In recent years we have become increasingly aware of the mind-body connection. Most people know that acute anxiety can cause an upset stomach, and that poor emotional health can weaken your immune system, yet when we're caught up in a cycle of negative thinking we don't often stop to think about the impact that our thoughts are having on our health. Scientists have even shown that 75% - 98% of mental and physical illness comes from thoughts, which is pretty staggering statistic to consider! While we can't control the events or circumstances of our lives, we do have the power to control our reactions simply by being aware of our thoughts. Let's begin by understanding our 5 most common negative thinking patterns.
Black and White (All-or-Nothing) Thinking. You see things as either good or bad, fair or unfair, right or wrong. There are no shades of grey, no middle ground, and no possibility for seeing things from a different perspective.
Unrealistic Expectations. I like to think of this one as getting caught up in the "should's". For example, "I should have done better", "he should know what will make me happy", "they should give me more recognition". Our expectations of ourself, a situation or others are far to high and cannot possibly be met.
Catastrophising. Automatically expecting the worst by magnifying a minor negative into a major disaster. For example, your boyfriend hasn't come home in time and you automatically think that he's been in a terrible car accident.
Personalisation. When something bad happens, you assume that you are responsible in some way. You place the blame on yourself, even though the circumstances have most likely been caused by something extraneous. For example, your best friend cancels dinner and you automatically assume that she's angry with you.
Mental Filtering. You focus only on the negative aspects of your situation, and completely disregard the positives. By focusing only on the negatives, you essentially filter out all positive thoughts. For example, you had a great day at work and received plenty of complements for the project you're currently working on. Despite the compliments, your boss told you one thing that you could improve. That evening when your partner asks about your day, you focus solely on the comment from your boss and completely filter out all of the positives of the day.
Stay tuned for part two of this series, where we'll explore 5 ways to think and behave in a more positive way. Until then, good luck with your journey towards a more optimistic life!