Negative Thinking

Human beings are nonlinear dynamic systems and are influenced by biological, cognitive, and environmental factors. Conscious and unconscious information processing gives rise to automatic negative thoughts which shape personal views about the self, the world, and the future. From an evolutionary perspective, negative thinking helped with survival however excessive negative thinking can keep us stuck in behavioural and thought patterns which prevent growth. Repetitive negative thinking patterns that focus primarily on past events are referred to as rumination and can lead to depressive disorders.

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Three components make up rumination:

  • repetition
  • difficulty disengaging from the negative thoughts
  • negative thoughts being intrusive

The cycle of rumination gives way to worry and eventually increases instances of anxiety and depression (Piexoto & Cunha, 2022). Just thinking positive thoughts is not effective because it is overly simplistic, does not lead to long-term change and sometimes important information contained within the negative thought can be missed. Instead, examining thoughts from a positive, negative, and neutral stance can provide useful and insightful information about our situation.

Additional strategies for challenging negative thoughts include the following:

  • Asking yourself, “what is the worst that could happen?”
  • If the worst did happen, what could I do to deal with it and who could help me?
  • What would a friend tell me about this negative thought/thinking pattern?
  • Is what I am thinking 100% true, what assumptions am I making about the situation?
  • What is the best possible outcome?
  • What is another possibility?
  • What is a more helpful thought?