Negative Thinking is Not Your Friend: Why and How to Avoid It
Positivity and ‘positive mental attitude’ are trendy these days. Positivity is positivity, so it can’t be a bad thing, right?
by Oxford Biolabs

Positivity and ‘positive mental attitude’ are trendy these days. Positivity is positivity, so it can’t be a bad thing, right? Well, generally speaking, it isn’t – but it does need to be genuine, otherwise the feelings that make life comfortable aren’t present. Genuine positivity comes from awareness, and goes hand-in-hand with optimism and gratitude... but when you’re feeling down and out, those things can be challenging to conjure. That’s when negative thinking can take over, but without awareness of your own thoughts, you may not even notice it happening.

Realistically, none of us can avoid life’s challenges, and sometimes things really do feel negative. During such times, smiling and telling yourself your problems don’t matter isn’t helpful. There may be real issues to resolve, and it may be hard to think objectively. Still, it is even less helpful to allow negative thoughts to spiral out of control, taking your emotional state into even darker places. This is how we become stuck, and before we know it, we may become a victim of our own habitual negative thinking.

In this article, we’ll take a look at what happens when you think negatively, and some ways to reframe negative thoughts so that you can develop a positive mindset instead:

What happens when you think negatively?

When negative thinking takes over, you are living in a state of fear and worry. You won’t make smart decisions, and when you allow the negative thoughts to keep spiralling, you can reach a point of overwhelm. Overwhelm is debilitating. This is why it is very important to find ways to think positively; after all, most of the time, the things you worry about never fully come into fruition - if at all!

The base emotions are love and fear; all other emotions are offshoots of those. So if you’re feeling anxious, stressed or angry – you’re coming from fear. When you project that fear into the future, it can seem like a very dark place. Often, the way we behave is affected by negative anticipation, making us more likely to create a negative outcome for ourselves.

3 ways to stop your negative thinking 

  1. Remember that negative thinking is a waste of your energy

Worry: where did it ever get you? Join the dots on your personal timeline. On how many occasions have you worried yourself sick about something that never actually materialised? Most of these events probably weren’t half as negative as you anticipated, with hindsight… and even when they were? Well, you’re still alive. So one way or another, you handled them!

The mind is adept at conjuring all kinds of disturbing scenarios. Yet by committing to pulling your mind out of unpalatable predictive tales, you return to the safety of the present moment; the moment in which (if you consider it carefully) nothing is actually wrong… and it may never turn out to be either. Instead, if we shift the focus onto the potential of something good happening, our mood lifts.

Similarly, we know that we may not be able to control all outcomes in life, and that’s OK – we change what we can, and accept what we can’t. To paraphrase a quote from the late Dr. Wayne Dyer: If you can’t change something, then there’s no point in worrying about it – it’s out of your control. If you can change something, then there’s no point in worrying about it. You can change it!

  1. Think positively about your personal power

Imagine that you got the promotion of your dreams. The chances are you would feel very positive about it, at least at first. However, you might eventually find reasons for thinking negatively about it. Perhaps you’ll wonder whether it will be boring, or difficult? Will you like your colleagues? The reality is that there is no way to be sure, and even when there is, things can change for the better or the worst. People change and circumstances change. In fact, the only constant in life is change.

If a year from now, that job gets dull, does it matter? Not in the slightest. You can still find reasons to think positively about the situation, because your life circumstances are under your control. As mentioned above, if you don’t like something, you can change it. This is within your personal power, no matter the perceived obstacles of the time. That’s definitely something to stay positive about.

  1. Get comfortable with discomfort  

Duality is one of life’s inevitabilities. Logic supports the idea that without the experience of ‘bad’, ‘good’ would have no meaning. Bad provides context for good, and vice versa - just as night provides context for day. When something happens that we perceive as ‘bad’, it’s a personal, subjective judgement. Yes, as Shakespeare famously said, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.”

You may also have heard of the saying, “There is no growth without pain”. Sometimes life may squeeze us a little, but it leads to the positive motivation to change something. When you’re feeling that squeeze, ask yourself what positivity could come from it? Maybe you’ll kick an unhealthy habit, exit an unhappy situation, or come to a freeing realization.

Realistically, pain can lead to positivity. See any failures as an opportunity to try something new, or refine an old idea, and you’ll see that what seemed ‘bad’ could actually turn out to be ‘good’.

Think about this: there is never really a final outcome, so how can anything ever truly be bad? One chain of events leads to another, always. New pathways will continue to open up for you. This really highlights the importance of positive thinking. 

The bottom line is that realistically, sometimes life sucks… but only temporarily, and the great thing about life is that it’s always full of second chances. Blank slates are exciting! Knowing that you’ll always land on your feet at some point is a good reason to stay positive, so perhaps it is time to stop negative thinking for good.