Life isn’t always easy. Yet, we make life more challenging with negative thinking. Now, before I get into how it impacts us, let’s be clear. Of course if you’re going through a challenging time, you’re going to be going over your experience to make sense and eventual meaning out of it. That’s not what we’re talking about here. I’m talking about the conditioned behavior and automatic response of choosing a negative perspective over one more positive.
A Pollyanna approach isn’t the solution either. Actually, that does nothing to solve an issue and at best, keeps it at bay. For our purposes, we’re talking about always seeing the cup as half empty, and only finding fault and flaws, versus finding the good in something or someone. So with that in mind, here we go.
The influence of negative thoughts is far-reaching. There’s no part of your life that it escapes. It affects you mentally, emotionally, and physically. It limits your ability to achieve and to enjoy life.
There are 2 primary effects that negative thinking has on your life:
- It has a negative impact on your mood and outlook on life. Thinking negative thoughts can make you feel sad, afraid, angry, hopeless, and negative in general. These emotions taint the way you view the world. When everything and everyone has ill intent, at best you’ll be guarded and untrusting. You may be hesitant to try or say something because you’re imagining a negative outcome and you may avoid potential opportunities because you’re negative self-talk is advising you against it.
- Negative thinking inhibits your ability to achieve goals. For any objective, you have things pulling you toward your goal and other things pushing you away. When you think negative thoughts about achieving a goal, you’re much less able to accomplish it. It’s like walking through mud versus gently going with the flow of the water.
- Imagine you’d like to take a trip to somewhere exotic (if you feel safe to travel) yet very far from where you currently are. This has always been a goal of yours to explore faraway places. But then you start thinking about it:
- “It’s so far away, the jetlag will be awful. I’ll probably spend half of the trip just recovering.”
- “The language is so different. How will I manage?”
- “I should spend the money on something else.”
- “I’ll lose a lot of money exchanging currency.”
All of a sudden, that dream trip to that exotic destination doesn’t sound so dreamy anymore. Negative thinking makes goals seem harder than they are in reality.
These two negative effects influence everything. But, there are additional consequences as well.
More Negative Effects
Negative thinking has other consequences that limit your capabilities:
- It’s damaging to your health. The unrelenting stress caused by negative thinking causes stress related symptoms, illness, conditions, even disease.
- It lowers your self-esteem. When you think you’re overweight, unfit, unattractive, incapable or any other negative label you’ve given yourself, it’s damaging to your self-esteem.
- It reduces your confidence. Negative thoughts about yourself lower your self-confidence. Negative thoughts about others make you less confident in their abilities. Your negative thinking impacts you and everyone around you.
- It saps your energy. Negative thinking is exhausting and saps your resources.
How to Limit Your Negative Thinking Patterns
Luckily, there are ways to limit your negative thoughts and bring in positivity each day:
- Do a mood check throughout the day. Use a timer and perform a check every few hours or check yourself during your regular daily activities:
- Lying in bed
- Getting ready for the day
- Driving to work
- Eating lunch
- And so on
- When you notice a negative thought, first question it. Why is it there and what is it trying to say? If it’s just negative “mind chatter”, change it to something that’s more positive. For example, you can change the thought, “I hate driving to work” to “Driving is better than taking the train. I can use the time to be alone and unwind before getting home.”
- Get into the habit of reconditioning yourself to think more positive thoughts. Before doing any task, take 15 seconds and think a few positive thoughts about it. The task will be easier and more enjoyable.
- Spend more time with positive people. Misery loves company so if that’s who you’re spending time with, note how you feel when you’re with them. Ensure that the people around you are positive and it’ll help you think, act and speak differently.
Reducing the incidences of negative thinking is a proactive way to enhance your life. Negative thoughts can harm your happiness, success, and health. Spend time to ensure that your thoughts are supportive and positive and start to see your cup as half full instead.
CEO and Founder, The PBT (Post Betrayal Transformation) Institute