The mind is its own place, and in itself can make a heaven of hell, a hell of heaven.

– John Milton, Paradise Lost

Everyone feels low from time to time. Feeling sad or angry occasionally is part of life. However, if a self-defeating attitude becomes permanent, it can result in the difference between confidence and pessimism. Negativity can damage a person’s physical health. Following are some tips to promote healthy thinking to avoid falling into the negativity trap:

Self-defeating talk

This is about messages we send to ourselves which undermine confidence and the ability to try something new or persist at something already begun. Phrases such as “I can’t,” “I’m not confident,” “I don’t have what it takes,” or “I’m going to fail” can work as a self-fulfilling prophecy. A person might be insulted if a friend told them they believed that to be true, shooting oneself in the foot is not a good idea.

Negative assumptions

Negative thinking occurs when a person assesses a particular situation and reaches an adverse conclusion. The pessimistic attitude can become so ingrained that it becomes automatic. A bumper-to-bumper commute could be considered a negative experience but choosing how to respond is optional, popping in a favorite CD and singing along to the music produces a happy response.

It is the choice that makes the difference. Making a choice is the difference between being empowered or victimized. It all depends on how a person decides to react. If a rainy day sidetracks gardening plans, a person can complain or grab rubber boots and an umbrella and take a walk in the rain.

Comparing oneself to others

There will always be someone richer, better looking, more successful etc. Every person is different and has different skills and gifts to contribute. At the other end of the scale, there are those who are living in poverty, are sick and may be unemployed. Compared to those people, there’s much to be thankful for.

Reliving the past

We can always learn from past experiences, but rerunning the bad ones like an old movie accomplishes nothing. The past cannot be changed, the future hasn’t happened and all we have is the present. Since the present will eventually become the past, we should focus on making it good.

Beliefs about difficult people

Encountering difficult people, either at work or in a social setting, is always a challenge and if the person is in a supervisory position there is protocol to be followed. It’s not possible to change the behavior of other people, only to adjust our reaction to it. If the person is at the workplace, do a good job, be polite and remember that if that person appears angry there may be a reason which is not necessarily shared.

Blaming others

It’s so easy to blame other people for one’s own misfortunes; no one involved in a fender bender has ever said “I did a stupid thing today.” Usually there’s a long description of what the driver did wrong. People attribute their lack of success or their health problems on a myriad of causes, including parents, education and financial situation. It’s easy to be a victim and hope for sympathy. Interestingly, victims have handy justification for not taking charge of their own lives.

Forgiving mistakes

Everyone makes mistakes, no one is perfect. No one is even expected to be perfect. But some people punish themselves unnecessarily when things don’t go exactly as expected. Go easy on yourself. Didn’t get the job and beating yourself up? Might help to know that 342 people applied for that job so 341 people know the same feeling and they’re not agonizing about it.

Fear of failure

This is also associated with perfectionism. Christopher Columbus, Neil Armstrong and Jonas Salk weren’t afraid of failure. Columbus thought he’d landed in Asia and was still a success!

Sovereign Mental Health Services incorporates cognitive behavioral therapy into our treatment programs. Our clients benefit from the results which enable them to have a more positive outlook on life, benefitting both mental and physical health. If you would like further information, please call 866-954-0529 to speak with a member of our team.

Written by Veronica McNamara, Sovereign Health Group writer