Negative Thought Pattern

If you have a bad thought about yourself, tell it to go to hell because that is exactly where it came from – Brigham Young

Negative Thinking

Negative thinking is a form of thinking that leads to various negative consequences. It is based on false beliefs or on a few selective facts, and it disregards important facts that would lead to better consequences. Negative thinking is rigid, absolute, and not supported by most of the facts. It is hard to recognize negative thinking. You may only recognize that your life is not working.

You cannot possibly always control what you think, but you can learn to identify when you’re sinking into a negative pattern, and then reboot and redirect your thinking towards a more constructive or hopeful path. 

If you keep redirecting your negative thinking over months and years, you may even change the patterns of neural connections in your brain so that you react to life’s events in more grounded ways and with lesser panic and judgment.

These are the four common patterns of negative thinking

  1. All-or-Nothing form of Thinking: Thinking in terms of black or white or in terms of extremes only.
  2. Focusing on only the Negatives: Inaccurately concluding that one unpleasant experience will lead to a negative future with many more hostile experiences.
  3. Cynical Hostility: Believing that how you want to feel accurately represents the truth of your reality.
  4. Negative Rumination: Perpetually focusing on negative outcomes, leading to feelings of being stuck, anxious, and even depressed.
  5. Over thinking: Trying to think of and plan for every possible scenario, attempting to control all of that which is out of your control, in an effort to avoid pain or failure.
  6. Magnification of occurrences: Exaggerating negative details of an event and overemphasizing your own imperfections and fears, converting things into a much bigger deal than they actually are.
  7. Should Statements: Using “should” statements to motivate/ monitor your behaviour when they ultimately leave you feeling pressured and frustrated.


The lens through which you view the world is predominately determined by your thoughts, whether you like it or not. For this reason, it is important to examine the nature of your thoughts. Are they generally more positive than negative? Do they form groundwork for an optimistic attitude or a pessimistic attitude?

Both your biology and your environment help answer these questions. The nature versus nurture dichotomy has been debated upon for centuries but many believe the two to be entangled. In other words, you are bound to be influenced by your genetic makeup as well as your environment surroundings.

The problem is not that we keep having negative thoughts. The problem comes when we believe our thoughts are true. When you are no longer woven in thoughts they tend to lose their grip on you and then lose their power to generate unpleasant emotions such as anxious thoughts, worry, criticism, self-beating, regret and guilt. Negative thinking turns into automatic thinking through repetition of this pattern of harbouring and nurturing the negative thoughts. 

“Let us not look back in anger or forward in fear, but around in awareness.” ~ James Thurber

How do you get yourself out of these negative thinking patterns and replace them with more useful thoughts? Here are some vital tips:

1. Practice Mindfulness

In order to acquire more positive thinking patterns, you must become fully aware of your current ways of thinking. By cultivating mindfulness, you can identify the thinking patterns that have become so habitual, and then decide whether or not to engage with them. Incorporate mindfulness into your morning or evening routine, sitting quietly for a few minutes (and gradually moving longer with your practice). When a thought arises, instead of attaching yourself to it, simply redirect focus to your breath.

2. Challenge Your Inner Critic

Your inner critic loves convincing you of things that are just not true, often making you feel awful about yourself. Think of this particular voice as someone separate from you. Challenge the lies it tries to feed onto you. Thank that inner voice for its input but then simply say: No, thanks, not now or delete. 3. Know Your Trigger Points

Certain people and circumstances may set you into motion of an endless stream of negative thoughts so it is important to be aware of them. Perhaps encounters with your boss or making important life decisions causes you to become highly critical of yourself or to even question your self-worth. When you are well aware of your triggers, you can prepare yourself and feel more in control of your thoughts patterns versus falling back into old negative thinking patterns over and over again.

4. Write it down

Putting your feelings down onto paper is a great way to not only unburden your thoughts but to also learn more about the nature of them. Often you are not aware of how negative your thoughts are. By writing them down, you can identify the areas that require your attention. Journaling preferably in the morning is the ideal time to transfer your stream of consciousness onto paper.

5. Positive Affirmation

Reciting a mantra or positive affirmation is a great way to pull you out from the stream of negative thoughts and get you into the present moment. It can be recited when you feel negativity creeping in or multiple times throughout the day in order to get into the habit of not focusing on negative thoughts. You can choose any word or phrase that will help bring you back into the present and remind you to focus more on the positive always.

6. Change Your Surroundings

Sometimes your thoughts can seem so loud that the best thing to do is to change your physical surroundings for sure. Take a walk in the nature, go for a run/ jog, or even meet up with a friend. The point is to engage in something other than the negative cycle so that you can come back to the problem later when you are in a clearer headspace.

“People look for retreats for themselves, in the country, by the coast, or in the hills . . . There is nowhere that a person can find a more peaceful and trouble-free retreat than in his own mind. . . . So constantly give yourself this retreat, and renew yourself.”- Marcus Aurelius

Consequences of Negative Thinking

The consequences of negative thinking are progressive. One negative thought piled on top of another starts to take a toll on how you view yourself and of course your future.

Here is the chain of thoughts as an example:

If you think that any mistake is a failure, this all-or-nothing thinking can lead you to anxiety. You will worry that any mistake may expose you to criticism or judgment. Therefore, you do not give yourself permission to relax and let down your guard.

If you think that you are broken, unfixable, or even unlikeable, this negative self-labelling can lead to depression. You are trapped by your own unrealistic view of yourself. Feeling trapped is one of the common causes of depression.

Negative thinking that can lead to anxiety or depression can also lead to addiction, because anxiety and depression feel so unbearable that you may turn to drugs or alcohol or smoking to escape.

Negative thinking not only leads to unhappiness, it is also a major obstacle towards self-change.  Negative thinking patterns, particularly when they have become habitual, can be very hard to break. Patterns that have been in place for years will not be unfastened overnight so it is essential to be compassionate and patient with yourself as you will need to work through them.

“The greatest discovery of my generation is that human beings can change the quality of their lives by changing the attitudes of their minds.” – William James

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Author
Trishna Patnaik
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