February 23, 2023

How Catching and Challenging our Negative Thoughts Helps our Mental Health

Negative thoughts can be the root cause of a lot of mental health issues. Therefore, learning to catch and then challenge our negative thoughts can be a vital tool in maintaining good mental health.

Written by

Nicole Biggs

Negative thoughts can be the root cause of a lot of mental health issues. Therefore, learning to challenge our negative thoughts can be a vital tool in maintaining good mental health. However, before we can start to challenge negative thoughts, we have to catch them.

Catching Negative Thoughts

This is basically noticing when we have a negative thought. We usually just plough on with one thought leading to another, and another and another. Our mind zooms off in a negative spiral. However, if we just slow down we can start to notice when we are having a negative thought. This is where meditation, mindfulness and relaxation help us.

The first step to dealing with anxiety is to stop our ‘what if …’ thinking. What if thinking is a type of negative thinking. When we imagine danger by worrying, we fire our fight or flight response, The response cannot tell the difference between a real threat and an imagined danger in our heads. It treats them both the same and fires the same warning. We can therefore spend energy and time worrying about things that we have no control over. We can start to worry about things that have not even happened, we are just worried that they might. We can also start to obsessively go over things that have already happened and we have moved on. We wonder whether we should have done something different or replay the incident over and over and get angry at the situation or at ourselves or other people.

As we have no control over the situation, our worrying does nothing to change the likelihood of that thing happening, and certainly cannot change something that has already happened. We are therefore wasting precious energy and not achieving anything. We can of course practice and prepare, which does increase the likelihood of something not happening. However, worrying does not help you reach a solution or better deal with the situation.

It is this pointless worrying that we need to stop. It just drains our energy and our mood. We therefore have to stop ourselves worrying about things that we cannot control. As soon as we realise that we are worrying over something that we cannot change, we need to move our thoughts on to something else. I

f we can catch our negative thoughts, we can then stop ourselves from becoming anxious, angry, sad or anything else.

Challenging Negative Thoughts

Depression is all about negative thinking. When we are depressed, we struggle to see anything but the negatives. One negative thought spirals into another one and we start to descend into a deep dark pit of despair.  However, it is not just in depression that we have negative thoughts that need to be challenged. Anger, resentment, jealousy, anxiety, low confidence and many other emotions are also linked to negative thinking.

Challenging a negative thought is really easy. However, we rarely stop and do this. You simply need to ask yourself ‘is that thought really true?’:

Is it really true that everyone thinks that you are a loser? Everyone? Not one person thinks that you are an OK person?

Is it really true that none of your clothes fit and look good on you? Not one single item?

Is it really true that you are not good at anything? There is not one thing that you are good at?

When we are feeling bad emotionally, we tend to:

generalise things (everyone, everything),

delete things (nothing, no one), or

distort things (she looked at me funnily therefore she must hate me).

This faulty thinking then leads to:

  • Catastrophising –Jumping to the worst-case scenario. Magnifying or exaggerating the importance or awfulness of something.
  • Black and white thinking – Either something is one thing or the other thing. Very rigid thinking. This makes us unable to see all of the other possibilities.
  • Personalising – Taking everything personally.
  • Assuming – Making assumptions about something that sometimes have no basis in fact or reality.
  • Labelling – By labelling something we categorise it and then it is very hard to shift that label and the assumptions associated with that label.

By challenging our negative thoughts, we can completely change our mindset.  We can stop our rigid thinking, which can lead to conflicts within ourself and with others. We can lighten our mood. We can stop ourselves worrying, getting angry or obsessing.

Catching and then challenging our negative thoughts is an essential skill to get and maintain good mental health.

For more information, or just a chat, please contact me on 07742 209312 or nicole@greenoaktherapies.co.uk

Other Articles

New 10 Week Hypnotherapy Weight Loss Course

Starting soon