative thoughts may have an evolutionary basis and were once supportive of survival by helping us to pay more attention to bad or dangerous experiences. Sometimes negative thinking styles can develop through being around significant others who think negatively or who are very critical of us.

Tips to Overcome Negative Thinking

Negative thoughts can affect our mood, our relationships with others and the choices we make. They can leave us feeling anxious, low and not good enough. However, if you’ve noticed you’re thinking negatively more often than you’d like to there are some things you can try to overcome this. Here are some top tips to help you to change your negative thought patterns and start to feel more positive:

1. Start To Keep A Thought Diary And Replace Negative Thoughts

It might seem counter-intuitive to overcome negative thoughts by paying more attention to them and writing them down, but the first step to changing something is usually to start to notice it. CBT programs are very effective in dealing with negative thinking and most will ask you to keep a thought diary. You can use your thought diary to write down the trigger situation (such as someone you’re talking to needing to leave). Then notice your negative thoughts (for instance, ‘people don’t enjoy my company’). Next pay attention to how the thoughts made you feel (perhaps sad or depressed). You can then substitute the negative thought for a more helpful one (such as ‘the person needed to collect their child from school and was running late’). Then note how this more helpful thought leaves you feeling.

2. Don’t Try To Eliminate Negative Thoughts

This step might also seem illogical. After all, isn’t the whole idea to stop negative thinking? A well-known psychology experiment asks people to think of anything they want for 30 seconds but to make sure they don’t think of a pink elephant. Have a go yourself. Likely, you’ll only make it a few seconds (if that!) before a pink elephant pops into your mind. The experiment shows that the more we try to suppress a thought, the more intrusive it becomes. The same thing happens with negative thinking: the more we try to eliminate negative thoughts, the more bothersome we find them to be. So, rather than trying to stop negative thoughts altogether, we must find ways to manage them differently.

3. Manage Negative Thoughts With Mindfulness

Mindfulness techniques come from meditation practices. These techniques help us to take a step back from our thoughts and observe them more objectively. Mindfulness makes it easier to ‘let go’ of thoughts, without creating a painful or unhelpful narrative around them. The aim of mindfulness isn’t to change our thoughts, but to change the relationship we have with them. One way to practice mindfulness is to view your thoughts as clouds passing by you and to just let them come and go instead of identifying with them. To start practicing mindfulness, sit comfortably, start to pay attention to your breathing, and just let your thoughts come and go. Begin doing this for a couple of minutes a day and gradually build up to 10 or 20 minutes.

4. Watch Out For Thought Traps

Thought traps are negative thinking patterns that we might regularly use. They are irrational ways of looking at ourselves, others, and the world. One common thought trap is catastrophizing. Here we assume the worst possible scenario without weighing up alternative perspectives. Another thought trap is mind reading. In this thought trap we assume we know what others are thinking even though we have no evidence to support our ideas. In CBT we can use thought diaries to identify thought traps and to remind ourselves that our thoughts are not facts.

5. Practice Gratitude

Practicing gratitude can help to take the emphasis away from negative thoughts. Feeling grateful has a huge impact on how positive we are. The more positive we feel the less likely we are to think negatively. Try to find things to be grateful for each day. You can do this even if you’re going through a difficult time in your life. The things you feel grateful for don’t have to be big. They can be small things such as a good cup of coffee, a kind word from a neighbour, or a beautiful sunset. Noticing things that make you feel happy can remind you that it’s not all bad and help to break the cycle of negative thinking. You could also try keeping a gratitude journal.  To do this, note down three or four things to be grateful for at the end of each day.

We Can Help You Overcome Negative Thinking

If you’ve tried some of these strategies previously and would like to explore overcoming negative thoughts further then Online-Theray.com can help. By signing up with our CBT program you can choose a therapist who will work with you to develop a personalized toolkit to support you with the changes you want to make and to help you work on managing negative thinking differently. You can choose to have your therapy sessions by video, phone, or text chat (couple counselling will be video only), making Online-Therapy.com a flexible and convenient option.

At Online-Therapy.com we offer an integrated and holistic package to enable you to feel at your best. Our approach includes regular sessions with your chosen therapist, unlimited messaging and CBT worksheet support, journaling, and yoga. This ongoing support means that you have the daily expert guidance you need to make progress with stopping negative thinking as soon as you sign up.