We’ve all experienced our fair share of confidence highs and lows due to negative thinking. Some days may just seem easier than others. However, although it’s perfectly to experience changes in how we feel, some of us may find ourselves settling into a pattern of negative thinking more than others. This can not only be unhealthy, but can heavily contribute to our overall unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life. In fact, those who continually adopt a negative worldview will often find themselves not only unhappier, but chronically so. While there are a number of factors that can contribute to a negative mindset, including legitimate medical conditions like depression, some of us have merely taken to adopting a self-defeating and deprecating mindset. In other words, we allow ourselves to become our own worst enemies, rather than best friends.
How Negativite Thinking Can Impact Your Life
Negative attitudes can make the difference between someone who is confident versus someone who is self-loathing; someone who is optimistic versus someone who is pessimistic; or someone who sees themselves as in control versus someone who continually believes themselves to be a victim of the world around them. To reverse these attitudes, it’s important to address and reverse the negative thought processes that both form and feed them. Here, we will address 5 common negative thought processes of chronically unhappy people and, in doing so, we’ll examine how we can change these thought processes to improve not only our own happiness and well-being, but our overall quality of life.
1. Negative Assumptions
This is one of the most prevailing forms of negative thinking. This is when we automatically assume a situation to be negative, even if that may not actually be the case. Unfortunately, for many people this pessimism may be habitual and automatic. However, many situations are not inherently positive or negative, but rather are neutral, and it is our perspectives that shape them. The way we choose to relate to our experiences can make them either positive or negative.
Take a rainy day for example, some of us might brush this off as an inconvenience, while others may see rain as beautiful and peaceful. Others, however, might view rain as something that negatively impacts their entire day. Regardless if they made plans or not, those who adopt a negative outlook may think of rain as ruining any chances they might have had to have fun that day. Perhaps they even think that they are personally victimized by the bad weather, seeing it as a sign of their own bad luck in life.
However, in most cases, this mindset is a choice, one which can instantly make us feel stronger or weaker; happier or sadder. In the case of a rainy day, it might be better to look at it as an opportunity to spend some quality time with ourselves or others indoors and get cozy, rather than being a terrible obstacle to our own happiness. It all depends on how we relate to the moment and what perspective we choose to adopt.
2. Self-Defeating Talk
Self-defeating talk refers to the messages that we use to reduce ourselves and our self-confidence. Such talk can lower our performance and our overall potential, because we don’t believe that we have the ability to succeed or do well. Common forms of self-defeating talk include the phrases “I can’t…” or “I’m not good enough…” or “I’m going to fail…” It’s unfair to make judgments on oneself without giving ourselves the opportunity to try in the first place. To put this in better perspective, consider if these words came from a “friend”. Would you consider someone who continually told you you can’t do things, or that you’re not good enough a friend? Probably not. So why accept these phrases from yourself? After all, we owe it to ourselves to be our own best friends, so just as we wouldn’t accept such negative feedback from outsiders, neither should we accept it from ourselves.
3. Getting Stuck in the Past
It’s important to learn from our past so that we don’t make the same mistakes in the present or future. However, there is a big difference between learning from the past and getting stuck in it. Those of us with a chronically negative mindset will often find ourselves wallowing on past personal setbacks and negative circumstances. Doing so prevents us from moving forward or growing as individuals. We can’t change what’s already happened, but we can control our present and decide our future. To do so, we have to remind ourselves that it is us who is incharge, not our history. Quoting the Wall Street Journal, professor Preston Ni reminds us that “Abraham Lincoln lost eight elections, failed twice in business and suffered a nervous breakdown before he became the president of the United States.” This in mind, focus not on the choices you’ve made in the past, but the choices you can make now. Moving on is an important first step to moving forward.
4. Comparing Ourselves with Others
Many of us are guilty of falling in with this negative mindset, but it can be highly toxic. As easy as it may be, we shouldn’t compare ourselves with others, especially if we’re depicting ourselves unfavorably in the comparison. While it may be tempting to look at others who appear to be more accomplished or successful than ourselves, we have to remember that success is relative. We each have our own successes and achievements that we can and should be proud of, even if they’re not identical to those of others. Negative social comparisons can lead to increased rates of anxiety, depression, stress, and making self-defeating choices. So rather than expending energy in acknowledging what we don’t have, to become happier and more satisfied with our lives we should appreciate what we do have and focus our energy in pursuing goals we have not yet achieved in a healthy and positive manner free from the negative clutches of envy.
5. Fear of Failure and Making Mistakes
Whether we like to acknowledge this or not, making mistakes is a necessary part of the learning process. Moreover, it’s a necessary and fundamental part of being human. While constant, repetitive mistakes can be attributed to not learning from our choices and actions, most often, mistakes are a sign of adapting to unfamiliar challenges and situations. We all need to stumble and fall before we learn to walk or run. The important thing, however, is to remember to get up afterwards. Oftentimes, the fear of failure or making mistakes is due to a tremendous amount of pressure one places on oneself to succeed. While setting high standards can be a good motivational tool, expecting perfection from all situations and outcomes not only takes the joy out of life, but can also lead to high amounts of stress and anxiety when we realize that our expectations aren’t exactly realistic. To be happy is to learn how to brace one’s humanity, flaws and all. Rather than thinking of mistakes as failure, they should be seen as a necessary stepping stone on the way to greater success.