Negative thoughts…Why does the inner world have a natural proclivity to go haywire, and what can you do about it?
It happens to the most well-intentioned of us. You’re happily going about your daily routine when unexpectedly, out of nowhere, the thought occurs to you: “What if I’m making a huge mistake?” Then there’s the knock-on effect: “I have no idea what I’m doing.” What did I mean when I said that? Why did I consent to it in the first place? “I’m afraid I won’t be able to do it.” And so it goes, with you replaying conversations to see how dumb you may have sounded or to figure out what the other person was actually saying.
What follows is a debilitating chain reaction that, with each subsequent negative thought, sends your mind into a deeper downward spiral toward virtual combustion, paralysing you in the process. It’s as though you’ve single-handedly blown up the whole planet in an instant—all from the safety of your own mind.
Natural Negative Thoughts Are Bias in the Brain
Those thought patterns can be attributed to survival instincts and a biological awareness that we won’t last for long (depressing, we know). According to psychiatrist Grant H. Brenner M.D., FAPA, co-founder of Neighborhood Psychiatry in Manhattan, our brain has developed to survive and has a tendency against threat detection.
We are programmed to use negative information far more than positive information to educate our environment, in addition to this constant scanning for threats. It makes sense when you consider it in the light of evolution. More than enjoying the warmth of a pleasant cave fire, survival depends on spotting danger.
And it’s not just that we choose to use negative information; it carries much more weight. Negative emotions have a greater impact on our brain than optimistic ones. According to studies, we need more optimistic messages (at least five) for every negative one to keep things moving in the right direction.
The Glitch In The Matrix
“As we’ve become more technologically evolved and advanced, it’s become a more maladaptive function. We can’t cope with things improving, so our fight-or-flight mechanisms cause us to react badly to one another,” he says. It’s as if there’s a glitch in our collective consciousness. “We are lacking in humanity and regard outsiders as rivals rather than family members. We believe the world is bigger and more powerful than it really is—an illusion that will be shattered if we aren’t careful and wise,” Dr. Brenner says.
It’s just a vicious circle. Essentially, the brain is conditioned to search for and detect threats early—both internally and externally—which leads to more attention being paid to negative thoughts, reinforcing them, and increasing their frequency. “Like a car engine in neutral, the default mode network of the brain runs an operating system that loops in more negative thoughts and memories, diminishing the functions of the brain that might disrupt the looping,” Dr. Brenner explains.
The Impact of Negative Thoughts
The consequences of this pessimistic thinking cloud can be disastrous. Clinical psychologist Kristin Naragon-Gainey, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology in The University of Buffalo’s Department of Psychology, says that obsessing about a negative thought will make it difficult to engage with what’s going on in life. “People can withdraw from who they’re with and what they’re doing as a result of this.” Not to mention the fact that you’re pushing other people further. “It can be more difficult to enjoy stuff because you’re more aware of what could go wrong; it can cause conflict with others and add to the stress.” According to Dr. Naragon-Gainey.
Why Do Some People Suffer From Negative Thoughts More Than Others?
Dr. Brenner says that traumatic experiences in childhood and adulthood can “strengthen, affirm, and/or build sticky perceptions” that the world is a bad place. “Such aspirations can manifest as negative thoughts that serve as buffers against disappointment and other reactions, as well as simply accommodating to the way the world appears to be,” says Dr. Brenner.
Someone who has a negative thinking parent, for example, can internalise certain ways of seeing the world and oneself. Another individual in the same situation, on the other hand, could react adaptively by adopting a more optimistic outlook on things. Less resilient people are more likely to stress and get trapped in negative thought, according to Dr. Brenner.
Take a look at: The Future Man – What Lies Beyond Our Evolution
How To Stop Negative Thoughts
The good news is that you don’t have to stay in a downward spiral (read that statement again so it sinks in). You should actively strive to change your Debbie Downer attitude. It all begins by understanding the negative thought patterns.
Consider a stop sign in its literal sense. This will assist in putting a stop to a negative thought when it arises. According to Dr. Brenner, “this type of visualization—of a literal diversion—can help shift the mind away from negative thoughts.” Distract yourself by listening to music, going for a stroll, imagining a happy memory, or calling a friend. “Shifting to a different mission where you can get immersed in something more effective helps boost self-esteem and give you a practical optimistic reappraisal,” he says.
Instead of being self-critical, be curious. This is a way of being gentle with yourself as troubling thoughts arise. According to Dr. Brenner, “giving yourself a compassionate break will serve as a diversion, disruption, and a way to alter the operation of brain networks.” Compassion-based behaviours, such as saying to yourself, “I’m doing the best I can,” or “I’m being very hard on myself,” have been shown in studies to help improve the way the brain reacts to negativity by minimising self-critical thinking and anxiety over time.
Pay attention to what you’re thinking. Have you ever noticed that the more you try not to think about something, the more you do? mental health professional Dr. Naragon-Gainey explains that when people want to drive negative feelings away(feeling sad), they unconsciously strengthen themselves. According to studies, being mindful will help overcome underlying problems by honouring and embracing the thinking and attempting to work through it constructively. She advises, “Practice noticing the thinking without jumping to conclusions.” Consider that this way of thinking is problematic. “Is this thinking accurate?” you may ask. Is this a useful thought?” Taking a cognitive approach will assist you in developing more precise and beneficial ways of thinking and feeling.