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Overcoming Negative Thinking and Improving Your Mental Health

Attitude can be seen, heard, and felt.

Whether it is positive or negative, a person’s attitude is hard to hide because so many factors attribute to attitude, including behaviors, emotions, and thoughts.

A positive attitude can be associated with a smile and happiness while a negative attitude with sadness or anxiety. Standing with your arms crossed or staring straight down at the floor suggests you are not inviting. On the other hand, looking people in the eye and reaching out to shake their hand makes people think you are interested in a positive interaction.

In order to figure out how your attitude is affecting your mental health, it is important to know the meaning of negative attitude.

What is a Negative Attitude?

Attitude has been explained as showing people your opinion about something through your words, behaviors, feelings and thoughts.

If your words are negative, your attitude is considered negative.

If you are behaving badly, your attitude is considered negative. Often times, if you are sitting quietly and not participating in a social interaction, you may be thought of as having a negative attitude. Social Psychology defines attitude as our “beliefs, behaviors and feelings, either good or bad, towards objects, groups, and symbols in society”.

That may seem simple, but some researchers say there are not just two simple attitudes, that there are more than just good and bad, negative or positive.

Attitudes can be far more complex than that. Different types of attitudes have been classified by Daniel Katz:

  1. Utilitarian: Utilitarian refers to an individual’s attitude as derived from self or community interest.
  2. Knowledge: Logic, or rationalizing, is another means by which people form attitudes.
  3. Ego-defensive: People have a tendency to use attitudes to protect their ego, resulting in a common negative attitude.
  4. Value-expressive: People develop central values over time. These values are not always explicit or simple.

The Source of Negative Thoughts

Where does a negative attitude come from?

What creates a negative attitude? Negative thoughts start with negative feelings.

While some negative thoughts are a self-defense mechanism, they can still be damaging. Patterns relating to our beliefs from past instances can influence our views and thoughts, making them negative or positive. It seems easy for us to remember negative events, situations, and hurtful words.

While we most likely have fewer negative events in number than positive experiences, we tend to allow the negative experiences to shape us as adults.

Counselors meeting with clients who suffer from mental health disorders can attest to this. It is not often that people say they have anxiety due to all the fun surprise parties they were given as a child.

It is just the opposite, they relate their mental health disorder to some form of negativity from their past whether it was sexual abuse, verbal abuse, physical abuse or indirect traumas.

Overcoming Negative Thinking Is Good for You

Negative thinking affects your brain.

Negative thoughts can cause your thalamus to experience fear.

This initiates the fight or flight signals in the brain that tells your body to either fight for survival or get out of the situation, whichever response will help you cope. Chronic stress can hurt the brain in several ways.

Stress can kill brain cells by releasing free radicals, making you forgetful, creating fear and anxiety, depleting chemicals that fight depression, and letting toxins into your brain.

Negative attitudes can trigger cortisol to be released.

Cortisol is a hormone released in the body when it senses stress. Negative thinking creates a sense of stress. This hormone can trigger an increase in belly fat.

This suggests that there is a link between negative attitude and having a hard time losing weight. It is not just our weight that is affected by negative attitudes. In fact, negative emotions affect our overall health, physical and psychological. Negative thinking can lead to various disorders including eating disorders, anxiety, panic disorder, and depression.

The longer we have negative thoughts, the harder it will be to change. Even when the negative statements are false, we tend to believe them if we hear them often enough.

Health Central reports there are three different types of bad attitudes that make a person depressed.

Having a sense of entitlement is one negative attitude that will always be disappointing and leave you feeling lacking. This happens because you are always feeling like others owe you something or that you deserve to be treated better than others for no particular reason except that is how you feel.

Many times this type of attitude will leave you feeling frustrated and lonely because no one else agrees with your assessment of yourself and others protect themselves from your attitude by avoiding you.

Playing the victim is another bad attitude that pushes people away.

Trying to get others to feel sorry for you or to pity you for what you do not have is not attractive.

The third type of bad attitude is being a naysayer, described as being a person who sees the negative side of everything.

It is hard to communicate with a naysayer due to their strong will to see the bad in every situation. All of these bad attitude types can be draining and exhausting to people who prefer to be positive.

This type of behavior can begin to take its toll not only on your mental health but that of others too.

Keeping Your Negative Thoughts From Harming Your Health

Many people are plagued by a negative internal monologue, constantly being pestered and brought down by their thoughts. The stress that this causes can do a number on your health, lowering your immune system, increasing inflammation and triggering autoimmune problems. So what are some ways to say ~ sing ~  “Leave (Get Out)” to your negative thoughts? Here are some suggestions:

  • Practice awareness and mindfulness meditation.
  • Love yourself. Put away the body shaming and reclaim your health.
  • Detox from all the tech you normally use. Spend some time away from the blue light.
  • Surround yourself with positive, uplifting people.
  • Try not to be offended and try to forgive. This simple, yet difficult step will do wonders.
  • Eat healthier and nutritious food that will feed your brain. Healthy foods are crucial for optimal brain functioning, which you need to quell those negative thoughts!

