Why Am I So Negative?

Everyone has negative thoughts sometimes. This is completely natural, and another way that anxiety ensures we stay safe.

As I often tell my clients, from an evolutionary perspective, it was far more important to remember where the tiger was last seen than it was to remember how lovely it was skipping through a meadow of flowers.

Historically, continual exposure to immediate threats to our lives (such as hungry tigers)  led humans to evolve with a heightened sensitivity towards negative situations. Understanding this evolutionary background helps to explain why we are predisposed to focus on negative events even today.

The average person has between 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Of those, 80% are negative and 95% are the exact same thoughts as the previous day, according to the National Science Foundation.

Negativity Bias

This innate human behaviour even has a name! It is called the negativity bias and we are designed this way for our own safety.

However, our world has changed dramatically since we were all living in caves, and our brains have not been able to evolve as quickly …..

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Negativity bias can become an unhelpful way of thinking that can cast a black cloud over all our perceptions and thoughts.

When every aspect of life seems cloaked by negativity, and we constantly ruminate over the potential for everything in our lives that could go wrong, it becomes essential to use strategies that create a more positive outlook.

Where Negativity Bias Shows Up

why am I so negative

The most powerful example of negativity bias is seen in the news and politics, as it is deemed that positivity does not sell.

The majority of news stories focus on the doom and gloom going on it the world, even though we all know we are mostly a bunch of amazing humans doing amazingly positive things every day.

Negative events usually have a more profound impact on our mental wellbeing than positive events, even when they are equal in their relevance or importance

We will all have had the experience when someone has paid us a compliment and we immediately dismiss it as no big deal…… however, if we believe someone has criticized us, we can ruminate on it for days, weeks, months and even years!

What is the Impact of Negativity Bias?

When we start to see the negative in every situation, it can lead to increased anxiety and mental health challenges, and leave us feeling overwhelmed, fearful and hopeless.

Identifying the signs of our negative thinking is the first step towards breaking free from this pattern.

Several other techniques can also help us look at life through a more positive lens.

Strategies for Overcoming Negativity Bias

Identify Negative Thinking Patterns

Recognising and challenging cognitive distortions (patterns of irrational thinking) is critical when identifying our negative anxious thoughts. From all-or-nothing thinking to mind reading, fortune telling and catastrophizing, understanding these distortions provides the basis for change.

Action: Become aware of cognitive distortions, and how frequently you use them.

Challenge irrational beliefs by looking for evidence that dismisses them, and shift towards more realistic thinking.

You can read all about cognitive distortions here, and download the worksheet that will help you identify them.

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Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness is the intentional awareness and acceptance of our present moment.

When we are mindful and “in the moment”, this is a powerful antidote to the relentless cycle of negative thoughts, and research supports the effectiveness of mindfulness in reducing symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Engage all your senses using mindful techniques such as the 5-4-3-2-1 rule, where you focus on 5 things you can see, 4 things you can hear, 3 things you can feel, 2 things you can smell and 1 thing you can taste.

Alternatively, focus on 3 things you can see, 3 things you can hear, and 3 actions that you can do in the moment.

You can read about the power of mindfulness here, and strategies that you can use immediately.

Action: Incorporate mindfulness into daily life, using the 3-3-3 rule or the 5-4-3-2-1 rule.

Pause your thoughts, engage your senses, and consider establishing a regular meditation habit.

why am I so negative

Master Your Emotions

Mastering your emotions enables you to transform your relationship with anxiety and negative thoughts, and allows you to take back control of your mind, body and behaviour.

It is incredibly powerful knowing we can choose how we feel, every moment of every day, no matter what is going on around us.

Our thoughts, feelings and emotions are all within our own control. We have a choice. The thoughts, feelings and emotions we choose are a direct result of the meaning we give to what we focus on, the language we use and our physiology.

Action: Master your emotions using the Emotion Triad, and pay attention to what you focus on. You can download the worksheet here.

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Journalling and Gratitude

Journaling can help us to reduce thoughts and feelings of fear, nervousness and overwhelm.

Journaling provides an opportunity for self reflection and discovery, and provides a safe space to question our anxious thoughts.

You can read about journaling and the power of journaling questions here.

Action: Write out your thoughts so you can become more aware of them. End each journalling session by focusing on 3 positive things that have happened that day.

why am I so negative

Humour and Laughter

Humour, particularly the ability to laugh at ourselves in a non critical way in the midst of life's challenges, serves as a powerful coping mechanism and research validates the positive impact of self-enhancing humour.

Action: Actively look for moments of humour in challenging situations.

Embracing a more positive outlook will reduce the impact negative thinking patterns have over us.

Pattern Interrupt Your Thoughts

When you find yourself thinking negative thoughts, imagine that thought floating away on a cloud instead of lingering above you.

This simple yet effective technique helps to prevent the escalation of unwanted thoughts as you visualise them drifting on by.

By consciously interrupting our negative thought cycles, we can regain control again.

Action: Practice interrupting and reframing your anxious thoughts by saying "stop" and imagine them floating away.

Positive Affirmations

Flipping challenging beliefs or thoughts into more positive and empowering beliefs and thoughts can also be an effective strategy. These positive affirmations contribute to enhanced self-confidence, increased resiliency and can create a renewed positive attitude.

Action: Regularly repeat positive affirmations that state the opposite to the dominant negative thoughts you are currently having. If you currently believe you are not good enough, repeat phrases such as "I am good enough" or "I am capable."

Reinforce these affirmations by reflecting on where you have felt these more positive statements in the past and recall how you felt in that empowering moment instead.

You can practice these inspiring statements by repeating them to yourself every day and writing them where you’ll see them often, such as your bathroom mirror or your phone background.

why am I so negative

Practice Acceptance

Accept your anxious thoughts without judgment or criticism. Often, we tend to push negative thoughts away and bury them, as they can be too overwhelming for us to cope with them. However, this will ensure the thought keeps popping back up.

Instead, acknowledge the thought and then you get to decide if it is helpful of not in the present moment.

If you decide it is an unhelpful thought, you can tell it exactly where to go!

Action: Acknowledge your thought, just as it is, without judgement. Ask yourself, “Is this thought serving me right now?”.

If it is not, how would you want to think about the situation instead?

Create Worry Time

If you find yourself constantly focusing on negative thoughts, you may find it more helpful to put aside 30 minutes each day as “worry time”. You can even create a “worry box” for your thoughts. Read more about that here.

This way, you are still acknowledging your thoughts but the same thought is not reappearing all day long.

Action: Set time aside each day where you can think about your worries. This enables you to focus on more positive aspects of life for the remainder of your day.

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If You Need Further Support

Overcoming persistent negativity and anxiety is a journey that involves a combination of techniques and strategies.

While you can implement these tools independently, seeking the support of a mental health professional provides an additional level of guidance and assistance, and enables you to get to the root cause of your anxiety and negative thoughts.

Taking care of your mental health is an essential part of your overall well-being. Left unresolved, anxiety can spiral out of control and have a significant impact on relationships, work, school and family life.

It is my belief that no one needs to struggle with anxiety, we just need the strategies and techniques to overcome it.

So if you want to take the next steps to have a happier life where your fears no longer hold you back, click the link below and book a free no obligation consultation call.

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Additional Resources

Read What Causes Anxiety? 

Read What Are The Different Types of Anxiety?

Watch How to Feel Less Anxious

Watch How To Reduce Anxiety Immediately

Download Circle of Control and Influence worksheet

Download Cognitive Distortions worksheet