We all think negative thoughts from time to time. However, if negative thinking has become our predominant habitual thought pattern then it can prevent us from living from a place of true wellness and mental rest. Our thoughts are powerful determinants of our overall happiness and experience of life. When we dwell on negative thoughts for too long they can change our moods and emotions as well as our behaviours. In fact, we can even find that our negative thinking becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. What we feared would happen can turn out to be the case just by way of natural gravitation towards that particular outcome. Saying that, negative experiences happen to all without any input from us, but it is often our perspective which determines how that experience will ultimate affect us and our health.
Why Negative Thinking is Bad for Your Health
I meet so many patients who dwell on negative thinking, whether it be about past experiences or potential future occurrences. So much so that they become anxious and find it difficult to switch off their thinking at night when it comes time to sleep. The result is a downward spiral of fatigue and anxiety, which often results in them coming to see me for a sleep cure. Unfortunately, many a time, there is no quick fix. The ultimate cure is about identifying and changing their thinking towards a particular situation in their lives that they are worried about and are dwelling on.
Research has started to suggest that negative thinking can actually be toxic to our brain cells, causing inflammation and permanent damage. This has been suggested to lead to mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression as well as other brain conditions. This finding that suggests that thoughts actually cause release of toxic neurochemicals in our brain is a frightening one.
Sometimes negative thinking can be subconscious – you may not be aware that you are thinking a particular way. This is often due to the fact that thinking negatively has become a habit and a learned behaviour often passed down from our parents. It can be especially difficult to identify subconscious negative thinking. This is where some honest self-evaluation comes in.
It is important to identify if we have established conscious or subconscious patterns of negative thinking and to break these before they break our spirits and our well-being. Sometimes, especially if we have hit rock bottom, we need extra help in the form of cognitive behaviour therapy delivered by a counsellor. As the name suggests this type of therapy looks to address how our negative thinking has impacted our behaviours. So what are some common patterns of negative thinking?
Gratitude = the Ultimate Cure for Negative Thinking
One of the best ways I find to break negative thinking patterns is to write a gratitude list every day. By writing, say, the top five things you are grateful for in your life at the start of the day you will find that you will begin the day in a better frame of mind. After all, we have so much to be grateful for but many times we do not stop to appreciate these things. I recall a patient of mine who found himself extremely stressed about a situation in his life. He was facing bankruptcy and kept repeating over and over, ‘I’m going to lose everything.’ This worry had led to anxiety, difficulty sleeping, weight loss, and overwhelming fatigue. So not only was his situation not the best but it was compounding through feeling physically terrible.
When I asked him to write a list of ten things he was still grateful for in his life it surprised him to realise that, in fact, he had not lost ‘everything’ but rather just lost control over one aspect of his life. He slowly started to gain some perspective that there were still things in life worth living for. There were things that were still enjoyable such as his three young children, his loving wife, his supportive church group, and his newfound hobby of road cycling. He realised that what he was worrying about was potential loss of material things. They were things that he had worked hard for but, ultimately, were not the things that mattered most to him. This is often the case, and so, when writing your gratitude list, consider if you spend a lot of time worrying about things that really matter.
Health FACT . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Studies show that high levels of stress can cause brain cells to shrink and brain connections to deteriorate.
Holistic Medical Doctor