Having some negative thoughts and feelings about a situation or person is normal. However, if you’d like to shift your mindset to a more positive place, it’s possible, says Dennis Buttimer, M.Ed, CEAP, RYT, CHC, a life and wellness coach at Cancer Wellness at Piedmont.
Why do you have negative thoughts?
Buttimer says we have negative thoughts – even during positive circumstances – because the brain is designed to frequently look for potential threats. But when the mind constantly wanders to negative possibilities, it can trigger anxiety, stress, insomnia and depression.
“It’s thought that seven out of 10 thoughts in the morning are negative because the mind purposely goes searching for ways to protect itself,” he says. “But this ends up hurting you because you tend to create what you don’t want by focusing on it.”
How to know if you have a negative mindset
“Negative thinking is a very conditioned response,” says Buttimer. “The first step is awareness. Identify that you’re going down the road of negative thinking. How do you know you’re in a negative mindset? You can tell by how you feel. If you’re not feeling good from an emotional standpoint, that’s pointing to your thought process.”
Why is reframing your mindset important?
“If you don’t redirect your mind, it’s going to keep eliciting fear and anxiety,” says Buttimer. “It will hijack the part of the brain – the prefrontal cortex – that’s responsible for critical thinking, organizing, planning and other important functions. The fear will take over your rational mind.”
If that happens, you can’t think straight, you may make errors or do things impulsively out of fear and anxiety triggered by that negative mindset.
“You can override this process by purposefully redirecting your thoughts and practicing meditation,” he says. “This can help deactivate the fear center in the brain’s amygdala. If you don’t redirect the negative thoughts, they will continue to grow.”
How to shift negative thinking
Once you realize you have a negative mindset, you can take steps to address it. Perhaps you always feel anxious before a particular appointment or when talking to a friend or family member.
First, take a few deep breaths.
Next, Buttimer recommends a simple one-minute exercise to redirect your mind. For one minute, imagine the positive possibilities about the same situation, conversation or person. Ask yourself, “Wouldn’t it be nice if…?” and answer that question. Begin to imagine all of the positive possibilities.
“It sounds too good to be true, but if you just do it for a minute, even when you don’t initially believe it, you’ll change the direction of your mind,” says Buttimer. “This technique is important because you can move the energy or direction of your mind, so you begin to feel and see good results. I’ve seen it with people who have cancer and other health issues and people who feel hopeless about their marriage. It’s really about taking control of the one person you can control, which is yourself.”
Learn more ways to reduce stress and improve your well-being.