We all know them. Negative thought patterns are what keeps us from living a happy, fulfilled, stress-free life. Our thoughts have a huge impact on our emotions and affect the way we behave. Once we observe and identify our negative thinking patterns, we can learn to replace them with more optimistic and empowering thinking habits. Here is how to go about it:
- Identify your “default” negative thoughts
Thoughts become feelings and feelings manifest in behaviours. Understanding that thinking, feeling and acting are interlinked gives us access to influencing the way we think so as to shift the way we feel and act, too. Meditation is effective in reducing negative thought patterns since it helps us identify our negative thoughts. An increased awareness of our thinking habits, can then help us change our thoughts into more empowering alternatives.
Maybe some of these negative thoughts sound familiar: “I can’t get anything right” or “It won’t work.” Sometimes, the negative thoughts patterns, who become visible through speech and action, are so deeply ingrained, that we don’t even realise them anymore. So, people who are close to us can help us identify our patterns.
Image source: Peace Revolution
- Understand what triggers and feeds your negative thought patterns
The negative thought patterns formed somewhere in the past when a situation did not happen as we wished it had. So, we developed a certain thought about that particular behaviour, such as “I got sacked from work. I am worthless.” or “I’m always late at school. I am lazy.”
It is important to notice the situations when these negative thoughts occur. This is very helpful in realising what your thinking pattern is. At the beginning, focus on identifying when you have negative thoughts. Where were you? What was the situation? Who was present?
- What are our patterns?
Before transforming our mind, it is essential to first identify the specific thoughts patterns we have. Automatic negative thoughts translate into core beliefs about ourselves, the others, the world at large. The negative core beliefs distort the reality and are often extreme. They sound something like “Everyone is out for themselves” or “No one really likes me.”
Note down which mind patterns you tend to have. Once you have a list, try to make broader categories for the elements on the list. Some recurring negative thought pattern categories are critical self-talk – making ourselves wrong, over-generalizing – drawing a conclusion about life pattern based on one example, making assumptions – thinking you know how things work and what others are thinking, extreme thinking – things are either good or bad, black or white and there are no nuances in between, no middle ground.
- How do negative thought patterns impact our lives?
Not all thinking patterns are negative. Some are positive and very helpful. We are focusing here on the negative ones, because they are obstructing true connection with ourselves and with others. Looking back at the list we made, let’s identify why each thought is negative, what are the consequences of that particular thinking pattern in your own life.
For example, a negative thought “I’m not good enough” may cause us to run from professional opportunities and have low self-esteem. It’s also interesting to look at what happened in the past. See what were the negative outcomes of this reiterating thought in your past. Go through your list and write down the consequences of each thought pattern.
- Make your thinking pattern breakthrough
Take one negative pattern to work on each week. Carry with you a little notebook. Identify your “negative thought of the week” and write also the other ideas that support that thought, and those that don’t. For example, if you’re working on the negative thought “I’m not good enough,” ideas that deconstruct this thought would be: I am worthy, I am good enough for myself, I am doing my best. Try to instil these new thoughts into your mind and also into your vocabulary.
What has your experience been with thinking patterns? We’d love to hear you stories.