I recently read about a neurologist who explores the very real world of psychosomatic illnesses – true stories of imaginary illnesses!  These patients are not sick, yet their thoughts have convinced them that they are.

“Your world is a living expression of how you are using and have used your mind.” Earl Nightingale

We have all experienced how our heart flutters when we set our eyes on someone we admire, or how our body creates sweat when we think about a public presentation we have to give. But few of us are aware of how dramatic our body’s reactions to thoughts can be sometimes!  In a world that markets various distractions that help us get out of our own head, it seems impossible to think that our head can be a great place to be. There are remarkable, scientifically proven techniques that will immediately lift your spirits and help you develop a positive outlook on life.

the truth about negative thoughts

Negative thoughts are our default and it can have severe consequences when left unchecked. An innocent comment said by a coworker can make us ruminate for days causing us to arrive at conclusions that are untrue and most times, blown way out of proportion.  

Our moods are created by our thoughts. The negative thoughts that often cause us anxiety, depression and to an extreme, suicidal ideation, contain gross cognitive distortions. Cognitive distortions are simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true.  In this blog post, (as part 1 of 2), I explain how we can change our mood by learning how to restructure these negative thoughts.

question generalizations

The goal is to be a more accurate thinker. In this cognitive distortion, clarify thoughts that begin with ‘all, none, always, never, everything, nothing, everyone, no one, every time, never a time.’ Nothing is hardly ever true in the absolute sense.

Some examples include:  He never has time for me; the people at school / work are all mean; she complains every time. 

The key is to debunk these generalizations by finding the outlier that invalidates the absolute statement – because nothing is hardly ever true in the absolute sense.

I had to apply this technique earlier this month. I woke up and didn’t get this contract that I thought would open a lot of doors for me. I ruined my own morning routine because of this negative thought: ‘Nobody wants my services and that’s why nobody is offering me any business.’ That was a big lie. There were two other workshops I was co-facilitating just that week. And two is more than enough. Because all great things begin with a few.

If you’re like me and many others, negative thoughts that pop up can ruin a day if you let it fester. Question generalizations and put things in a wider perspective.

challenge assumptions

How many times have you made a foolish decision or hurt someone because you assumed inaccurately?

I once assumed that a friend no longer wanted to be friends. Turns out, they were battling health issues and couldn’t focus. Sometimes I inaccurately assume someone is late for an appointment because they don’t respect my time. I fail to consider their life situation or circumstances beyond their control – like traffic. 

With relationships, I assume the person intentionally did something to hurt me, then I realize that it is an oversight or miscommunication. Like generalizations, assumptions are equally toxic and they erode trust.

I have many more examples…Now, I make it a habit to challenge assumptions before making a decision.

Our thoughts generate our feelings Most often, negative thoughts are based on assumptions. Truth is, we cannot read others’ mind accurately. Do not assume!

in conclusion

Changing our negative thought patterns that we’ve formulated over the course of 20, 30, 40, 50 or even 60 years is not easy – but it is simple, easy to understand, straightforward and have a very high success rate at improving mood, anxiety and depression when exercises are done daily.

stay well  my friend,

Source: Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy – by Burns M.D., David D