Our minds are a constantly-flowing stream of thoughts. Some conscious, some unconscious, but all day, every day, they show up in our minds and ask us to pay attention to them. You might be surprised to know just how many thoughts we have each day – according to the National Science Foundation, between 12,000 to 60,000.
More shocking, however, is that approximately 80% of those thoughts are negative, and 95% are repetitive.
This means that for most of the day, we’re ingesting a steady diet of repetitive, negative thoughts. These thoughts can be about our weight, our looks, our performance, our achievements, our social interactions, our finances, our decisions – you name it, we think negatively about it.
What Effect Do Negative Thoughts Have?
It’s not just that negative thoughts are a bummer – they have marked, measurable effects on your mental health.
Psychology Today reports, “Last year, a study of more than 30,000 people revealed that harping on negative life events (particularly through rumination and self-blame) can be the prime predictor of some of today’s most common mental health problems. Results from the eye-opening U.K. study, the largest of its kind, indicated that it isn’t just what happens to us that matters, but how we think about it that shapes our psychological well-being.”
We don’t have control over everything that happens to us – accidents occur, our health falters, relationships end and jobs come and go – but we can control how we think about these events. That’s where negative thinking comes to play.
What is Negative Thinking?
Most negative thinking shows up in the form of a critical inner voice. Dr. Lisa Firestone explains that a critical inner voice is “an internal dialogue that drives rumination, self-blame and self-loathing. It mocks us, shames us, scares us and lures us into self-limiting or self-destructive behavior. It tells us not to trust the people we love. It influences us to not try to reach a goal. It advises us and subdues us, keeping us seemingly safe inside a miserable, albeit familiar, shell.”
For some of us, the critical inner voice sounds a lot like one or both of our parents. For others, it’s simply a voice that seems never satisfied, endlessly critical, and unnecessarily cruel. To understand how harsh your negative thoughts can be, ask yourself if you’d ever talk to a friend or loved one the way you talk to yourself inside your own head.
Digesting a steady stream of negativity can be terrible for your mental and physical health, but it is possible to interrupt the process by reframing negative thoughts into positive ones. Stay tuned to find out how!