When one thing goes wrong sometimes it can snowball and infect the rest of your day. Negative thinking can easily multiply and once you’re on a roll it can be a hard habit to break. We take a look at why negative thoughts come to mind (clue: it’s known as weapon focus), what negative thoughts are and how to stop negative thinking from in its tracks. That’s right, we’re going to show you how to kick those pesky thoughts into the long grass for good.
What is Negative Thinking and how can we stop it?
Negative Thoughts: A definition
Negative thoughts are pretty must what it says on the tin. Your thoughts focus on the negative. You see the worst outcome for all events. Sometimes you catastrophise and things seem so awful that it stops you from trying anything new. Negative thoughts can be damaging, leaving you feeling exhausted and anxious. Known as NATS negative automatic thoughts, they can become habitual, preventing you from seeing the positive. The first step in to recognise those thoughts for exactly what they are. Just thoughts. Not a reflection of reality.
The effects of negative thinking on health
Maybe you have list of negative thoughts in your head or you’re just so used to your negative self talk that you hardly notice it anymore? The effects of negative thinking on your health and mood can leave you feeling more than just a little despondent. The brain has a negativity bias and it’s adept at learning from the negative but not so clever when it come to learning from the positive. Wondering how negative thinking affects the brain? It increases our stress levels, leading to the release of cortisol (a nasty stress hormone) into the body, affecting your mood and performance. The good news? you can learn to rewire your stress response.
How a negative mood takes hold and impacts the way we process information is clearly illustrated by the well known phenomenon of “weapon focus.” This thinking patterns psychology describes the concentrated focus of someone who is experiencing negative emotions and it’s laser like (you’ll know if you’ve had them). The term “weapon focus” originates from the behaviour of those held at gunpoint, when fear and anxiety is extreme, individuals are often able to describe the gun in detail but unable to describe the person holding the weapon when questioned after the event. Whilst we’re hoping that you’re never in front of a gun, weapon focus not dissimilar to the way we hold ourself hostage with our constant negative thinking. Hence the metaphor.
5 tips to overcome negative thinking
1. Create a positivity soundtrack. Select specific (upbeat) music to induce positive moods. Use this technique to your advantage by creating your own positivity soundtrack & turning down the volume on negative thinking. Bat out of Hell anyone? Beyonce? Pharell Williams? You get it.
2. Collect positive thinking quotes. When you find yourself inspired, motivated and energised by the words of others, make a note of them. Place your favourite quotes where you can see them often (on the fridge, as a screen saver or on post it) and replace or add new quotes regularly as this can stimulate our creative senses more than looking at the same words each day.
3. Focus on pictures that make you happy. For some of us, pictures ebonite and make our passions soar. Your best friend, or a pic that makes you laugh or even a photo of your pet (PCG dogs Murphy and Hamish are our very own cute positivity pups). Make sure that your favourite pictures, that prompt happy feelings are in prominent places.
4. Compile a list of happy activities. When you need to get creative, it can be helpful to have a list of activities to hand that you already know will put you in a positive mood. You might want to divide the list into quick activities and those that require more time. Activities often noted for inducing positive emotions are spending time in nature, going for a run, walking, watching a comedy or self care.
5. Spend time with others. Socialising with friends who have a wide range of interests can both broaden our perspective and induce a positive, creative mood. Regularly build time into your schedule to spend time with friends that leave you feeling inspired or develop new connections that broaden your outlook. Remember that we are the sum total of the 5 people we spend most of our time with so limit negative interactions if you’re feeling low. Build your own personal cheerleading team and spend time with them.
Here at Planet Positive Change we love to talk about all things positive and growth mindset. Check out our 100% free growth mindset and positive psychology resources https://planetpositivechange.com/growth-mindset-toolkit/