Negative thinking can show up anywhere. These thoughts often may contribute to decreased motivation and self-esteem, or increased anxiety and depression. It is the norm to have negative thoughts, but when it is almost engrained or chronic with the way we think, it can start a pattern of thinking negatively with how you view yourself, others and the world in general. The good thing is, this cycle can be broken!
Examine Your Thoughts
To start off, it is important to identify your negative thought patterns, or in other words, cognitive distortions. These are the different types of patterns that are automatic thoughts in response to events and are typically negative. Consider these cognitive distortions and see if you resonate with any of them. There are 10 common patterns which include:
- All or Nothing Thinking: You view an event as black and white, either having it all or nothing at all.
- Overgeneralization: You see one negative event as a continuous pattern, commonly using “always” or “never.”
- Mental Filter: You focus solely on a single negative detail that it becomes reality despite the positives.
- Discounting the Positives: You insist your positive experiences may not count, saying you “did not do good enough” or “anyone could do just as well.”
- Jumping to Conclusions: You expect things to turn out negatively without facts to support this, either believing someone will react negatively to you, or an event will end up bad.
- Magnification or Minimization: You either build up the importance of your problems or shortcomings, or minimize the importance of your positive qualities.
- Emotional Reasoning: You assume your negative emotions reflect reality, so if you feel hopeless, you may believe you or your situation is hopeless.
- “Should” Statements: You tell yourself that things “should,” “have to,” or “must” be a particular way that you may have hoped or expected it to be.
- Labeling: You identify your shortcomings as who you are, so if you make a mistake, you may label yourself as a “failure” or “dumb.”
- Personalization and Blame: You blame yourself for something that you may not be completely responsible for, or blame others without looking at your behavior that may have contributed to the problem.
Avoid Making Assumptions
Negative thinking can stem from assumptions, which are not always based on reality. Pretend there is a moment where your partner says or does something you do not respond well to. This response can be feeling hurt, powerless or numb. It’s possible to project these emotions onto your partner by believing they had the intention to hurt you. Assumptions are ways that we prepare to navigate our responses without thinking too much about it, however, they can be harmful, so it is best to not assume or jump to conclusions. If you notice you are making assumptions, communicate with your partner by asking for clarification or step away to assess where your assumptions come from. Don’t assume you know how your partner feels.
Make a List of Negative Thoughts and Think of Positive Reframes
Another way to prevent negative thought patterns is to do some self-reflection. Identifying your cognitive distortions will help you understand and challenge your negative thinking. Write down your negative thoughts and see which of the cognitive distortions you noticed. Observe these thoughts, then write down evidence that either supports or contradicts it. After this, think of a way to reframe your original thought so that it’s not so harsh or negative. Your reframed thought should be simple, realistic and adaptive. For example, if your partner doesn’t text you back immediately, instead of thinking they don’t care about you, your reframe could be, “They are busy/They are working right now/They will respond to me when they get a chance/They are possibly taking a nap.” Thinking about multiple reframes can help you lessen your negative thoughts and effectively challenge them.
If you would like to learn more about ways to combat negative thinking patterns in your relationships or in general, do not hesitate to give us a call. We will work with you to find a therapist that meets your needs and supports you in creating healthy thinking habits.
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