When our mood is suffering, it’s not uncommon for us to have lots of negative thoughts. These could be things like “I can’t cope” or “I’m so useless” or “I’m a failure.” First and foremost, please try to remember that these are merely thoughts – thoughts will pass and are no reflection on you or your future.
There are two common ways that we can think about and label negative thoughts so that we can spot them and challenge them. The first type of thought can be described as ‘Negative Automatic Thoughts (NATs)’. These are thoughts like those listed above that make you feel bad about yourself and are self-sabotaging. They often pop into our heads uninvited and are very critical.
The other type of negative thinking that is very common is ‘catastrophising‘, which can lead us to look at the future with a negative lens and always predict the worst outcome, for example “I’m never going to get a job” or “I’m not going to be able to pay my mortgage” or “I can’t go. What if no one likes me?”
It’s helpful to identify when we’re entering into either of these negative thought patterns so that we can challenge these thoughts, rather than simply accepting them. Whenever you have a negative thought, take a moment to consider whether it’s accurate and how you would feel if a friend spoke about themselves or their situation in this way. Chances are, you wouldn’t agree with them. Instead, you’d offer them reassurance and advice.
If you can be kind to others in this way, then you can also be kind to yourself. Try to think about how you would view yourself and your own situation if you were being positive. Ask yourself, “what’s the best thing that could happen?” and “what are the good things that I’ve done today?”
Often, we can get so used to being down on ourselves that it becomes the norm, but once we start to challenge this norm, we can see that there are other ways of thinking about things and that our thoughts are changeable.
If you’re struggling with negative thoughts, you might find some useful guidance in our articles, How to learn the skill of optimism and 8 tips on how to break negative habits and develop positive ones.