The thoughts we think control everything. Our thoughts control our health outcomes, such as anxiety, depression, and more. We all think negatively occasionally, but continual negative thinking harms mental health.
What is Negative Thinking?
Negative thinking is not defined as having a few negative thoughts; instead, it refers to a negative thinking pattern about your surroundings and yourself. Many times it’s the same, repetitive negative thoughts that keep repeatedly surfacing, day in and day out. Feeling sad or upset about particular things that happen in life is normal, but the continual negative thinking needs attention, and you want to gain control of it to improve your mental health.
“Negative thinking is a thought process where people tend to find the worst in everything or reduce their expectations by considering the worst possible scenarios. This approach can allay disappointment in some situations; but, negative thinking tends to manifest into a pattern that can cause tremendous stress, worry, or sadness over time.”
This pattern is what is detrimental and important to steer clear of.
Negative thinking exacerbates mental health issues if they are already present and can also cause mental illness. Not everyone who engages in negative thinking has a mental illness. Still, it’s crucial to have the knowledge and awareness that it can bring about a diagnosable mental illness, and when mental health issues are present, it will only make them worse.
The Five Most Common Causes of Negative Thinking
Negative thinking can appear in many different ways, and it can be conscious or unconscious. The most common causes of negative thinking:
1. Anxiety about the present:
Anxiety about what is happening in the present moment can quickly bring about negative thoughts, leading to negative feelings about what’s occurring. These feelings of anxiety easily trigger people to think about the worst-case scenario, which causes more anxiety. To break this cycle, try calming yourself with 4-7-8 breathing and use this to reset your thinking to something favorable.
2. Fear of the future:
Fear or uncertainty of the unknown can bring about thought patterns detrimental to the future you wish to experience. I get it…it can be scary when you don’t know what’s ahead and don’t know if things will work out how you want them to. This fear and anxiety about the future can lead you to assume that the worst will happen. Instead, assume that the best outcome is what you will experience.
3. Lack of self-confidence:
This can bring about negative thinking because you don’t feel good about yourself, so instead of focusing on all of the good, you focus on what is wrong with you. Acknowledge yourself for all of the good about yourself. What you focus on grows, so focus on what you like about yourself and speak kindly to yourself, and you will find more good to focus on. If you can’t acknowledge one thing you like about yourself, allow yourself to love and be grateful for your eyes and their ability to read this article.
4. Excessive indecisiveness:
It’s essential to weigh the pros and cons and take some time when making a decision, and it’s equally important to set a deadline so that it doesn’t become procrastination. When indecisiveness becomes excessive, negative thoughts can start to creep in when you overanalyze every little thing.
5. Rumination about the past and overanalyzing:
Healthy reflection about past events can serve you well, but when those thoughts turn negative and you start to dwell and overanalyze, it becomes detrimental. When negative rumination occurs, shame is often involved in whatever event occurred.
For example, you go to a gathering, have conversations with people, have a good time, and then head home.
Despite you having a swell time, you start having thoughts of ‘I wonder if they like me,’ ‘Did I say anything stupid,’ ‘I wonder if when she said she needed to go to the restroom that was just her attempt to get away from talking to me.’ To stop focusing on the past, focus on the present. What are you doing right now that you can bring your attention to? Even if it’s as simple as focusing on breathing in and breathing out.
How Thoughts affect Mental Health on a Cellular Level
The thoughts we think affect our cells. “Every minute of every day, your body is physically reacting, literally changing, in response to the thoughts that run through your mind.” Physiology has proven that our thoughts impact our bodies at a cellular level, our organs and the rest of our body can ‘hear’ our thoughts.
If you’re already prone to depression and combine that with persistent negative thought patterns, you will exacerbate that depression. It’s been proven that thought triggers the brain to release neurotransmitters (chemical messengers) that allow the brain to communicate with itself and the rest of the body. These chemical messengers control the majority of the body’s functions, including feelings of anxiety, happiness, and sadness.
Since thoughts promote the release of neurotransmitters and neurotransmitters control the body’s functions, one can safely say that thoughts and the brain control our bodies. Every thought causes a change neurochemically. These changes can be temporary or long-lasting depending on the frequency of the thought.
How to Manage Negative Thinking
We must always be consciously aware of how we feel because how we feel gives us information about what kind of thoughts we’ve been thinking. Always may seem daunting…but as much as you can, be aware of your thoughts and what’s going through your head. The dominant thoughts that go through your head are what you will see in your mental health and life.
Instead of aiming to eradicate negative thinking, it’s much more beneficial to focus on decreasing the occurrence of these thoughts and consciously try to do so because you know that they do not serve you. When you are aware that a negative thought has surfaced, it can be helpful to ask yourself one or all of these questions:
- Is this thought adding to my power or taking away from it?
- Is this thought even true?
- If it is, what can you do to improve this thing or situation?
- Is this thought in alignment with that which I wish to experience?
You can take a passive or active approach when a negative thought crosses your mind. You can observe it without attaching yourself or energy or actively dispel it. Talking back to the thought with the opposite positive thought is a powerful way to combat negative thinking actively. A combination of these approaches will serve you well depending on your environment or how you’re feeling.
Final Thoughts about How Negative Thinking Is Detrimental to Mental Health
Negative thinking can take people over the edge and cause them to spiral downward. If you’re down due to a life circumstance, these thoughts will only make you increasingly sad. If you are sluggish and lacking energy and keep thinking about how tired you are, you won’t gain more energy and will likely get more tired.
Negative thoughts are not the only cause of what pushes a person to commit suicide (because mental health issues are already present). However, I do believe that these persistent negative thoughts telling them that they are not worthy, not good enough, and to go through with it can aid in pushing that person over the edge to act. Imagine thinking about what’s going through a person’s head about committing suicide….it’s not good…it’s horrendous…the thoughts themselves are telling the person to go through with it.
Negative thoughts aren’t always bad. They can provide information about things that need to change and provide growth opportunities. For example, if you get negative thoughts about your body, this could be information that could help you to make changes in your life that could aid in a healthier body. That said, consistent negative thoughts about your body or anything will only be detrimental, so take whatever information necessary from the thought and then try to switch the narrative to a positive one and express gratitude for all that your body does for you even while the changes are taking place and before you are in your ideal body.