It’s a fairly common problem for negative thoughts to enter our minds on a daily basis. However, when that negative thinking begins to fester longer and longer we can be rather consumed by its ill effects on our health. It can attack our mental health as well as our physical health! If you are dealing with depression, most likely you are dealing with negative thinking more than a non-depressed person. When you come to realize you are depressed it probably means that the negative thinking has been within you for quite some time.
Depression can create a series of questions within us that only end up being a vicious cycle of thinking, a whirlpool of thoughts that seemingly have no end. Do you find that you often compare yourself to others? (“I’m not good enough.” “I’ll never be able to….” “I’ve accepted that my life will always just be miserable.”) One of the ways to begin breaking down those prison walls that have been created is to start deconstructing your negative thoughts. Is it easy? Depending on how depressed or negative you feel, the harder it may seem. It takes some deliberate work to recognize the pitfalls of allowing the negative thoughts to carry on in your thinking. The more it’s practiced, the easier it will be. Give yourself time to learn how to undo the negative thinking.
One of the things you can do for yourself, if you are invested in creating more positive thoughts, is to bring awareness of the negative thoughts. You have to listen to yourself, your inner voice- you know, the one that likes to criticize you for every little thing you do. Sometimes you might be doing something well and the critical voice rears its ugly head by following up with statements like- “It’s not good enough.” “It was pure luck that it worked out. I’m sure next time will be worse.” It’s also helpful to note that negative thoughts can lean on very general thinking. It allows us to ignore the specific things we might be doing well. The greatest step you can take is to start listening to yourself and taking note of that critical voice tearing you down.
Try to be open-minded as well and ask for constructive feedback from those who are close to you. “Do you think I tend to be more negative than positive?” If you already have concerns about negative thinking it’s a good chance that may be overriding your positive self. Allowing feedback from others can help open you up to making changes. Just be mindful of your company- sometimes birds of a feather stick together- and you may be asking for feedback from someone who is just as negative and may not see any problems.
Give writing a chance! If you keep a diary or journal, read over your entries and see if you recognize the negative thoughts. If you don’t have anything written, take some time to invest in some journal entries. Try to get in about 30 minutes for each entry. If you don’t have 30 minutes to spare break it up into smaller times- such as 10 minutes each.
Once you start raising awareness of when you experience negative thinking, it’s time to take action and work on creating a more positive self. So now what do I do? Good question! Consider looking at negative statements you make and counter them with positive ones. If you tend to make a statement like, “It will never get better”- develop a positive one, such as- “There are good things in my life.” Or, “I’m hopeful things will start getting better.” Over time, do away with general statements and start following up with specifics of what is positive. Consider some basic things such as reminding yourself you made it on time to an appointment or that you completed some much needed tasks. Remember, you are making an effort to walk away from a negative life and making room for a positive one.
Include positive people in your life. Positive thinking can be just as infectious as negative thinking so if you surround yourself with negative people maybe it’s time to start making room for the positive ones in your life.
Practice, practice, practice
It can be easy to let negative thinking control your thoughts. If you find yourself back in a rut go back to some basics of your goals for positive thinking. You can work on holding yourself accountable when you review your goals for the positive life you desire. The idea is to get out of your head and start experiencing the life you deserve!
There are also many tools online that can aid you in the process. The Depression and Bipolar Alliance has some great reading available to assist you in this goal:
11 Styles of Negative Thinking
Additional reading that may help explore more of how negative thinking works on our health can be found at Wake-Up World.
Overcoming Negative Thinking – The #1 Cause of Chronic Depression
Sheilagh is an Artist and Art Therapist who believes in healing with art and creativity.