Each of us defaults to negative or positive thoughts in any given situation. We also tend to favor one outlook over the other. We can determine which outlook we have by how we speak to ourselves internally.
Historically, our minds are geared toward the negative as a way to keep us alert and protect us from predators. Even over many millennia, we still have a part of our brains that are geared to focus on the negative that surrounds us. This biological preset, if left unchecked, can lead to an abundance of negative self-talk.
Negative self talk is your inner dialogue basically criticizing yourself for various reasons, which can lead to decreased confidence, low self-esteem, and even depression.
Learning how to stop negative thinking patterns and replace it with more productive thought patterns is essential. This post discusses what negative self-talk is and the process of changing to a more positive outlook.
Why a Positive Mindset Matters
A positive mindset is crucial for maintaining good mental and physical health. Some of the health benefits of positive thinking include reduced stress and anxiety, lower risk of depression, and even gives a boost to the immune system.
Studies suggest those with positive self-talk tend to be healthier. This can show itself by practicing self care behaviors, such as regular exercise and a balanced diet. They also tend to have better-coping mechanisms in stressful situations, are more resilient, and have a better tolerance for pain.
According to the National Library of Medicine, there are legitimate health benefits associated with positive thinking and optimism. Lower rates of heart disease was a major finding within their findings.
Difficult situations in life make maintaining a positive mindset challenging. However, with practice, anyone can learn to reframe their thoughts and adopt a more positive attitude towards themselves. Doing so can improve our overall quality of life and experience better health and well-being.
Types of Negative Thoughts
There are several types of negative self talk. Each type can be harmful to our mental and emotional health. The following are some types of negative thoughts:
One type of negative thought is called filtering, which occurs when we focus solely on the negative aspects of a situation, leading us to overlook any positive elements. Filtering can cause you to feel unnecessarily defeated or hopeless, leading to lower self-esteem and reduced motivation to take positive action.
Another common form of negative thinking is personalizing, which occurs when we take responsibility for adverse events or circumstances outside our control.
For example, if a project at work fails, we may blame ourselves for not doing enough, even though we did our best. Personalizing thoughts can lead to feelings such as guilt, shame, and anxiety. These thoughts prevent us from moving forward and learning from our experiences.
Catastrophizing is a form of negative thinking that involves imagining the worst possible outcomes in any given situation. This thinking tends to escalate our fears and anxieties and can lead to decreased confidence and increased stress.
However, when we consistently imagine the worst-case scenario, we often take drastic action to try and avoid it, which can make things worse.
Finally, polarizing is a form of negative thinking involving seeing things as good or bad, with no middle ground. Polarizing thoughts can prevent us from seeing the complexity of a situation. By adopting a more balanced perspective, we see that things are rarely good or bad and that there is room for growth and improvement.
Awareness of your negative thoughts is the first step to changing them. It can be helpful to keep a journal to record any negative self talk that arises throughout the day and the situations that trigger it. Once we are aware of our negative thinking patterns, we can challenge them and replace them with more positive and productive thoughts.
How to Process Negative Thoughts
If you suffer with a negative mindset, know that it is possible to change the way you think! We can learn how to process negative thoughts and reframe them into something more productive and positive.
Processing and changing negative thoughts takes time and consistent effort because we have years of programming in our subconscious mind. We have been programmed by our parents, friends, work experiences, and environmental factors. Our programming has told us to think about ourselves by noticing the content of our daily thoughts.
Next, we will cover each step of how to process negative thoughts to attain a more positive mindset.
Become Aware of Negative Self-Talk
Becoming aware of our negative self talk patterns is the first and most essential step in changing them.
One technique to increase self-awareness is to keep a journal that records negative self talk and the situations that trigger it. Writing down our negative thoughts as they arise can help us identify patterns and the triggers that set them off. The journal can show us how often we engage in negative self talk and how it impacts our emotions.
Another technique to decrease negative self talk is to engage in mindfulness meditation. Mindfulness meditation practice teaches us to become more present and aware of our thoughts without judgment. It can help us observe our thoughts from a distance, identify negative self talk patterns, and develop greater insight into our behavior and emotions.
It is also helpful to become more attuned to our emotions as they often provide clues about the frequency and impact of our negative self talk. Negative self talk can lead to feeling guilt, shame, and anxiety. By paying attention to our feelings, we can start to notice when negative thinking is at play and shift it into more positive and self-affirming language.
Stop Negative Self-Talk in Its Tracks
Techniques to stop negative language right away can be incredibly helpful in preventing us from spiraling into a negative thought pattern.
One of the best ways I have found to stop negativity is to not allow the thought to finish in my mind. By interrupting the thought pattern, you are empowered to not give in to those negative beliefs and subject yourself to the hurt they can cause.
When you notice your critical inner voice creeping in, try interrupting it by saying “stop” or “cancel.” This can help to break the thought pattern and prevent it from taking over. Feel free to choose a word or phrase that is most helpful if “stop” or “cancel” seem too generic. Try saying your chosen word out loud if you find it difficult to stop your negative thought by only saying your word or phrase in your mind.
