As humans, we are hard wired to pay more attention to what’s not working or dangerous than what is going well. For instance, dwelling on a parent’s growing weakness and instability rather than on his or her uncomplaining attitude.
This tendency to notice the negative can help us learn from mistakes and avoid preventable problems. But it’s also easy to get stuck spinning your wheels in negativity and become mired in depression and anxiety.
What are negative thoughts? There are several types of thinking that are more destructive than helpful.
- All-or-nothing thinking. It’s all good or all bad. “If I don’t get Dad to do all his exercises, the doctor will think I don’t even try.”
- Catastrophizing. “I just know she’s going to break her hip.”
- Trash-talking yourself. “I can never make Mom comfortable like my sister can.”
How can you turn your negative thoughts around?
- Don’t try to stop them. It’s odd, but trying to suppress them actually gives them more power.
- Recognize and accept you are in a funk. Take a step outside yourself and notice that you are being negative: “Oh, I’m in my negative thinking mode again.”
- Ask yourself if your thoughts are helping. Are you actually moving toward an action plan to change something?
- Challenge the thoughts. Put them to the “truth test.” Are you truly incompetent? Have you never done something well? Strive for a balanced view of the situation.
- Schedule time to recharge your own batteries. Have lunch with a friend, take a walk around town, explore something that interests you locally.
- What would you tell a friend? We are often kinder to others than we are to ourselves. Any reason you don’t deserve the advice you’d give a friend?
If your negativity is taking over, talk to a counselor. Such practical support helps us learn to loosen the grip of negative thinking.