#MentalHealthMatters: Why Do I Have Negative Thoughts In My Mind?

Negative thoughts take a toll on your life by impeding your productivity. But with proper strategies, you can overcome them and achieve your goals.

Varun Verma
Written by: Varun VermaUpdated at: May 12, 2023 11:00 IST
#MentalHealthMatters: Why Do I Have Negative Thoughts In My Mind?

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My mind always looks for negativity. It seems my mind is destroying me. I can hardly do things I love. All I do is try to stop my thoughts, but most of the time I fail. Every time I think of achieving something, I feel that I will not be able to make it. I am not able to enjoy the little pleasures of my life and keep on thinking that something bad is going to happen.

Do these thoughts run through your mind? In our exclusive campaign, 'Mental Health Matters', we took a deep dive into the issue. We talked to Damini Grover, Counseling Psychologist, Heal Your Life Coach, Founder - I'M Powered Center for Counseling and Well-being, Delhi.

Why Do I Attract Negative Thoughts So Much? 

Grover said, "We are all prone to negative thinking and it is just one of the ways that our mind is programmed to think. We have evolved from the times of cavemen and women to present-day humans. During those times, they had to continuously scan the environment for any threat, like a lion or a bear attack or a lightning strike. So that they could keep themselves safe from any kind of danger."

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She further said, "Our thinking has evolved right from then. The only difference is that today the human brain has become more sophisticated and the kinds of threats that we are now facing are different. So, when our mind gets into an overthinking or a negative thinking zone, it is trying to help us to solve a problem or it is trying to alert us about possible danger." 

We are also prone to negativity bias, where we tend to gravitate more towards negative information and tend to discount the positive ones. 

Are Negative Thoughts Related to Mental Health Issues?

Grover said, "People who suffer from anxiety disorders, like Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), or depression, are more prone to negative thinking." She added that these disorders signal that something is going on in the person's internal environment that needs to be looked into.

Can Negative Thinking Affect Productivity? 

"If you're constantly thinking about something negative, either of the past or future, you are not in the present. As a result, you are not able to focus on the task that you have at hand and your efficiency is compromised," she said.

Citing an example, she further added, "People even complain that when they are sleeping, they feel like their mind is constantly running. They wake up in the middle of the night feeling anxious, worried, and tense. They have difficulty falling asleep because the mind is just not at rest and is uneasy. It is difficult to sleep when the only thing that is coming up in your mind is negative."

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Can Negative Thoughts Cause Stress-Related Illnesses? 

If you get hurt and suffer from a bruise or a fracture, so experience physical pain. This physical pain is also going to lead to mood changes and the way you are thinking. 

Grover said, "Similarly when you are mentally exhausted, you are prone to worry, negative thinking, and overthinking. When these symptoms start to show they create pressure and stress, affecting the body, as it tries to manage the impact of negative thinking."

"If this continues for a very long period of time, it can also lead to bodily discomforts, like increased or difficulty breathing, increased heart rate, chest pains, headaches, and gastric issues. These changes come up when you grapple with a lot of negative thoughts," she added.

Do Negative Thoughts Affect Relationships?

Grover said, "When you think negatively, you experience an extreme rush of emotions, which are difficult to handle. As a result, you become agitated, cranky, and snappy. You might be prone to outbursts and your receptivity goes down. The quality of the interactions also deteriorates, creating friction in your relationships."

She added that you are likely to view the conversation from a negative lens, which impacts your thinking, perception, and the response that you're giving out. This may create communication issues between you and the people around you.

What Impact Can Negative Thought Have On Personality?

Talking about the impact of negative thinking on personality, Grover said, "When you spend a lot of time with this kind of thinking pattern, it creates emotional changes and impacts your physiology as well. Eventually, bringing changes in your personality, where you become prone to low self-esteem and start questioning your value in the world." 

She added, "You wonder if other people are viewing you positively or negatively. So your behaviour and the way you interact with the world around you, begin to change."

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What To Do To Stop Negative Thoughts?

The idea is not to stop the negative thoughts. Grover said, "The more you focus on trying to stop these thoughts, the more they tend to increase." When you have negative thoughts, worry, and try to solve a problem over and over again, you need to understand that your mind is at work and doing its job by bringing your attention to a particular problem.

She said, "Once negative thoughts have come up, you can engage in practises that help reduce the frequency and intensity of these thoughts."

Strategies to Cope with Negative Thinking

Grover said, "When you are gripped with negative thoughts, do not try and fight them. They have come up on their own and they will take some time to go away. So just recognise and accept them."

The second strategy is to name them. She added, "This means that you should tell yourself that 'I am okay' and recognise the negative thoughts that have come up."

When you are worrying, overthinking, and gripped by your negative thoughts, chances are that you have lost the connection with the present. She said, "So it is important to ground yourself. This means that you should engage in practises that help you to come back to the present."

You can do this in certain ways:

  • Practise breathing techniques
  • Make your body aware by stretching while breathing
  • Engage your senses by looking around and naming five to six things you see or feel
  • Spend time with nature
  • Journal your thoughts

And lastly, reframe your thoughts. Grover stated, "Thought reframing works very well after you have grounded yourself.” This means that if your mind is, for example, getting caught up and you think that something bad is going to happen, then challenge that thought and say “What if there is another way of looking at it?"

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Way Forward

Grover said, "We are all prone to a negative bias. But it does not mean that we cannot look at the positive aspects and find a solution. But we need to invest a little bit of time and patience and effort in that."

Anybody can be prone to negative thinking and over time it can become a habit which can destroy your peace of mind. Therefore, every individual needs to engage in practises on staying calm and being aware of their thoughts. 

Grover said, "We also need to take a more preventive approach rather than a curative one that is dealing with the problem once it shows up. But if we engage in healthy practices right from the beginning, then we can see the benefits and have better overall health and well-being."