How many times have your thoughts convinced you that everything is going to end badly or that you aren’t good enough? Or maybe you’re the girl who calls yourself a failure when you don’t reach that impossible level of perfection you desperately long to reach?
According to Happify, we have between 40,000 and 60,000 negative thoughts per day! First of all, I can’t wrap my mind around the actual ability to have that many thoughts at all, but to know that there are that many negative thoughts roaming around inside my head is pretty disheartening!
What kinds of negative thoughts plague our minds? Fears about the future. Lies we believe. Past situations that didn’t work out. Frustrations and irritations. Worries. Behaviors of others that we can’t change. The list goes on and on!
Have you ever thought about how negative thinking affects you? It can cause you to overreact to stress which can lead to issues such as anxiety or depression. Negative thoughts can also contribute to chronic pain or fatigue.
Negative thinking, in a way, is a survival strategy. We think we are protecting ourselves from danger by ruminating on every possible outcome, when, in reality, we are just clouding our minds.
Our thoughts create our reality; we can’t let negativity overtake our minds.
Let’s identify some negative thought patterns.
Since perfectionism is literally unattainable, trying to achieve it will only result in you feeling “less-than” in every situation. When you demand perfection of yourself, you are also making love feel conditional; when you perform well, you deserve and will receive love.
This kind of thinking is so harmful to relationships because you become unwilling to admit fault or mistakes, fearing those things will jeopardize your relationships.
Judgment, both toward yourself and others
When you are judgmental, you are only focusing on the negative qualities in yourself and others. People never measure up. Nobody is good enough. YOU are not enough.
This pattern is easy to fall into when you surround yourself with negative thinkers who like to gossip. After just a little while with these people, you will start to immediately see the negative qualities of everyone around you, and, before you know it, resentment will set in.
There is a reason people get paid the big bucks to convince you that you can do things you never dreamed you could. You constantly hear things like, “Believe in yourself” or “Go after your dreams.” The reason? You don’t think you can reach your goals, and you desperately long for someone to tell you that you can.
But shouldn’t that belief come from within? Shouldn’t you love yourself enough that you have the faith to believe you can succeed?
Self-doubt is strong; it causes you to give up so easily. And self-doubt is a weed that will take over your life if you don’t kill it at the root.
Assuming the worst will happen
Pessimism is defined as “a tendency to see the worst aspect of things or believe that the worst will happen; a lack of hope or confidence in the future.” Look at that last part… lack of hope.
When you lack hope, you might as well give up because what’s the point? If you never think things will be better, they won’t be. The reason? You will only be looking for negative outcomes. Seek and you will find…
What do you worry about? Money? Your family? What to wear today?
Worry, worry, worry- we seem addicted to this bad habit don’t we? The irony is that worrying changes nothing except your health and mental state. Worrying is wallowing in negative thinking. We love to be little piggies rolling around in the mud of worry until we aren’t even recognizable anymore, don’t we?
Seriously though, worrying achieves nothing good. Nothing.
You know those people who always have something bad to say about everything? They can’t be satisfied by anything, it seems. The weather is too hot or it’s too cold. It’s not the weekend yet. Work is awful. They have no friends. And on and on…
Yes, we all have bad days, weeks… years! And you can’t look past reality to try to create some kind of Pollyanna-unicorn world. But when you choose to focus only on the bad things, you are really setting yourself up for never being content or happy.
Trying to control everything
When you try to control situations and other people, you will always be let down. The fact is that you CAN’T control things, and when you try and inevitably fail, you will blame yourself. It becomes your fault when your friend makes that stupid decision. You blame yourself when your child isn’t living up to his potential.
It seems clear that negative thinking is something we struggle with, but how can we put a stop to it?
Recognize your negative thoughts when they happen
It is so important to be mindful of your thinking rather than just letting your thoughts run wild; that is when you get yourself in trouble before you even realize it.
When you sense a bad thought, stop yourself and name that thought for what it is. Realize that it is harmful to you, and replace it with something that is true.
When negative thoughts take hold, speak truth to yourself instead
For example, if your mind tells you, “I’m such a failure!” recognize that bad thought as a lie and speak the truth to yourself. “I didn’t do well on this task, but I will work harder next time and do better.” “This was just one mistake; it doesn’t define me.” “Every missed mark is an opportunity to grow.”
If you find yourself thinking, “I will never find someone to love me,” replace it with, “Right now is a time in my life for me to better myself. When it’s right, I will find love.”
Even if you aren’t feeling it, say it anyway.
Looking for things to be grateful for actually helps you to see things in a more positive light, and eventually this habit can actually change your thinking. We tend to get so caught up in the big problems we see that we often miss the little joys throughout our days.
A good way to practice gratitude is to keep a gratitude journal. It’s simple! You just make a list of all the little things that make you happy. This causes you to really look for those things. This will change your life.
Breaking the habit of negative thinking won’t happen overnight. It takes time, intentionality, and determination. Don’t give up when it gets hard.
Have you found other ways to stop negative thinking in its tracks? Share them in the comments!