Negative thinking. We’re all guilty of it in some way. For some people though, negative thoughts can lead to negative experiences. Someone who persistently overanalyzes situations may have difficulties building trust in relationships. Someone who jumps to conclusions may develop anxiety about an event before it actually happens.
One of the big goals of therapy is to identify these negative thinking patterns and teach you how to reverse them. This is a personalized process – no two people are exactly the same. In this guide, we will provide some general tips to help you change negative thinking habits so you can improve your experiences moving forward.
Identify Your Negative Thought Patterns
There are several categories of negative thinking habits, also known as distorted thinking. These include: magnification, minimization, overgeneralization, fortune telling, mind reading, blame, hypothetical statements, filtering, all-or-nothing, emotional reasoning, labeling, and ignoring the positives. Without delving too far into the technicalities of these thought patterns, all forms of distorted thinking involve assessing a situation in a negative way. You may assume you know what someone is thinking or predict a negative outcome for an event. Regardless of how these assumptions come about, they can lead you to feel leery or hopeless about the future.
To figure out what types of negative thinking you experience, write down a scenario in which you felt particularly anxious or depressed. Describe what you were thinking, why you were thinking it, and what the outcome was in the end. For example, let’s say an argument with your spouse escalated much faster than you expected to. What were the circumstances surrounding the escalation?
Now that you have a fresh perspective on the situation, you can assess where your thoughts may have gone astray. Perhaps you took blame for something that wasn’t your fault, or maybe you got stuck dwelling on a temporary problem. Assessing your behaviors and thought patterns will give you a starting point for change.
Assess Your Thoughts in the Moment
You can practice the technique above several times over until you get a feel for what your thought patterns are. The next step is to recognize your thoughts in the moment. When you start to feel your depression or anxiety spike, evaluate what’s going on in your mind. Are you having some of the same thoughts you did before? If so, acknowledge the patterns so you can work to change them.
Actively Strive to Change Your Thought Patterns
Change won’t happen overnight, but the steps above will point you in the right direction. You know your habits. Now it’s time to correct them. Instead of focusing on all the negatives in a situation, look for some positives. Rather than assuming what will happen next, embrace the moment and remain hopeful about the future. This will feel difficult or unnatural at first, but it will lead to improvements over time.
Change Is Best Achieved with a Therapist
The guide above may help you re-evaluate elements of your life, but it is not personalized to you specifically. Therapy is. Working with a therapist will help you learn custom strategies that work for your lifestyle, your experiences, your anxiety, your stress, your depression, etc. This is the ideal path to making positive changes.
To get matched with a licensed therapist in Michigan, contact one of our eight locations. We have therapists who specialize in depression treatment, anxiety counseling, stress management, anger management, and much more.