“Dwelling on negative thoughts is like fertilizing weeds.”
Norman Vincent Peale
If you understood how the quality of your thinking affects your life, you’d never succumb to a negative thought.
How often do you entertain negative thoughts? Do you spend a bulk of your day brooding over negative scenarios and what isn’t working in your life right now?
According to the Cleveland Clinic, you have approximately 60000 thoughts every day. Of those thoughts, 95% are repetitive, while 80% of those are negative.
“A man’s life is what his thoughts make of it.”
“You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you.”
Even Albert Einstein, one of the most famous physicists of the twentieth century, once said:
“The world we have created is a product of our thinking; it cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”
These statements imply that you’re essentially what you imagine yourself to be. Whatever you feed your thoughts into, you’ll become. That’s how powerful your thoughts can be.
Thoughts have a strong influence on your reality. Your thoughts are made up of data that your brain receives and transmits to your mind.
As Ralph Waldo Emerson, an American philosopher and poet, put it:
“A man is what he thinks about all day long.”
Whatever you think about will create feelings in you. These feelings impact your behavior. And your behavior will lead you to your actions, which will lead to your results.
Your life’s outcome and experiences are dictated by your thoughts. The key to every outcome in your life lies in the link between your thoughts, your feelings, and your behaviors.
In the 1960s, when Beck was working with depressed patients, he noticed something odd. He found that most of them had no control over their thoughts, and negative thoughts would emerge out of nowhere.
Negative bias is the reason why negative thoughts appear out of nowhere in your mind. This is the human tendency to focus on the negative aspects of situations rather than the positive.
Negative bias has been hard-wired into our brains as a result of evolution.
According to Beck, these are “irrational thoughts and beliefs that we unknowingly reinforce over time,” because they are not totally under our conscious control.
“Our perspective is biased toward the negative; as far as our minds are concerned, bad is stronger than good. We have such a strong propensity to favor negativity that we have a skewed vision of reality.”
She believes that to lead a happy and successful life, we must overcome these natural tendencies.
The author of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, Dr. Daniel G. Amen, called them “Automatic Negative Thoughts” (ANTs). He says that ANTs are “cynical, gloomy, and complaining thoughts that just seem to keep coming all by themselves.”
Your mind could be plagued by thoughts like these:
“I’ve got a feeling something bad is going to happen.”
“I’m going to screw up my presentation today.”
“I look ridiculous; don’t I just hate the way I look.”
If you’re not aware, these thoughts will seep into your subconscious mind and become self-fulfilling prophesies. And what is worse, unbeknownst to you, these negative beliefs become habitual over time.
If you drink a cup of coffee every morning after breakfast, that’s an action that is repeated every day. Just like someone who checks their Facebook first thing in the morning and before going to bed.
When something is repeated, it becomes a pattern.
When you repeat a behavior for 21 days, it becomes embedded in your subconscious mind as a behavioral pattern. Thoughts are no different.
When you think the same negative thoughts over and over again, it will result in a negative thinking pattern.
A thought pattern is “a habit of thinking in a particular way.”
The more you allow a negative thought to permeate your mind, the more negative thoughts you’ll experience.
Thus, the more difficult it will be to break the loop.
“The more you do something, the more likely it is that you will do it again in the future. Repetition rewires the brain and breeds habits. The more the neurons fire together, the more likely it is that they will fire together in the future.”
Have you ever considered the consequences of being chronically mired in a negative thought pattern?
A negative thought can sap your energy. The longer you dwell on a negative thought, the more powerful it becomes.
Negative thoughts have the ability to rearrange your brain’s neural networks. When this happens, it strengthens your brain’s circuits, causing you to perceive the world with more doom and gloom.
But negative thoughts are merely cognitive distortions. The American Psychological Association described them as “faulty or erroneous thinking, perception, or belief.”
When your mind induces you to believe negative things about yourself that are not necessarily true, you’re experiencing cognitive distortions.
Beck realized that his patients’ overall happiness and mental health were affected by their automatic negative thoughts. Their feelings of helplessness and hopelessness grew as a result of these thoughts.
This leads to chronic stress and disrupts the hormone balance in the body. The brain chemicals required for happiness eventually diminish and damage the immune system.
In mild cases, negative thinking leads to minor disruptions in daily functioning. However, in extreme cases, it may lead to anxiety and psychosomatic disorders.
Chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, obesity, asthma, epilepsy, and cancer can all be caused by negative thoughts.
So, how can you put a halt to these negative thought patterns?
Negative thought patterns are repetitive and vary from being unsettling to having dire effects on your relationships, self-esteem, and health.
They are unhelpful, overwhelming and may or may not go away completely. So, how do you break these patterns?
