We Are Hardwired For Negativity

We are hardwired to remember negativity more easily than any positive information. This means as we experience new situations or information we are more likely to interpret that information negatively. This can then become a predominant pattern of reaction to your experience.  In this article, we discuss how to stop negative thoughts for good.

There are many ways our negative thoughts interpret the most seemingly innocent information into an attack upon ourselves. Some of the most common ways you will know you’ve developed a pattern of negative reactions is if you have:

  • Received a compliment and you somehow manage to reject it or find a way to turn it into a negative.
  • Been questioned about something in all innocence and you immediately feel guilty.
  • Felt like innocent comments by others are somehow expressing judgment on you.
  • Worried about the “what if” always imagining the worst.

The Neuroscience Of Negativity

It’s a case of how our brain interprets information. As we experience the world we are presented with situations or information which our brain makes sense of. Depending on how we interpret the information it hits either the amygdala, the side of the brain that deals with threat or the ventral striatum which is the side dealing with reward.

Where we have habitually veered onto the side of a negative response then we are mainly processing information through the filter of threat and risk. This then leads to a negative emotional reaction. The impact is that we just simply feel bad a lot of the time. As a result, our lives can feel like a continuous form of firefighting where our fight or flight response is forever on standby.

Embrace Positivity: Mastering the Art of Stopping Negative Thoughts

Understanding and transforming your mindset is critical in the journey to stop negative thoughts. The intertwined aspects of thinking and behaviour form the foundation of our personality. It’s essential to understand this connection to effectively address negative thinking patterns. Consistently nurturing negative thoughts can lead to entrenched patterns that negatively impact our personality. To stop negative thoughts, it’s crucial to recognize and modify these patterns, fostering a more positive outlook.

Recognize and Challenge Negative Thought Patterns: Your Guide to a Healthier Mindset

Often, we are unaware of the impact of habitual negative thoughts. This guide is designed to help you identify and confront these patterns, an essential step to stop negative thoughts. Human personalities are generally stable, but significant life events can prompt changes. Though our core nature remains, we can improve our personality by actively challenging negative thought habits. This proactive approach is key to transforming our thought processes and stopping negative thoughts.

The Rarity of Positive Change: Why It’s Hard to Stop Negative Thoughts

Understanding why few people achieve positive change in their lifetimes sheds light on the difficulty of stopping negative thoughts. Our belief in our uniqueness and correctness can make us resistant to new ideas that challenge our existing beliefs, viewing them as threats to our identity. Overcoming this requires acknowledging our imperfections and the universal reality of human fallibility. Accepting these truths is a crucial step in the journey to stop negative thoughts and embrace personal growth.

Redefining Thought Patterns: From Negative to Positive Thinking

Jack Canfield, a renowned motivational speaker, aptly labels negative thinkers as ‘dream stealers’. While it’s oversimplifying to categorize people strictly as pessimists or optimists, it’s undeniable that even a single negative thinking habit can be harmful. To effectively stop negative thoughts, it’s important to understand where we lie on this spectrum and work towards fostering a more positive mindset.

The Futility of Negative Thinking: The Importance of Staying Positive

People stuck in negative thinking patterns often find it hard to achieve true contentment. Their mindset hinders the enjoyment of their successes and can sap joy from their lives and those around them. Recognizing the destructive nature of negative thinking is the first step towards changing it. To stop negative thoughts, one must commit to developing a more positive and fulfilling perspective on life.

How to Challenge Negative Thinking

Identifying the traits of negative thinking in ourselves is the first step in eradicating them. Usually, we are unaware of our chain of thought and where it is taking us. After reading through this list, try noticing your thoughts as they wander off throughout the day and catching yourself in the moment.

If you manage to notice your thinking patterns, you’ve won half the battle of challenging your negative thoughts.

Changing The Programming

The trick to managing those internal negative thoughts is to change your programming. It can feel uncomfortable at first although ultimately, it will empower you. Here are some of the factors needed to change that programming.

1. The Negative Thoughts are Not You

You have to believe that the negative thoughts are not you. Negative thoughts are simply made up of habitual thoughts which you’ve practised often.

2. Switch From Experiencing To Observing

You have to emerge from experiencing the negative thoughts to observing the negative thoughts. Look at it. See it as something separate from you.

In addition to observing your thoughts, another effective technique to manage negativity is thought defusion. Thought defusion is a key component of Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. This involves stepping back and seeing them as mental events, rather than truths. This technique helps you disentangle from the content of your thoughts and reduces their impact and influence over your emotions and behaviours.

3. Explore More Positive Thoughts

As you observe the negative thoughts you then have the opportunity to change the thought or belief to something more positive. If you feel you can’t then go back to step one and open up the possibility that the thought is simply not true.

4. Be Your Own Best Friend

If you’ve trouble changing your thoughts put yourself in the shoes of your best friend. What would your best friend say to you in this situation (alert! If your best friend would create more negativity then you need to change your best friend!)

5. Find Evidence Of A Better Feeling Thought

Question the truth of the negative conclusion you’ve come to. Remember times when everything went well. Look at other people and find examples and evidence which enable you to think differently.