Negative Attitude Affects the People Around You

It is no fun to be around someone who has a negative attitude.

If they have a stronger personality, their negative thinking can begin to change the attitudes of other people who may have had a brighter attitude. Unhappy people exhibit negative attitudes.

It is easy to spot people with negative attitudes.

They are continually making negative comparisons of themselves to others, talking bad about themselves, focusing on negative memories or events from the past, blaming others, exhibiting a fear of failure, and making negative assumptions. Being around people with negative attitudes can make you start to feel the same way, causing anxiety and depression to overcome you.

Work environments, in particular, can be affected by negative attitudes.

Decreased performance among staff will trail behind a negative attitude, which has been shown to slow production, leading to fewer products and services to offer. A negative attitude in the workplace can overshadow achievements, lower moral, influence perceptions, turnover and hinder team spirit.

Some of the more common bad attitudes that can be found in the workplace include talking bad about co-workers, exaggerating about co-workers mistakes, dominating the team, never accepting criticism, never offering positivity, being rude, showing disrespect, not owning mistakes, no confidentiality.

Any of these attitudes can make a whole team malfunction.

It is very important for supervisors to do what it takes to improve attitudes on the job. They can do this by teaching staff members how to improve their own mental health.

Offer them chances to feel positive. Reward positive behaviors of staff rather than pointing out the negative behaviors.

The more times staff feels positive and as if they have done a good job, the more likely they will feel good about themselves.

This feeling of reward will radiate among staff.

Improve Your Attitude

There are many ways a person can work on getting rid of negative thinking and negative attitudes.

It takes work but the benefits are worth it.

Improve attitudes by using self-affirmations, visualization, positive internal dialogue, spirituality, humor, and exercise. Self-affirmations include consistently telling you positive words that describe yourself. Many people make a list and post it in a place where it can be seen each day as a reminder.

The idea is that the more you hear positive things about yourself, the more likely you are to believe them and become happier with your overall self.

This is the exact same way negative attitudes are formed; only you are training yourself to focus on the positive instead. Building confidence is important to having a positive attitude.

There are many ways to improve attitude by improving confidence.

Visualization involves thinking of positive goals you want for your life and picturing yourself reaching those goals. Some people create a visualization board filled with pictures and notes on all of the positive things they want to achieve and receive.

For instance, someone’s visualization board may include a new car, a spouse, more money, inner peace, and education.

There are no limits to how many items can go on a visualization board but they do need to be attainable. You may want to be the first person on Pluto but that may not be attainable in the near future.

Spirituality is very important to get rid of a negative attitude because having a connection to a higher power has been proven to give you something deeper to live for.

You begin to feel your existence is purposeful and meaningful, making you feel better about life in general. It is hard to laugh without feeling better.

Humor has been linked through several research studies to improve mental health because it triggers happy chemicals in the brain.

The more humor you have in your day, the more you are fighting a bad attitude.

Exercise is also key to fighting a negative outlook because when endorphins are released in the brain while working out, you start to get a sense of reward, allowing you to feel good about yourself and your life.

Ways to change a negative attitude include stopping thinking in extremes.

Not everything has to be really great or really terrible.

Sometimes things are in the middle and headed towards being better. You are not going to always fail or always succeed.

Both are needed to gain an appreciation for life. Don’t assume what people may or may not be thinking. Unless you are psychic, you do not know what a person is thinking. Even if that person is staring at your directly with a scowl on their face, they could still just be thinking about something else, like their in-laws, or the bad food they had for lunch. Seek out positive experiences.

You have control over what activities you participate in.

You can choose to hang out with a bunch of other naysayers, or you can choose to do something fun. Making the right choice when it comes to activities will help build your confidence in yourself and in others. When positive things do happen, embrace them rather than turning them into negative thoughts. Don’t keep thinking that at any minute the fun time you are having will crash and go down in flames.

Start by Changing Your Mindset to Positivity

Change your thinking so that you are expecting the good time to continue.

Overcoming a negative attitude by vowing not to repeat the negative thought is another way to change your outlook. Choose to believe what is true, not just a negative thought.

Start looking for positive things to believe. Look at the brighter side of every situation.

There is usually always another situation that is worse than yours so when something doesn’t go your way, immediately think of the positive things about that situation.

Be thankful and be kind to yourself with thoughts, words, and behaviors. You will, in turn, be training yourself to be kind to others.

Having a more positive attitude can be accomplished by taking care of you.

One way to start your journey of changing from a negative to a positive attitude is the 21-day attitude fix. The 21-day attitude fix includes steps such as focusing on change and forgiveness, setting goals, patience, not engaging in fights, kindness, reflecting, loving yourself and others, being content, being a friend, stop criticizing, being a blessing to others and self.

Having a negative attitude can truly affect your mental health and your overall quality of life. Be honest with yourself when it comes to assessing your own attitude.

Own up to the times you are negative.

Make a promise to yourself to start your process of changing to a more positive person.

By doing so you will attract other positive people and you will begin to see life as an enjoyable experience.

Make it your goal to be a joy to others and to yourself.