what are negative thoughts

Negative thoughts are thoughts that cause negative feelings.


Negative thoughts are thoughts that cause negative feelings.

An example of a negative thought is to say "I'm ugly," over and over again.

Other examples include:

"I'm fat."

"I'll never be happy."

They can be caused by worry, doubt, or fear about something.

These are the most common causes of negative thoughts.

  • Worry about a situation.

  • Doubt about your ability to deal with a situation.

  • Fear, whether it's real or imagined, regarding a situation or upcoming event.

They can also be caused by past experiences or trauma.

You may also have negative thoughts because of past experiences that have made you feel vulnerable. For example, a woman who has been raped in the past may be more likely to think about being raped again, or to react more strongly when someone makes a suggestive joke. Any past trauma can cause these types of negative thoughts.

The human brain is generally programmed to remember negative experiences more than positive ones. That way, you’re better equipped to recognize warning signs and avoid potential threats. These learned behaviors are subconscious and can lead to negative thinking because they’re rooted in painful experiences.

Sources of negative thoughts include comparing yourself to others, perfectionism, and catastrophizing.

Much of the negativity in our thoughts arises from comparison. We are constantly comparing ourselves to others, and making judgments about whether we meet up to what others may see as ideal. But it is a faulty foundation, because people don’t often have the full picture of who you are or what you do. You can't change how other people view you, but you can control your own perception.

Unchecked negative thinking can turn into depression or anxiety.

Negative thinking can lead to a negative feedback loop, in which you become more anxious or depressed, which makes it more difficult to deal with the initial stressful event. For example, say you're stressed out by your commute. If you're anxious or depressed, this stress is more likely to affect how badly your commute bothers you and how much it impacts your daily life. On the other hand, if your thoughts are less negative or even positive, it's easier for stressors like these to have less of an effect on day-to-day life.

The way we think has a big impact on the way we feel and behave—and that holds true for both anxiety and depression. Even though anxiety can be caused by external stressors (like problems at work), it's often what people tell themselves about those stressors that affects their emotional state. This can happen in two ways: Negative thoughts can be automatic reactions that pop up without conscious control (sometimes called "automatic negative thoughts," or ANTs) or they can be deliberate attempts to help solve a problem (what some call "functional" thinking).

If left unchecked, however, these negative thought patterns may turn into depression—or make the symptoms of depression worse. For example: If you find yourself thinking negatively about an unpleasant situation at work but aren't able to reach a solution right away, allowing yourself to dwell on these thoughts could make them spiral into something worse.

Some techniques for changing negative thought patterns include meditation, CBT exercises, and journaling.

  • Negative thinking is a normal part of the human experience, and these thoughts are often harmless. However, sometimes these thoughts can become excessive and may even be responsible for causing mental health disorders. In some cases, negative thought patterns can be changed with meditation and journaling exercises, though it's important to note that you should speak to a healthcare professional before trying any new treatments without their guidance.

  • Mindfulness meditation has been proven to decrease stress levels as well as help with mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. To do this exercise, find a quiet place to sit where you won't be disturbed for at least 5 minutes. Close your eyes and begin breathing slowly through your nose while focusing on each breath. This is called box breathing; inhale slowly for five seconds, hold your breath for five seconds, exhale slowly through pursed lips for five seconds, then hold again for five seconds. Repeat this process until your timer rings or you feel ready to stop meditating. When you're ready to end the session, open your eyes slowly and take in your surroundings before getting up from your seat. If at any point you feel light-headed or dizzy, stop immediately and find something to drink like water or juice until the feeling passes.

There's a lot you can do to identify and change your negative thought patterns.

But it’s a skill you can develop with practice!

  • Notice when you’re having negative thoughts:

  • Identify your patterns of negative thinking. Before we can try to change our thought patterns, it helps to learn more about them and how they work. It might be helpful to keep track of each time a negative thought comes up, along with what triggered the thought and how it made you feel.

  • Pay attention when you notice yourself focusing on the downsides of things or imagining things going wrong. This is easier said than done, since these kinds of thoughts are often automatic for us. But this is an important first step—you can’t replace your negative thoughts until you notice that they’re there in the first place!

  • Replace your negative thoughts with more positive ones:

  • Be kinder to yourself about mistakes. Negative self-talk (like “I should have known better; what was I thinking?”) is one common way we get trapped in unhelpful patterns of thought. It often happens when we mess up or feel like we could have done things better in some way—but being hard on ourselves isn’t actually constructive! Try replacing these kinds of thoughts by acknowledging that everyone messes up sometimes and giving yourself credit for doing your best (like saying “It makes sense that I didn’t know that would happen; no one could have predicted this! And I did my best under the circumstances!”). Remember: No one gets it right every time, so there's no reason to expect perfection from ourselves either!

  • Remind yourself about evidence for why things will go well or why a situation won't turn out badly: Sometimes just looking at the facts—instead of worrying about how badly something might go wrong—can be enough to stop a negative thought pattern from taking hold in the first place. For

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