6. Reflect

Give yourself time to reflect and pivot your thoughts to something more positive. Write down your negative thoughts to challenge them with more positive, affirming statements.

7. Develop A Habit Of Flicking The Switch

Flick the switch on negative thoughts. This means when you find yourself having negative thoughts you press the stop button in your mind and switch to something more positive.

While we are hardwired to focus on negativity our true nature is to be positive. This means that whatever your negative thoughts might want you to think, the truth is that your true nature is kind, loving, optimistic and carefree. When you’re operating in alignment with your true nature then you will look at those negative thoughts and laugh at them. Really!

Common Negative Thought Patterns

1. Polarized Thinking: Navigating the Grey Areas

Polarized thinking, also known as “black-and-white thinking,” involves seeing situations in extremes with no middle ground. This mindset often leads to a belief that anything less than perfect is a failure. If you find yourself caught in this type of thinking, challenge yourself to appreciate the nuances and complexities of situations. Recognize that being second or third is still an accomplishment, and understand that perfection is an unrealistic standard. Embrace the concept that every effort, regardless of its outcome, is a step towards growth and learning.

2. Personalization: Breaking the Cycle of Self-Centric Thoughts

Personalization involves attributing external events, such as other people’s actions or even the weather, directly to oneself. This can lead to a feeling of constant victimization or a belief that negative events are a direct result of one’s actions. To combat this, remind yourself that the world doesn’t revolve around you. Understand that external events are often just that—external, and not a reflection of you or your actions. Broadening your perspective to see beyond yourself can significantly reduce feelings of personalization.

3. Catastrophizing: Confronting the Worst-Case Scenarios

Catastrophizing, or expecting the worst, is a form of negative thinking where you anticipate the most negative outcome in any situation. This habit can lead to excessive worry and anxiety, often about things beyond your control. To counteract this, practice realistic optimism. Acknowledge that while negative outcomes are possible, they are not the only possibilities. Focus on actionable steps you can take to prepare for or prevent negative outcomes, rather than dwelling on the potential for disaster.

4. Negative Filtering: Shifting Focus to the Positive

Negative filtering is a pattern where you focus predominantly on the negative aspects of a situation, ignoring the positive ones. This mindset can lead to ingratitude and a general sense of dissatisfaction. To change this pattern, practice gratitude. Make a conscious effort to acknowledge and appreciate the positive aspects of your life, no matter how small. Remember that focusing on the positive can be a powerful motivator and can significantly improve your overall happiness and outlook on life.

5. Victim Mentality: Embracing Empowerment

Victim mentality is a form of negative thinking where you constantly see yourself as the victim of circumstances. This mindset can be limiting and disempowering. To overcome this, focus on what you can control and take responsibility for your actions and responses. Understand that challenges are part of everyone’s life, and instead of seeing yourself as a victim, view challenges as opportunities for growth and learning. Embrace your agency and take proactive steps to improve your circumstances.

6. Overgeneralization: Seeing Patterns Where None Exist

Overgeneralization is a cognitive distortion where you apply one experience to all experiences, often leading to sweeping conclusions based on a single event. If you notice yourself overgeneralizing, challenge these thoughts by looking for evidence that contradicts your generalizations. Understand that one bad experience doesn’t define all similar situations. Learning to differentiate between unique occurrences and patterns is crucial in overcoming overgeneralization.

7. Mind Reading: The Illusion of Knowing Others’ Thoughts

Mind reading involves assuming you know what others are thinking and feeling without any direct evidence. This can lead to misunderstandings and strained relationships. To combat this, remind yourself that you can’t know someone’s thoughts or feelings unless they express them. Practice clear and open communication, and ask questions rather than making assumptions.

8. Labelling: Avoiding Unfair Judgments

Labelling involves attaching a negative label to yourself or others based on a single behaviour or event. This can lead to unfair judgments and a skewed view of oneself or others. Counteract this by seeing people and situations as complex and multi-dimensional. Avoid reducing yourself or others to a single characteristic or mistake.

9. Fortune Telling: The Pitfall of Predicting the Future

Fortune telling is assuming you know how things will turn out in the future, often expecting the worst. This can cause unnecessary worry and stress. To avoid this, focus on the present and what you can control. Understand that the future is not set in stone and that your actions can influence outcomes.

10. Should Statements: The Tyranny of Unrealistic Expectations

“Should statements” involve imposing rigid expectations on yourself or others, often leading to frustration and disappointment. To counteract this, replace “should” with “could” to create a more flexible and forgiving mindset. Understand that there are multiple ways to approach a situation and that being adaptable is more productive than being rigidly tied to expectations.

11. Emotional Reasoning: The Error of Equating Feelings with Facts

Emotional reasoning is the mistake of believing that just because you feel a certain way, it must be true. This can distort your perception of reality. To overcome this, practice distinguishing between your emotions and the facts of a situation. Understand that while your feelings are valid, they are not always accurate reflections of reality.

12. Magnification and Minimization: Distorting the Scale of Events

This involves exaggerating the importance of negative events (magnification) or downplaying the significance of positive events (minimization). To combat this, practice seeing events in their true proportion. Remind yourself to view both successes and setbacks with a balanced perspective, recognizing that both are normal parts of life.