One of the most common problems that people experience when they are dealing with depression or anxiety is an issue with negative thinking. The way that people interpret and think about the events that happen to them can greatly contribute to their mood and their overall wellbeing. Negative thinking patterns can start to spiral and send people down a rabbit hole of depression that is difficult to escape.
Making efforts to minimize negative thinking can have a profound effect on a person’s mental health. Transforming negative beliefs into more positive interpretations of yourself, other people and situations in life can improve symptoms of depression and anxiety. Although negative thinking is not the only symptom of depression it can be a major contributor to worsening symptoms.
Most people experience some type of negative thinking from time to time but for people who find that their unhealthy thoughts become overwhelming and make life more difficult for them it is important to take measures to curb the pattern. Negative thinking is not just a personality trait or your view of reality, it is something that you can take into your own power to change. Finding different and more positive ways to view events and situations is an important skill that you must take time to develop for better mental health.
Common Negative Thinking Patterns
It can be difficult to control what you think when something happens but there are times when your immediate thoughts go beyond an initial reaction and start to sink into a pattern. If your thoughts go in cycles and you are repeating many of the same negative patterns then it is time to try to redirect your thoughts to something more positive. Negative thinking can come in many different forms but there are common patterns that people often get stuck in.
One negative thinking habit is to ruminate in a way that is excessive and repetitive. Self-reflection can be a natural and healthy part of life but continually ruminating on things you dislike about yourself, your life or a situation or possible negative outcomes can trigger anxiety and depression. People who ruminate often get very good at it and start thinking of more and more negative outcomes as their anxiety builds.
Another common pattern is overthinking which is something that can happen when you have a decision to make and you go over and over the choices in your mind. When someone is overthinking they imagine every possible outcome and focus obsessively on avoiding risks and mistakes. People who overthink tend to worry about things that they can’t control but are attempting to control by thinking the situation out over and over again.
One type of negative thinking pattern that can cause problems with relationships is a pattern of hostility and cynicism. People who feel cynical may mistrust others and see other people as threats that treat with hostility and anger. They might constantly think about other people that have wronged them or get stuck on their negative image of others.
How to Change Negative Patterns
When you get stuck in one or a few of these negative patterns it can quickly cause problems and interfere with your happiness. The first step in changing these patterns is being aware of when they are happening. This can take some practice, as most people view their thoughts as reality and find it hard to take a step back and view their thoughts as something they can change.
When you start to notice that your thinking is becoming repetitive then you can try to break the cycle by getting up and doing something else. You can go out for a walk or call a friend who will take your mind off of what you were thinking about. Don’t engage in self-medication with alcohol or drugs but find other ways that help you redirect your thoughts onto something more positive.
Sometimes in situations where you are worried about a possible outcome of a situation or decision it can be helpful to limit the amount of time you take to decide. You can also try to accept the fact that you don’t always have control over what will happen in your life. Mistakes happen and it is something that you can’t avoid or control with overthinking.
If you have issues of mis-trusting people or thinking negatively about others then try to deliberately think of other ways to view the situation. There are infinite interpretations you can choose for situations, people and events. Instead of thinking “this person is out to get me” you can choose to think “maybe they had a bad day”. Find an interpretation that makes you feel better instead of worse and focus on that.
It can be challenging to change negative thinking patterns but with practice it is possible for anyone to start thinking more positively.