Although you cannot stop totally rid yourself of negative thoughts, here are five ways to break negative thought patterns:
This is a CBT strategy for identifying patterns of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. It is based on the premise that negative thoughts result in negative behavior, whereas positive thoughts reap positive outcomes.
By reframing your negative thoughts, you are giving it a positive spin. It allows you to interpret your thoughts in a positive and productive way.
Although you have no control over how circumstances turn out, you do have influence over how you react to them. You do this by shifting the meaning of your thoughts from negative to positive.
One important aspect of reframing is to identify your negative thoughts and write them down. Then, get into the habit of changing the narrative in your head. Rather than thinking, “I’m going to screw up my presentation today,” rephrase it as:
“I’m going to try my best and simply let things flow naturally.”
Reframing your thoughts will help you put things in perspective and transform your thinking into a more optimistic language.
Instead of being present, we spend 47% of our waking hours thinking about something else. According to Harvard University psychologists Matthew A. Killingsworth and Daniel T. Gilbert‘s research:
“A human mind is a wandering mind, and a wandering mind is an unhappy mind. The ability to think about what is not happening is a cognitive achievement that comes at an emotional cost.”
Is it any wonder you obsess over previous mistakes, regrets, and things that haven’t gone as planned?
The first step in breaking negative thought patterns is to recognize that they exist. Mindfulness allows you to become more aware of the present moment and, as a result, of your negative thought patterns.
Once you become conscious of your thoughts, you’re now ready to experience a greater sense of control over your thoughts.
This breathing exercise will enable you to break your negative thought patterns as well as improve your concentration and focus.
You are the average of the five people with whom you spend the majority of your time. Your peer group has a significant impact on how you think.
Who are the five people you spend the most time with? Do they empower or disempower you? If you want to break your negative thought patterns, don’t mingle with people that fuel your negative thoughts.
If you want to break your negative thought patterns, be selective about who you choose to join your clique.
As the saying goes, “your vibe attracts your tribe.” Vibes are the emotional cues emitted by a person’s body language to those around them.
Vibes are the emotional cues that a person sends out to those around them through their thoughts and body language. What kind of vibes are you sending out into the universe? And what kind of vibes do you want to attract into your life?
As most people understand it, a “tribe” is made up of people who are like you. Your actions, thoughts, and behaviors are reflected by your tribe.
You must choose your tribe carefully. Your desire to vibe with the right tribe will also motivate you to send out positive thoughts.
Your subconscious mind can’t tell the difference between positive and negative thoughts. As a result, by feeding positive statements to your subconscious mind, you can re-program your thoughts.
Affirmations are positive statements or phrases that you can repeat over and over in order to influence your subconscious mind. They can be quite helpful in overcoming negative bias.
Unfortunately, it is not that simple. You cannot expect a shift in mindset by just repeating a few positive statements. If the affirmations you recite conflict with your current self-image or state of mind, it may not work.
For it to work, you need to strongly believe in the affirmation. Otherwise, the negative thoughts will cancel out the positive affirmation.
Recite your affirmations with conviction and believe in what you’re saying. Concentrate on the positive vibes you get from those affirmations.
Make permanent statements that define who you are or who you want to be as a person. Begin your affirmation with the two powerful words, “I am.”
“I am a strong and confident person.”
“I’m complete as I am, others simply support me.”
“I am getting better and better every day.”
Use positive wording to ge the most out of your affirmations. Say it in the present tense, even if it’s something you want to do in the future. And be as specific as you can.
“I’ll ace my admission exam today and graduate from college in three years.”
“I take care of my body and exercise every day.”
“Every day I am filled with nourishing thoughts and feelings.”
To break those negative thought patterns, remember to recite affirmations on a regular basis.
The Indian philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti once said:
“The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.”
This is the most difficult of the five techniques. When you take on the role of observer, you will notice that your thoughts appear on their own.
You will realize that it is nearly impossible to be aware of your thoughts without also responding to them. But that’s precisely what you’ll have to do if you were to only “observe your thoughts.”
Observing your thoughts means you become a witness to your thoughts, letting them appear and fade away on their own.
If you realize that “you are not your thoughts,” you will be able to break your negative thought patterns. And you might even achieve inner peace in the process.
Thoughts are similar to breathing. They are either deliberate or automatic. In order for you not to be affected by your negative thoughts, which are typically automatic, always remember this:
“Become a witness to your thoughts without engaging with them.”
You have gained a deeper understanding of negative thought patterns and how they affect your life. Now, it’s time to make a choice.
How do you plan to break the negative thought patterns in your life?
Give your thoughts the positive power they deserve and go create a new reality and a better future for yourself.