Challenge Negative Self Talk
Challenging negative language and false statements about oneself is crucial to changing negative self talk patterns. It involves questioning the validity and accuracy of negative comments and replacing them with more positive and productive ones. Here are some practical ways to challenge self-criticism and destructive words:
Identify the evidence:
One way to combat negative thinking is to identify the evidence supporting it. Often, negative statements arise from assumptions and beliefs that are inaccurate or based on evidence. By investigating the validity of these beliefs, one can challenge negative self talk and replace it with more accurate statements.
For instance, if you think, “I’m not good at anything,” try to identify the evidence supporting this belief. Ask yourself, “Is it true that I’m not good at anything? Have I really tried everything? Are there any areas where I have succeeded?”
Adopt a different perspective:
Negative self talk is often based on a limited perspective that fails to account for other viewpoints or evidence. One way to challenge negative thinking is to adopt a different perspective considering other evidence or views.
For example, if you think “I’m a failure,” try to adopt a perspective acknowledging your successes and achievements. Ask yourself, “What have I accomplished in the past? What are some things others have praised me for?”
Test the evidence:
Another way to combat negative thinking is to test the evidence supporting your thoughts. This involves looking for evidence that contradicts negative statements and evaluating it against the evidence supporting the negative comments.
For instance, if you think “I’m worthless,” try to find evidence contradicting this belief. Ask yourself, “Are there any people in my life who value me? Have I ever done anything to help others or make a positive impact?”
Reframe Negative Statements
There are many ways to reframe a negative mindset. This list is not exhaustive, but just a few suggestions to start the process.
Replace negative words and phrases with positive ones:
One way to reframe a negative mindset is to replace negative words and phrases with positive ones. For example, you may find yourself saying, “I can’t do this.” Instead, you could replace “can’t” with, “I’ll try my best.”
Find a different perspective:
Another way to reframe negative thinking is to find a different perspective. This involves looking at situations, events, and oneself from a different angle and finding a more constructive, positive way of looking at things.
For example, if you think, “I’m not good enough,” try to find a different perspective that acknowledges your strengths and qualities. Ask yourself defining questions. “What am I good at? What are some qualities I possess that are valuable?”
Using humor is a great way to reframe negative self talk and statements. It involves finding the humor in situations, events, and oneself and using it to create a more positive and light-hearted perspective.
For example, if you say to yourself, “I’m so stupid” after you make a mistake, try to use humor instead. Say, “Well, that was silly!” Using humor can transform negative self talk into a more positive and constructive mindset.
Reframing negative self talk and statements is a powerful tool for cultivating a positive outlook and improving self-esteem.
Affirmations and Encouraging Thoughts
Daily affirmations are positive statements that help individuals cultivate a more positive outlook and overcome negative thinking. Here are some tips for implementing daily affirmations and their benefits:
Choose affirmations that resonate with you:
Affirmations should be personal and meaningful to the individual. They should reflect the goals, values, and qualities that are important to them.
For example, if you often doubt yourself, you could try saying “I believe in my abilities” or “I am confident.”
Repeat affirmations frequently:
To make affirmations more effective, they should be repeated frequently. This helps to reinforce positive beliefs and replace negative thinking.
Repeating affirmations at least once daily, in the morning or before bed, is recommended. However, some individuals find it helpful to repeat affirmations throughout the day, especially during stress or anxiety.
Use different types of affirmations:
You can change your affirmations to cater to any issue or feeling you have. For example, self-esteem affirmations focus on building self-confidence and self-worth. In contrast, motivation affirmations concentrate on achieving goals and staying on track.
By using a variety of affirmations, individuals can address different aspects of their lives and work towards a more positive outlook.
Believe in the affirmations:
Affirmations are most effective when they are believed by the individual. Therefore, it is essential to approach affirmations with an open and receptive mindset and think they will have a positive impact.
What are the Benefits of Affirmations?
In mental health, the term “affirmations” often comes up concerning positive thinking. But what are the benefits of including affirmations in your daily routine?
Improves self-esteem and self-confidence:
Affirmations help individuals build a positive self-image, which improves confidence immensely. Individuals can overcome self-doubt and negative thinking by focusing on their strengths and qualities.
Reduces stress and anxiety:
Affirmations are a powerful tool for managing stress and anxiety. Positive thoughts and beliefs can reduce the impact of negative emotions and improve your quality of life.
Increases motivation and productivity:
Affirmations can help individuals stay motivated and focused on their goals. Individuals can overcome obstacles and achieve their objectives by reinforcing positive beliefs and attitudes.
Negative self talk doesn’t have to define us. We can cultivate a positive outlook over time by implementing daily affirmations and other techniques, such as humor or reframing negative thoughts into positive statements.
With consistency and self-compassion, we can shift from negative thoughts to those empowering and supportive of our goals. Ultimately, developing a positive outlook on life is possible with practice and dedication!
If you want guidance and help to establish a more positive self talk pattern, call to talk with us or schedule an appointment. We have licensed therapists waiting to support you in your healing journey today!