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As human beings, we have something in common that is integral to our brain’s 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 willpower and brains can control our thoughts, inner voices, and self-talk. It may take some practice, but combating negative thoughts is paramount for success and good health.

What is considered negative thinking?

Negative thinking is 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 about others.
An example of negative thinking is, “Dogs could be great companions and 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 toward 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 minor things.
  • 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 also suffer.

Physical health consequences of negative thinking

Negative thinking and self-talk can affect the body and 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 balance 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?

We must first understand what happens when we think negatively to stop negative thinking. Unfortunately, negative thinking can become habitual, making it difficult to stop. That isn’t to say it’s impossible, though. It’s 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. Then, 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 realize you are 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,” you know it’s not helpful to yourself.
  5. Talk to someone. Have an accountability partner. It can be a friend, a parent, or 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 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.

References

  1. Everson-Rose SA, Roetker NS, Lutsey PL, et al. Chronic Stress, Depressive Symptoms, Anger, Hostility, and Risk of Stroke and Transient Ischemic Attack in the Multi-Ethnic Study of Atherosclerosis. Stroke. 2014;45(8):2318-2323. doi:10.1161/STROKEAHA.114.004815
  2. How to stop negative self-talk. Mayo Clinic. Published February 3, 2022. Accessed January 3, 2023. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/stress-management/in-depth/positive-thinking/art-20043950
  3. Neuvonen E, Rusanen M, Solomon A, et al. Late-life cynical distrust, risk of incident dementia, and mortality in a population-based cohort. Neurology. 2014;82(24):2205-2212. doi:10.1212/WNL.0000000000000528
  4. Cohen S, Janicki-Deverts D, Doyle WJ, et al. Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2012;109(16):5995-5999. doi:10.1073/pnas.1118355109
  5. Golden SH, Williams JE, Ford DE, et al. Depressive symptoms and the risk of type 2 diabetes: the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study. Diabetes Care. 2004;27(2):429-435. doi:10.2337/diacare.27.2.429
Amanda Stevens, BS

Amanda Stevens, BS

Amanda is a prolific medical content writer specializing in eating disorders and addiction treatment. She graduated Magnum Cum Laude from Purdue University with a B.S. in Social Work. As a person in recovery from disordered eating, she is passionate about seeing people heal and transform. She writes for popular treatment centers such as Ocean Recovery, Ascendant NY, The Heights Treatment, Infinite Recovery, New Waters Recovery, Recovery Unplugged and adolescent mental health treatment center BasePoint Academy. In her spare time she loves learning about health, nutrition, meditation, spiritual practices, and enjoys being the a mother of a beautiful daughter.

Last medically reviewed January 3, 2023