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As human beings, we have something in common that is an integral part of how our brains work. We have thoughts all day long. This is what is commonly referred to as our inner voice. 

Inner voices can be filled with affirmations like “I am strong, I am smart, I am kind.” Conversely, our inner voice could be filled with damaging thoughts. Thoughts like “I am weak, I am stupid, I am an embarrassment.”. Although we may not always have a positive outlook, we don’t always have to suffer from a negative one, either. 

The good news is, that our thoughts, inner voices, and self-talk can be controlled by our willpower and our brains. It may take some practice, but combating negative thoughts is paramount for success and good health.  

What is considered negative thinking?

Negative thinking is explained as a thought process where someone finds the worst in every situation or event. When someone is experiencing negative thoughts, they may turn those thoughts onto themselves or think them about others.

 An example of negative thinking is “Dogs could be great companions and really brighten things up if they didn’t make such a mess and all that noise.”.  Negative thinking patterns develop easily, if not quickly addressed. 

Negative thinking vs. negative self-talk

Negative thinking and negative self-talk are similar but differ in a small way. Negative thinking is a blanket statement that covers all aspects of life. 

Negative self-talk is when someone puts themselves down inside their head, or even out loud to themselves or others. An example of negative self-talk would be “I hate myself because I never get anything right.” or “I am so ugly. That’s why nobody loves me.”

How does negative thinking affect mental health?

Our brain is the most powerful organ in our whole body. So, our thoughts have a huge impact on our health, both mentally and physically.  

There are a few common ways people think negatively. 

  • Blaming– Blame shifting, or accusing other people of being to blame for your own mistakes or situations. 
  • Hostility–  Unfriendliness, rudeness, and a generally aggressive attitude towards others.
  • Personalization– No matter what happens, you blame yourself. It could be something totally out of your control, but you turn it around on yourself. 
  • The “shoulds”– Convincing yourself you “should” have done something or not done something. Then blaming yourself for whatever outcome isn’t favorable. 
  • Magnifying– Making a big deal out of things that are minor.
  • Polarizing– No middle ground for you, it’s either good or bad. 
  • Perfectionism– Trying to be perfect, or setting impossibly high standards for yourself, then blaming yourself for your inevitable failure. 
  • Cynicism– A general distrust of people

No matter which form of negative thinking you are experiencing, your health could be at risk. Not just your mental health, but your physical health could suffer, as well. 

Physical health consequences of negative thinking

Negative thinking and self-talk can affect the body and our physical health in many ways. One of the most notable ways negative thinking affects our body is by creating chronic stress, which wreaks havoc on our physical health. Chronic stress can deplete the brain chemicals required for happiness. It can also damage the immune system, and even upset the hormonal balances of the body. 

When someone experiences more negative thinking than positive thinking, it can cause many other health risks. 

Some examples of other health risks are:

  • A greater risk of dementia
  • Higher risk for stroke
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Type-2 diabetes
  • Uncontrollable inflammation

How can I stop negative thinking?

To stop negative thinking, we must first understand what happens when we think negatively. Negative thinking can become habitual, which can make it difficult to stop. That isn’t to say it’s impossible, though. It’s actually quite possible, and the pattern can be changed to turn negative thoughts into positive thoughts. 

When breaking a habit, it’s important not to get discouraged. Habits happen in cycles. First, a reminder strikes a cue for the thought. Performing the thought brings a reward. That reward reinforces the desire to continue the thought. The cycle is never-ending. Until you decide enough is enough.

By enacting small changes, big things can happen. 

Here are some actionable ways to turn that negative thinking into positive thinking:

  1. Start using a journal. Write down every time you had a negative thought. Then next to it write down the opposite of that thought and say it out loud. Doing this in your daily life could have amazing outcomes.
  2. When you catch yourself thinking negatively, say “Stop.” out loud. It will stop your thoughts directly in their tracks. 
  3. Create a bullet list of positive things you can say to yourself. If you catch a negative thought and tell yourself out loud to “Stop”, you can then say one of your reminders. 
  4. If you catch a negative self-talk moment, ask yourself “Would I say this to a friend?”. If the answer is “No”, then you know it’s not helpful to yourself, either. 
  5. Talk to someone. Have an accountability partner. It can be a friend, a parent, or even a mental health professional. Explain your negative thoughts. Ask for them to check in on your thought patterns. 

Sometimes, we can not change our negative thought patterns alone. This could be due to an underlying mental illness, an addiction, or just not having the proper tools to care for ourselves in this way. There are many ways for you to get help if you need it. 

What if I need more help to change my habits?

Getting help to change your thinking may seem extreme. However, it’s probably one of the most loving things you can do for yourself. You can show yourself how much you care about your own health by calling the admissions team at Absolute Awakenings. 

Absolute Awakenings has many different ways to enhance your mental health. Between behavioral therapy, stress management, strategic application of self-care, group therapy, prescribe medication, and many other modalities, there is a plan that can help you achieve your goals.

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