Challenging Negative Thoughts and Beliefs

Challenging Negative Thoughts and Beliefs

How do you feel about the world around you? Do you believe life is full of disappointment and good things only happen by luck? Do you believe you create your reality or do things only happen by chance? The beliefs we hold are shaped by our past experiences and they hold a great deal of power over our lives. They are the foundation by which we live. They inform our decisions and how we feel about the world around us. Without a strong belief system, our physical and mental wellbeing often suffer.

Most of our beliefs are developed early on in childhood, but any thoughts we practice on a regular basis eventually becomes a belief. This is important to understand because when we regularly practice negative thoughts, our lens of the world is altered. How we think is the precursor to how we act. If we believe we’re a victim, we will fatefully act like victims. The beliefs we hold about our lives and the world around us are arguably the most important part of our healing process. Below are some of the most common phrases that signal a negative and self-limiting belief system:

Ways To Challenge a Negative Thought or Belief

Challenging negative thoughts and beliefs isn’t as simple as “thinking positively”. If that were the case, mental health struggles would be much less common. Negative thought patterns that regularly invade important areas of your life have typically been deeply rooted for a long time. It helps to understand that as humans, we’re wired with a negativity bias, making us more susceptible to negative stimuli. To combat this predisposition takes consistent time and effort.

Keep a journal

If negative thoughts are repeating through your head all day, it’s no wonder you’ve developed some harmful beliefs. It’s an excellent idea to give those thoughts a place to rest. Sometimes the most complicated problems require the simplest solutions. Never underestimate the power of a journaling practice. Think of a journal as your own personal confidant. Here, you are free to express uncomfortable thoughts without the fear of judgement. The time you invest into your journal is time spent getting to know yourself in ways you can’t do just by thought alone. Not only does journaling allow you to process negative thoughts, but it helps you practice and cultivate gratitude. Numerous studies have proven that journaling improves symptoms of anxiety and depression. If you’re not sure where to start, here’s just a few journal prompts that will help you get to know your negative thought patterns a little better.

Get to know your thought patterns

Negative thought patterns are subtle and difficult to understand if you don’t know what they look like. There are several thought patterns that distort our view of reality and lend to symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Black and white thinking – this harmful thought pattern is a habit of thinking in absolutes. It’s usually going from one extreme to another. Things are either all good or all bad. You may think you’re always right or conversely, the world’s biggest failure, for example.

Personalizing – personalization is a form of distorted thinking that leads you to believe you are entirely responsible for something even if you had little to do with the outcome.

Overgeneralizing – Overgeneralization often looks like predicting the outcome of something even though you’ve only seen one instance of it. For example, assuming you’ll never get a job because you didn’t get the first one you interviewed for.

Carve out time for negativity

This one might surprise you. Oftentimes, negative thoughts are on repeat in our head because we never give them our conscious attention. This is their desperate cry for attention. It might sound counterintuitive but giving undivided attention to our thoughts allows them the chance to dissipate. Instead of letting them loop in your head all day, dedicate 10 minutes a day to ruminating and reviewing. If you have a negative thought outside of this time, write it down as a promise to review it later.

Seeking Professional Help

Negative thoughts make us feel hopeless about the world and ourselves. They take a toll on our mental and physical well-being if we never address them. If you feel like your negative beliefs consume your life, this could indicate that there’s a deeper mental health issue at hand. Seeking out a professional can help you arrive at solutions sooner than trying to deal with them by yourself.

Here at Dr. Messina and Associates, our compassionate team of professionals are qualified to help you. Our Psychologists and Counselors specialize in psychotherapy (in-person and online teletherapy options). Our psychologists also specialize in psychological testing in-person at our DFW (Southlake) Offices. Our psychiatrists offer specialized psychiatric services in-person and telepsychiatry online to all residents of Texas. If you or a loved one are seeking help with mental health, we are available to help.

 

Author
Dr. Michael Messina

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