How to Overcome Negative Thinking

By M.Farouk Radwan, MSc.

The Snowball Effect

Oh my God, It’s four Pm!!
I should arrive there within a maximum of 10 minutes
But what if I didn’t arrive on time!
I may miss a part of the exam, that’s really terrible I can’t afford to lose anymore marks
And if I didn’t do well in this exam my mood will get a blow
And if got a bad grade in one more subject I could fail this year!!
And if I didn’t graduate earlier I may not find a job!! After all there seems to be a recession on doors.

HEY HEY STOP! You are only late for 10 minutes and now you are thinking about failing and a recession. Don’t laugh at this story because we all do exactly the same thing without noticing. It all starts by a small seed, the unwanted event, then negative thinking turns the small seed to a big tree and sometimes a forest.

Why do you think your mood suddenly swings without an apparent reason? It’s because of the snowball effect. A tiny event may have happened but your self-talk kept expanding it until it became a catastrophe.

Although the above example may be a little exaggerated still if you just watched your self-talk you will discover that you can even create larger snow balls out of nothing.

What’s really funny is that, in most cases, the event that happened will have no bad impact on your life at all and even if it did it would be a minimal impact compared to your imagined huge snowball.

What Negative Thinking Can Do

Lots of people ask me whether negative thinking is the cause for lack of self confidence or not.

In fact, negative thinking is not the direct cause of lack of self confidence. Negative thinking however is the direct factor that interacts with your beliefs and eventually leads to loss of self confidence.

For example, if negative thinking was used to reinforce a false belief about your looks then most probably you will think that you are ugly after sometime.

In other words, negative thinking is the tool used by your mind to shape your beliefs, to swing your mood and to even depress you. Your emotions does not change except after a few phrases of self talk are played in your mind. So any unwanted emotional change that happens to you is caused by negative thinking or by your negative self talk.

How to Overcome Negative Thinking

Life is full of annoying events and if each event left you with a negative snow ball then you will stay down forever. If you want to avoid this problem then you should follow some of these practices in order to minimize your negative thinking:

  • Don’t create snow balls: Sometimes we can't hold ourselves from having negative thoughts. If that’s the case then don’t grow these negative thoughts bigger and just focus on dealing with the new situation
  • Accept the Change: When an unexpected event happens we usually go through some stages before we return back to our previous mental state. The last one of these stages is acceptance and the one just before it is bargaining. In the bargaining phase the person usually keeps thinking of the reasons that caused the bad event and of the bad consequences that will follow. Usually this is the stage where negative thinking is at its peak. If you want to move away faster from this stage then you must learn how to accept the new events. Acceptance may sound like an intuitive advice but it's not. If you want to be able to accept new and unexpected events then you should know about the psychology of acceptance. This article will explain to you everything about acceptance and it will tell you how to practice acceptance.
  • Be flexible: Flexibility is a very important skill because it can allow you to push away negative thoughts. Once you get stuck try to find another way out. If you learned how to become flexible and to try different methods whenever one method doesn't work then you will end up with much less negative thoughts
  • End helplessness: Helplessness or a self-defeating attitude are actually patterns of thinking that are learned. If you learned how to become helpless, as a result of never trying to help yourself out, then negative thinking will be your own option. After all, those who don't know what to do are the ones who whine the most
  • Have Faith: In the middle of the darkness there is usually no room for positive thinking. After all, why have a positive attitude when there is no possible way out? And here is where faith comes into play. Faith is the only thing that can help you withstand the worst unexpected life events while keeping you optimistic. I don’t like the idea of believing in God just because we need a God and that’s why I am not asking you to do so but i am only asking you to seek your answers. If you don’t believe in God then search for him in order to know whether you are on the right track or whether you should believe in him. I suggest this article as a starting point to searching for God.
  • Move: The more you stay without taking any actions the more will you be allowing the negative thoughts to increase. The best way to end negative thoughts right away is to take immediate actions as soon as a problem is encountered
  • Talk to positive people: Talking to positive people will help you see the opportunities instead of obstacles. If you can't find a positive person then look for a positive source be it a book, a video or anything else.

Can Positive thinking cure depression?

I know you expect a yes but the answer is no. Positive thinking can help you feel better and can prevent your bad moods from worsening however depression usually stems from unsolved problems that the person ignores or keeps behind his back.

In my book, The ultimate guide to getting over depression i explained how positive thinking cannot cure depression unless the person stops ignoring their problems. Depression is just a message that is sent to you by your mind asking you to take action. If you took the right actions the message will no longer be needed and your depression will disappear. Positive thinking might help in easing the bad feelings but its never a solution to depression.

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