Most of us have heard the saying: The optimist sees the glass half full, while the pessimist sees it half-empty.
In its simplest terms, positive thinking is optimism and negative thinking is pessimism. It is an attitude towards life, yourself and particular predicaments and events in life.
Negative thinkers, tend to see the negative in everything, even in the most positive situations, and they dwell in that negativity, so they are much less equipped to deal with stress that then has more of an impact on their health.
People who are negative on a regular basis do not necessarily do this intentionally. Negative thoughts are often automatic reactions to unexpected crises, challenges, stresses and disappointments. For some, negative thinking is a natural reaction to life no matter the circumstances, as they habitually focus on the negative in any given situation.
For example, a negative thinker gets a raise at work, and automatically thinks it's not enough money. A negative thinker who is graduating from college may miss a wonderful moment because they dwell on not graduating with honors.
Negative thoughts can creep in everyday situations, no matter how positive one's day may actually be, like a wife whose husband cleaned the house as a surprise, and all she can focus on is the areas he missed.
Negative thinking is typically a thought process that is well engrained in the mind from years of repetition, where one automatically focuses on the negative instead of seeing the positive.
Children who grow up in dysfunctional families with critical parents often adopt this style of thinking because critical parents tend to focus on everything that is wrong, and negativity becomes commonplace, so that even when that child does good things, they are often overlooked
Follow these 2 steps to help you with overcoming negative thinking patterns.
STEP 1: IDENTIFYING NEGATIVE THINKING PATTERNS
A negative nature can be overcome by identifying negativity and sources of negativity, and taking conscious steps towards becoming a more positive person. Take the time to evaluate if any of these apply to you:
Filtering: In filtering, negative thinkers will magnify the negative aspects of a given situation and filter out any positive elements. For example, a negative thinker gets a raise and focuses on the fact that it's too small or a student gets an A- on a paper, and is upset because it was not an A.
Personalizing: Personalizing is when one blames themselves whenever anything bad occurs, it is an automatic reaction. For example, you get rear ended, and blame yourself because you chose to turn onto the ill-fated street or a friend cancels a lunch date and you assume that it's because he or she does not want to see you.
Catastrophizing: One of the more volatile negative thinking patterns, and possibly most harmful to health and wellness is catastrophizing, which is when one automatically anticipates the worst-case scenario in any given situation. For example, you arrive late for work and know the rest of the day will be a disaster, or your child gets the flu and you automatically fear that he or she is sicker than they are.
Polarizing: Polarizing is common among perfectionists and negative thinkers who only see things in terms of good or bad. There is never a middle ground. They either view themselves as perfect or complete and total failures; a burden on emotional and mental health, where extremes can lead to chronic anxiety, and depression.
STEP 2: PINPOINTING YOUR NEGATIVE THOUGHTS
"If you don't think every day is a good day, just try missing one."
- Cavett Robert
Identifying your negative thoughts is an important step in overcoming them. You may assume that you are already aware of your negativity, which may be true, but you may not be aware of what's causing it, the degree of it and how you naturally react to it.
1. Write down your negative thoughts as they occur. They might be an emotional reaction to something, or they might just be your everyday thoughts. You are looking for thoughts that cause you to feel upset or disenchanted. They could include blame, shame, perceived failure, or small problems that seem big. Write down the thought itself as well as anything else that is relevant, such as how it made you feel and why you thought it.
2. Determine the source(s) of your negative thoughts. Do you see any trends in the thoughts you wrote down? Is your negativity mainly in response to unexpected situations or is it due to common, everyday thoughts? Is it in response to someone or something in particular, or is it more of a self-confidence issue? Do you find yourself often using negative "absolute" terms such as never, nothing, anything, everyone, and no one.
3. Determine how you react to negative thoughts. Do you blow them into catastrophes? Do you dwell on them? The way that you react can intensify the negativity you experience, cause it to linger, or with a positive attitude, can cause the negativity to quickly dissolve.
These steps build awareness about your negativity and provide you with a starting point for tackling the problem. Once you know what you are up against, you will be more prepared to overcome it.
"The way to overcome negative thoughts and destructive emotions is to develop opposing, positive emotions that are stronger and more powerful."
- Tenzin Gyasto - the 14th Dalai Lama