Mindset

4 Ways to Break Your Addiction to Negative Thinking

Did you know that you can be chemically addicted to your negative thoughts?

Daniel St. Joseph
Aug 18 · 9 min read
“Your thoughts carry you wherever you want to go. Weak thoughts don’t have the energy to carry you far!”
“Your thoughts carry you wherever you want to go. Weak thoughts don’t have the energy to carry you far!”
Image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

was found that the average person has about 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. Surprisingly, 80% were negative, and 95% were exactly the same thoughts as the day before.

Our tendency to overly concern bad things and ignore good things is likely a result of evolution. Earlier in human history, being alert of dangerous, and negative threats in the world was truly a matter of life and death.

Those who were more adapted to danger and aware of the bad things around them were more likely to survive.

This psychological phenomenon explains why bad first impressions can be so difficult to overcome and why past traumas can have such long lingering effects.

Robert W. Schrauf, Associate Professor of Applied Linguistics at Penn State, conducted a study showing how words provide evidence to how people think and process emotions. In this study, the researchers asked people to list the names of as many emotions unconsciously. These words were then categorized as negative, positive, or neutral.

They discovered that people know significantly more words to describe negative emotions than words to describe positive or neutral emotions. Of all the words participants listed, 50 percent were negative, 30 percent positive, and 20 percent were neutral. And this observation held true across age groups and cultures, suggesting that this a human tendency shared cross-culturally.

Dr. Schrauf also suggests that not only are we all inclined to think negatively, we also involve more profoundly with these emotions. That’s because positive emotions tell us that everything is fine, so there is no need to think about them.

However, negative emotions indicate something is wrong, so we need to pay more attention, time, and energy dealing with these feelings. As Schrauf explains it, “Negative emotions require more detailed thinking, more subtle distinctions. So they require more names.”

Your thoughts are behaviors as well

Choosing thoughts contributes to your experiences because of the consequences associated with those thoughts.

If you choose thoughts that demean and depreciate you, then you choose to become low self-esteem. If you choose thoughts contaminated with anger and bitterness, then you will create an experience of alienation, isolation, and hostility.

When you choose your thoughts, you also choose the physiological events that linked to those thoughts due to the body-mind connection.

For example, imagine biting into a crisp, salty, and crunchy chicken tender. Smell the ketchup and seasoning. Hear the snap of the first bite, taste the explosion of those flavors in your mouth. What happens? I doubt that you begin to salivate, that is, you experience a physiological change in your mouth.

There’s a very powerful connection at work here. Your physiology determines your energy and activity level. If your internal dialogue is negative, then the action will be negative. Your depressed thoughts suppress energy and action. Your body will conform to that central nervous system. You are mentally, behaviorally, and physiologically programming yourself to go through life in a vicious cycle.

You may be with ten different people in a day but you’re with yourself all day, 24/7. You talk and program yourself more than everybody else in your life combined. Some people have tapes that just play over and over in their heads like a continuous loop.

In their famous work, Nobel Prize-winning researchers Kahneman and Tversky found that when making decisions, people consistently place greater weight on negative aspects of an event than they do on positive ones, even when the two possibilities are equivalent.

For instance, people have a stronger negative reaction to losing $20 than the positive feelings they have from gaining $20.

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Photo by Chris Liverani on Unsplash

If your internal conversation is full of negative self-talk, it is no wonder why your performance is poor and your life is miserable. Some typical negative statements include:

  • I’m not smart enough
  • I’m not attractive enough
  • I am a loser and can never succeed
  • I’m so dumb, people will laugh at me
  • Nobody will listen to a stupid person like me
  • I’m not from a rich family, there’s no way I can be rich

Negative thoughts can be addicted

Obviously, you may get addicted to drugs, food, and alcohol, but you may also get addicted to your negative thoughts or feelings.

A lot of people want to be positive but it’s so hard, isn’t it?

Maybe you have been negative for so long that your brain just automatically goes towards the negative side. You want to be positive, you want to be happy but for some reason, most days you just find yourself in mystery, slipping into negativity.

It’s due to the fact that you are chemically addicted to your negative thoughts.

You may wonder how am I chemically addicted to a thought?

Here’s the reason:

Once you have a thought that sends an electrical signal from one place to another in your brain at its simplest form. That’s neural signals send something called a neuropetide ( compounds which act as neurotransmitters) down to your body which induces hormone release.

When you think about a really stressful thing, your brain receives that signal, your neuropeptide sends signals down to the adrenal glands — triangle-shaped organs at the top of your kidneys to create the hormones cortisol, aka the stress hormones.

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Recently, cortisol has been pained as the evil villain when it comes to stress

If you have thoughts every single day that causes your body to release stress hormones all year long. Guess what? You’re going to become chemically addicted to cortisol which means that your body is going to force the brain to think negatively so that they can get that hit.

