Our thought processes are affected by what we experience around us, and it’s normal to experience both good and bad times. However, when negative thinking becomes the norm, it can contribute to mental health problems including social anxiety, low self-esteem, and even depression. To avoid falling into that pattern, let’s explore the science of negative thinking and how you can develop a more mindful relationship with your thoughts.
Our thought processes are intimately connected to the way we feel. When you’re feeling content, your thoughts tend to reflect this. In times of happiness, you may be more satisfied with your career progress, perceive your personal relationships as more secure, or have a better body image.
Conversely, if you’re anxious or unhappy, you may notice that negative thoughts start to emerge. This could include feeling stressed about work, worrying about your appearance, or questioning the loyalty of your friends.
If you regularly experience negative thoughts, this cognitive distortion can sadly worsen an already poor mental health, leading to low mood, poor self-esteem, and anxiety.
To make things worse, a bias towards negative thinking will increase the likelihood that you’ll spend time ruminating on mistakes or dwelling on things that didn’t go as well as you had hoped. Negativity bias, or the propensity to focus on negative experiences, can cloud your judgement. Decisions will appear more complex than they truly are, which will make it harder to know how to handle difficult situations.
Once recognised, negative thoughts can be managed to reduce the impact on your emotional wellbeing. This in turn will break the cycle of negative thinking.
By paying attention to your thoughts and interrogating their validity you can prevent cognitive distortions from skewing your beliefs and impacting your mental health.
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