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Health and Fitness News

Challenging Negative Thoughts

Ten types of negative thought patterns you should put in their place.

Everyone has negative thoughts. They make you sad, angry, depressed, anxious, or self-conscious. Sometimes, thoughts are irrational and distorted, based on your imagination rather than fact. When negative thought patterns become the norm, they distort reality. This affects your emotions and behavior.

You don’t have to let negative thoughts ruin your day, month, year, or life. You can move past them. The first step in overcoming negative thought patterns is to recognize them for what they are. Then, you’ll be able to challenge your negative thoughts to produce a neutral thought. Done over and over again, this process can produce healthier thinking patterns.

What do negative thoughts look like? Most fall into one of these 10 categories.

1. Jumping to Conclusions

When your thoughts are jumping to conclusions, you’re make assumptions about the future. You may be making assumptions about other people’s actions or thoughts. If a friend doesn’t reply to your text, you freak out and assume he doesn’t like you anymore. Really, he just misplaced his phone, and all is well.

2. Black and White

Black and white or all-or-nothing thinking sees everything as either good or bad. If you don’t do something perfect, you label yourself a failure. Perhaps you miss a free throw. Instead of planning to make the next one, you want to quit the game. Or you gave a presentation and stumbled over your words once. While the rest was a success, you consider the whole thing a flop.

3. Labeling

Labeling thoughts leave no room for discussion. Something happens, and it causes you to label yourself. You consider yourself to be shy, a klutz, or lazy. No matter what evidence disproves your label, there’s no getting away from your label. This affects how you behave in certain situations.

4. Predicting the Future

Ever predict the future in your mind, and it always turns out bad? This is fortune-telling. When you’re constantly worried about the future, you’re less likely to take risks or enjoy life. It may happen before an upcoming family gathering. There was drama at the last one, so you expect drama again this year. As a result, you have a miserable time or skip it altogether.

5. Catastrophizing

You can probably guess what catastrophizing means. Small problems show up and get blown out of proportion. You’re a master of making mountains out of molehills and always expect the worst. Maybe you didn’t get asked to prom. Now you expect to be single the rest of your life.

6. Mind Reading

Mind-readers try to figure out what other people are thinking. You analyze their intentions, sure they’re thinking bad things about you. All it takes is a small gesture. Someone raised their eyebrows. Now you know they’re judging the way you’re dressed.

7. Overgeneralization

Something bad happened once, so you think it will inevitably happen again. Or you failed at something, and you decide you can never do anything right. This is overgeneralization.

8. Mental Filter

Also known as selective abstraction, mental filter thinking focuses on the negative. There may be good things about a situation, but all you can see is the bad. You got ninety-nine questions right, but all you can think about is the one you missed.

9. Emotional Reasoning

The facts say one thing, but your emotions say another. You trust your feelings rather than the evidence. It happens all the time, especially with social media. Your last post didn’t get many likes, so your emotions tell you that you have no friends.

10. Should and Must

Are you always thinking that you should or shouldn’t do something? Are you living with guilt and shame for not living up to your made-up standards? After decades of poor dietary habits, you think you should be able to avoid carbs and lose weight. But you can’t. So instead of working to become the person you want to be, you berate yourself for being who you are. You’re caught in the should-and-must trap.