Negative thoughts are a normal part of life; however, if you frequently engage in negative thinking patterns, problems can arise. Negative thinking patterns, which are also known as cognitive distortions, can have a negative impact on mental health and bring you down to depths where you feel like giving up.
Even though it’s challenging to always remain positive, it’s imperative to actively work on viewing life through a more positive lens. Below we outline common thinking patterns and highlight ways to combat negative self-talk.
6 Common Thinking Patterns
Cognitive distortions tell our brains that something is true when it’s not, thus leading us to form inaccurate conclusions. Negative thinking patterns can lead to negative emotions, anxiety, and depression. Since the way you communicate with yourself can have such a significant impact on your mental health, it’s important to be aware of common thinking patterns so we can recognize when they occur.
Below are six common cognitive distortions:
- Personalization: You take everything personally and constantly compare yourself to others. E.g., My friend didn’t text me back because they are mad at me.
- Blaming: You blame yourself and feel responsible for everything, even outcomes that you have no control over. E.g., My daughter had a bad day at school today because I’m a bad parent.
- Always Being Right: You believe you are always right and are argumentative with people who disagree with your assertions. E.g., I will win this argument no matter what.
- Emotional Reasoning: You conclude that something is true based solely on the way you feel. E.g., I feel like a failure, so I must be a failure.
- Overgeneralization: You apply the result of a single negative experience to all other related experiences. E.g., My partner left me in the past, so my current partner will eventually leave me.
- Polarized Thinking: You see a situation as either bad or good, with no middle ground. E.g., The job offer is bad because it’s not exactly what I wanted.
How to Retrain Your Brain
There are many ways you can combat negative thinking patterns and retrain your brain to think more positively. Working to become more aware of your thoughts as well as learning how to turn negatives into positives, and prioritizing self-care can help you improve mental health.
1. Become Aware of Your Thoughts
After an event is interpreted, judged, and labeled, an emotional response is created. During this process, we often have automatic thoughts that we accept as fact. However, it’s crucial to recognize that thoughts are not factual statements, but simply electrochemical impulses in the brain meant to help us understand the world around us. Unfortunately, sometimes these automatic thoughts are the opposite of helpful.
2. Turn Negatives Into Positives
Optimistic thinking can lead to improved physical and mental health, so it’s important to challenge your inner critic. A more positive outlook can help you cope better with stressful situations and reduce the mental and physical toll of stress on the body.
3. Develop a Self-Care Routine
Practicing self-care, particularly as part of your morning routine, can improve mental health. Try starting off your day doing something you enjoy that helps you connect your mind and body. Running, meditation, journaling, mindfulness, and yoga are all great ways to help you clear out mental clutter and get in touch with yourself.