In the majority of cases, people who have a habit of negative thinking don’t realize they do until someone close to them, such as colleague, close friend or significant other, draws it to their attention. It is unlike any other type of addiction because it can be difficult to self-assess and determine that a problem exists. But just like alcoholism, the longer a person spends thinking negatively, the more negative their outlook becomes.
The obvious way to break this nasty habit would be to simply choose to think more positively. However, if it were possible for people to simply will themselves into changing their behaviors, there most likely wouldn’t be any negative thinkers in existence in the first place. Determination can only take a person as far as their understanding will allow them to go; in other words, without knowing where the negativity stems from, it is impossible to change the pattern.
Why change your behaviors?
While it might seem that, if you’re a negative thinker, the only one who’s being influenced is you, the reality is that you also affect those you come into contact with on a daily basis. You’ve most likely known someone over the course of your lifetime that you’ve felt was annoying or rude. If you’re a negative thinker, you can be certain that others around you probably view you in an unfavorable way. No one likes to be around someone who’s constantly pointing out the bad about a situation. A cynical person can adversely influence the entire atmosphere of a room simply by walking into it. If left unchecked, these patterns can become a serious damper on your professional and personal relationships.
You can change, as long as you’re willing to
If you’d like to overcome the habit of negative thinking, the first step you should take is to own up to the fact that you have a problem. Unless you are honest with yourself, it will be impossible to move forward with the healing process. If you’re willing to put in some hard work, you can learn how to think more positively. Here are three simple steps to help you get started.
a) Try to identify where your thought patterns originate from.
Think back to as far as you can remember, and try to identify when your habit of negative thinking began. Was it during your childhood? If so, was there a specific event that instigated those feelings inside of you? Have you always been more pessimistic than those around you?
Everyone has different personality traits, and it is possible that someone can naturally gravitate toward mild pessimism. However, there is a world of difference between being naturally skeptical and unhealthily negative. There’s nothing wrong with feeling uneasy about the future and deciding to store some emergency supplies in preparation for it. If you can’t even think about a single good thing involving the future, though, you most likely have an extreme negative outlook that needs to be addressed.
b) Think about what you’re thinking about.
Thoughts can flash at the speed of light, and unless you’re paying attention to them, it can be easy to replay negative feelings repeatedly and unconsciously. If the first thought you have whenever you wake up is how stressful your day is going to be, that’s most likely what you can expect to experience.
Start by taking five minutes to reflect three times a day, and pay attention to your thoughts. Write them down and examine them. Are they negative or positive? Do you have multiple recurring thoughts about the same issue? Can you identify an underlying fear that’s causing you to react with negativity? It is not uncommon for people to develop bad thought patterns in order to try to counteract their feelings of fears, insecurities or belief that they’re out of control in a situation. If you discover one of these hidden feelings, write it down. It’s most likely a trigger of your negativity that should be immediately addressed.
c) Surround yourself with positive people.
If you’re a negative thinker, there’s probably nothing that feels more annoying to you than being around highly optimistic people. Just as it most likely took years for you to develop your bad habit, try to realize that if you become proactive about surrounding yourself with positive people, in time it will start to feel like second nature to you. It’s human nature to attract others who think similarly. It’s probably a good idea to take inventory of your personal relationships and assess how healthy they are. If there are people in your life who make it easy for you to be negative, it might be difficult for you to move forward unless you decide to make some serious changes within your relationships.
This principle is one of the most powerful steps that anyone who suffers from a form of addiction can take: if you want to remain an addict, keep hanging out with the same people you’ve been hanging out with. If you want to change, surround yourself with people who are already where you’d like to be within the near future.
Are you ready to make some changes? Before you get started, remember that breaking the habit of negative thinking is a steady walk, not a fast-paced run. Cut yourself some slack throughout the process, and make an effort to acknowledge to yourself that you’re already making a tremendous effort by trying to deal with something that many people would never have the courage to do.