How to Stop Having "Negative Thoughts"

Updated: Jul 18

Life can feel overwhelming as it is, but it doesn't help when our mind is flooded with negative thoughts. But what exactly is a "negative thought"?

Some people may define a negative thought as a dark, intrusive, or unwanted thought. Others may claim that negative thoughts are negative perceptions of the self, others, and the world around us that may result in unpleasant emotions/ feelings.

Of course this reasoning makes sense. If we experience a thought that we don't necessarily like, or we have a thought that causes an uncomfortable physical reaction in our body, it would make sense why we would label this thought to be "bad."

While we all have a basic understanding of the word "negative," it's important to understand that what makes something "negative" is based off of one's personal opinion.

What may appear to be a negative situation to one person, may appear to be an opportunity for growth for another.

What may appear to be a negative feeling to one person, may appear to be an uncomfortable, yet manageable feeling for another.

What may appear to be a negative thought to one person, may appear to be a gift from the anxious mind and an opportunity to look inward for another.

Of course there are general morals, good vs evil, light and darkness, etc. However, for this particular conversation, when looking at the thinking mind, we are analyzing the functions of the human brain.

Let's look at the word "thought" for a moment. What defines a thought? Well, according to Google, a thoughts is "An idea or opinion produced by thinking, or occurring suddenly in the mind." So how do these ideas or opinions come about? How are they produced in the mind?

Thoughts are simply the brain's way of making sense of one's reality by putting a bunch of words together to form sentences in the mind. These sentences are formed based off of individual perception, belief systems, opinions, expectations, reasoning, and experiences.

So what makes a thought "negative" can vary depending on who you are talking to, because what determines a "good" or "bad" thought is solely based off of one's individual perspective. With this understanding, would it be safe to say that maybe, just maybe, when it comes to thoughts in general, there is no such thing as "negative thoughts"?

Since thoughts are subjective and can be up for interpretation, to claim that certain thoughts are "negative" is actually not in fact, but rather, an opinion.

All thoughts, no matter how dissatisfying, uncomfortable, or scary they may be, are simply just thoughts. Sure, we can have thoughts that are unwanted, intrusive, and may make us feel unpleasant, but what makes a thought a "negative thought" is based entirely off an individual's perspective and belief of the thought itself.

Let's look at an example. Sally has a thought that says "I'm ugly." She labels this thought as a negative thought because she doesn't want to think this way, and she doesn't like the way this thought makes her feel. However, would this thought still be a "negative" thought if Sally didn't believe in it? If she changed her belief systems, this thought would hold no meaning and it would simply be another random, silly thought. (Thanks brain!) But because deep down Sally believes this thought to be true, the thought catches her attention and grows stronger because she has now attached a deeper meaning to this thought.

When you try to "stop having negative thoughts," you are setting unrealistic expectations on yourself. If you're reading this, odds are you are a spiritual being having a human experience. Humans experience about 70,000 thoughts per day. It would be impossible to control every thought that our brain creates, let alone stop our brain from having them when they naturally arise. Refer to the white polar bear scenario; If I told you to not think about a white polar bear, to think of anything BUT a white polar bear, what will your mind do? It will think about the white polar bear. This is because what you resist, persists. While you cannot control every thought your brain comes up with, you can, however, control how you respond to them.

The first step to stop having "negative thoughts" is to stop labeling your thoughts as "negative thoughts." When you notice a thought that you don't necessarily care for, first, acknowledge the thought. This can look like saying or thinking to yourself "I notice I am having a thought about XYZ..." Defusing from your thoughts instantly creates space between you and the thought. Next, ask yourself, "Why is this thought a problem for me?" "Why do I perceive this thought to be 'bad'?" "What makes this thought 'negative' for me?"

To get to the root of unwanted, intrusive, or quote on quote "negative" thoughts, one must look at their belief systems, for it is our beliefs and our programming that ultimately influence the state of our cognitive function today.

To help better assist, could you start replacing your verbiage you use to explain your thoughts? Instead of labeling your thoughts as good or bad, could you ask yourself, "Is this thought helpful or unhelpful?" "Is this thought helpful or unhelpful in this moment?" If it's helpful, maybe it is worth exploring some more. If it is not helpful, then maybe you can let it be there without trying to make sense of it. You don't need to believe every thought that your brain creates. Thoughts are just thoughts, and your brain is just trying to protect you in the best way it knows how.

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