“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.” ― Abraham Lincoln
When it comes to getting what we want or simply living a more fulfilling life it starts with the way we think.
Our thinking influences our attitude, decision making, motivation, and overall experience of life.
Unfortunately part of the human condition is having doubts, worries, frustrations, and just plain “stinkin’ thinkin‘”.
This is necessarily a problem, but when the negative thoughts start to take over and we aren’t able to see the silver lining any longer, it can have serious consequences on our state of mind.
The first step to start overcoming negative thinking is to learn how to identify when we think negatively.
So, here are some automatic negative thoughts, commonly called cognitive distortions, to be aware of.
Always/never thinking: Thinking in words like always, never, everyone, every time, everything.
Focusing on the negative: Seeing only the bad in a situation.
Fortune-telling: Predicting the worst case scenario to a situation.
Thinking with your feelings: Believing negative feelings without ever questioning them.
Guilt beatings: Thinking in words like should, must, ought, or have to.
Labeling: Attaching a negative label to yourself of someone else.
Personalizing: Connecting innocuous events with personal meaning.
Blaming: Blaming someone else for your own problems.
Which of these automatic negative thoughts resonate with you? Which of these type of thinking patterns do you notice most often?
That leads us to the first step in overcoming negative thinking.
1. Identify the negative thought. Determine which type of thinking patterns are most common for you, and start to become more aware of when these thoughts occur. Having this self-awareness is the first step toward learning how to think more positively.
2. Write it down. Once you start noticing your thoughts, write them down so you can specifically know what you are thinking. Writing them down can also give you a chance to start to reframe some of your thinking more easily.
3. Challenge or reframe the negative thought. Often when we are using the cognitive distortions listed above we are thinking somewhat irrationally. This is actually good news because when we realize this we can start to shift our thinking. Here are a few questions to help you reframe your thinking.
Is there any evidence that this thought is accurate? What are the facts?
What are some alternative ways to think about the situation?
What thoughts would help me feel better about this?
What can I focus on to help me find a solution to this problem?