Cortisol is a chemical in your brain that tends to flow more freely and spurs negative thoughts. Your brain loves cortisol. Known as an alarm system, your brain releases the chemical cortisol as a way to warn you about imminent danger, and, let’s be honest, that’s pretty helpful at times.

The day I found out I was addicted to negative self-talk

Have you been thinking negatively for 2, 3, 5, 10 years? And now you’re trying to break this thought pattern but you can’t stop going down that route of negativity. Why? Because your body wants you to actually do it as it’s used to those chemicals.

I can tell you that I learned this the hard way. Two years ago, I was listening to a podcast. The guy in the podcast was talking to a psychologist and he said he felt like he was addicted to stress and he started explaining it.

And I talked to myself “Am I addicted to stress?” I worked really well under pressure. I started realizing sometimes I stressed myself out to meet expectations.

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Photo by Elijah O'Donnell on Unsplash

I had to consciously calm myself down in the middle of the day knowing that I have created thought patterns stressing me out.

Unconsciously, I continuously searched for opportunities to stress me out because that’s what my body has been used to for a long time.

Positive thoughts can’t save you

How to flip that and become unaddicted to negative thinking? It’s actually simple, but it’s easier said than done.

It’s really hard to become self-aware of negative thoughts. You need to be extremely intentional every single day from the start of your morning.

I once watched a video on youtube called “why positive thinking doesn’t work?”. Imagine I have a bowl in front of me which is filled with water. Then, I put some scoops of dirt into the water. Then, I take a big glass of water and pour it into the bowl. The water is still dirty. I pour another 4–5 glass of water into the bowl. However, this bowl of water is still dirty.

The dirty water represents the negative thoughts you say to yourselves: I’m fat, I’m not good enough to be hanging out with people, you fail a test and think you’re stupid you. There’s tons of dirt in your mind.

When I pour a big huge glass of clean water into the bowl and said “okay I’m going to think positive”. The water is still dirty which explains why positive thinking doesn’t work.

The key thing is negative thoughts should be removed out of your mind

How to become a positive person?

If you don’t feel good, you can’t create the life that you want.

1. Stop Negative Self-Talk

You need to be extremely intentional. As you wake up every day, think about how do you force yourself to think positively. You’re going to look yourself in the mirror and say “I love you, you are amazing” for 10 minutes straight to brainwash yourself into feeling good.

Instead of fixating on past mistakes that cannot be changed, consider what you have learned and how you might apply that in the future.

2.Reframe the Situation

Saying some affirmations that program you for feeling the way you want to feel, thinking the way you want to think because you have been thinking in this freaking negative way for a long time.

Just because you are positive in the morning doesn’t mean it lasts all day long so you’ve got to catch the negative thoughts as soon as possible. You need to become very self-aware of when you start to go down that negative spiral.

The quicker you stop the negative thought, the easier is it for you. If you try to catch the negative thought at the bottom of the spiral, then you lose as you’re already in the negative place

3.Establish New Patterns

Three minutes down the road, you’ve gone through this massive storm of just thinking negative to yourself and now you just feel like you’ve been covered in crap and you don’t feel good. You don’t want to do anything. It all starts with a negative thought and things begin to spiral down.

When you find yourself ruminating on things, look for an uplifting activity to pull yourself out of this negative mindset. You should consciously redirect your attention elsewhere and engage in an activity that brings you joy.

Listening to upbeat music, going for a walk, or reading a good book are all ways to get your mind off negative thoughts.

4.Appreciate Joyful Moments

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

As negative things might be quickly shifted and stored in your long-term memory, you need to make more effort to get the same result from happy moments.

So when something great happens, take a moment to really concentrate on it. Replay the moment several times in your memory and enjoy the wonderful feelings the memory evokes.

Over time, your memory will store more happy moments than sorrow.

Final Thoughts

The key is to become extremely self-aware as negativity starts. Analyze the causes of that negativity: maybe it’s from somebody in your life, maybe it’s a phone call from your boss, maybe it’s a spouse that you need to get a divorce.

You should notice what send you off that path of negativity and get rid of it as soon as possible and replace that one negative thought with three positive thoughts.

If you tend to have a negative vision, don’t expect to become an optimist overnight. But with practice, eventually, your self-talk will contain less self-criticism and more self-acceptance. You may also become less critical of the world around you.

When your state of mind is generally optimistic, you’re better able to handle everyday stress in a more constructive way. That ability may contribute to the widely observed health benefits of positive thinking.

“Don’t ever stop believing in your own transformation. It is still happening even on days you may not realize it or feel like it.”
Lalah Delia

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Daniel St. Joseph

Written by

Dan is passionate about writing to motivate people and share his experience, knowledge to enhance personal development.|BSc Biochemistry|.

Change Becomes You

Life advice that will (actually) change your life. Curated stories from The Good Men Project.

Daniel St. Joseph

Written by

Dan is passionate about writing to motivate people and share his experience, knowledge to enhance personal development.|BSc Biochemistry|.

Change Becomes You

Life advice that will (actually) change your life. Curated stories from The Good Men Project.

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