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Positive Thinking for Negative People

Updated on September 3, 2017

There are Positive Thinkers and Negative Thinkers

What is Positive Thinking

Positive thinking is the idea that a positive mental attitude can bring about growth, success, and good results. There are countless scientific studies done by reliable psychologists, proving thinking positive can have real and measurable advantages for our health, our relationships, our careers, and more.

Positive and negative thinking can become self-fulfilling prophecies, meaning what we expect to happen, can sometimes come true. "Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you're right." - - - - Henry Ford

So for obvious reasons it is better to think positive thoughts than negative thoughts. Optimistic people are known to be happier and healthier and enjoy more successes in those who think negative thoughts.

The Difference Between Positive Thinkers and Negative Thinkers

Positive thinking does work, but not for everyone. The difference between positive thinkers and negative thinkers is how they interpret events that happen. If you are one of these people who have tried to think positive and are having trouble working this concept, or worse, you feel shamed, embarrassed, and guilty for not being positive, read on.

If you are negative thinker one of the first steps to take is self-awareness. Know that negative thinking is a bad habit. Sometimes we don't even know we are doing it. When we surround ourselves with negative thoughts, we feel negative.

Our Brain is Naturally Wired to Think Negatively

Our amygdala uses about ⅔ of its neurons to seek out negative experiences. Once our brain finds bad news it is quickly stored in our long term memory. In order for positive experiences to be transferred from our short term memory to our long term memory, we need to be conscious of our positive thoughts for more than 12 seconds. We naturally retain negative experiences, and have resilience retaining positive ones.

Our brain has a natural negativity bias. We are designed with a greater sensitivity towards the unpleasant. We do this automatically. John Cacioppo, Ph.D, conducted a research experiment showing people pictures of a pizza, or a Ferrari, that stirred positive feelings.

He also showed them negative pictures, and neutral pictures. With each of the pictures he measured electrical activity of the brain’s cerebral cortex to see the extentof the information processed. He saw stronger reactions (greater surge in electrical activity) in the brain, to the negative stimuli. Negative input impacts us disproportionately greater than positive events. Science has found frequent small positive experiences had a greater impact on our happiness, than one big happy event.

Some people are by nature, more negative thinkers. In the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, Jason Moser from Michigan State University found brain markers in people who tend to worry, actually had increased negative emotions when asked to think positive.

Mihaly Csikszentimihalyi, a psychologist believes when we don’t have other thoughts to occupy us, we automatically worry.

Positive Psychology

Positive psychology began with psychologist Martin Seligman. Dr. Seligman researched extensively human thought patterns, and the effects of optimistic and pessimistics outlooks. Through his research, he concluded we explain events with 3 basic ways we habit of the manner in which you habitually explain to yourself why events happen” (Seligman, 1990).:

  • Permanence (Is what we are experiencing permanent or temporary)

    Negative thinkers believe the event will last forever and tend to give up

Positive thinkers believe things will get back on its course and they will

find a way to make things better.

  • Pervasiveness (Relates to the perception of space)

Negative thinkers believe the issues will exist everywhere they go, nothing

works out for them

Positive thinkers believe the setback is related to that particular area of

their life and look at the other advantages they have

  • Personalization (events are caused by themselves or outside factors)

Negative thinkers believe they caused the bad things. They blame


Positive thinkers the reasons for things not working out are due to more

general factors, not necessarily something they could have prevented.

Are you more of a

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How Our Brain Handles Negative and Positive Thoughts

Our thoughts absolutely have an effect on our lives. The point of views we take affect, whether we feel powerless or we can empower ourselves.

Here is the reality. We not naturally geared to think positively. Our brain handles negative and positive information in different parts of the brain. Negative emotions actually involve more thinking and we process these negative thoughts more thoroughly than we process positive thinking. So we tend to think more deeply about unpleasant things, and we use stronger words describing negative information than we do for happier things. This has a bigger impact on us.

We are hardwired to be quicker to form opinions about bad impressions, and more resistant to changing our minds about these opinions. The negative events that happen, mistakes we make, things that aggravate, us have a greater impact on our brains, than the good things.

Researchers believe this has its roots in evolution. In order to survive, our attention had to be focused on the dangers in our environment. Additionally, it takes long to get beyond the negative than it does the positive. Professor Amabile, who did research using 12,000 diary entries found the effects of negative events such as a setback at work was two times as strong as the positive effect of making progress.

The research also found setbacks increased frustration three times as much as the power of making progress that decreases frustration. It didn’t matter if the events were big or small. It also has been found that people can only take one critical comment at a time. Our brain processes criticism in ways that we remember more after we hear disapproving remarks than before. So if you are going to criticize someone, praise them immediately afterwards, because they will remember those words better than if you compliment them and then criticize them.

Negative Thinking Has its Positives

In a study done by Karin Coifman and her collegues, when people are aware, acknowledge, and address the negative emotions affecting their relationships, the illnesses, and other aspects in their lives, they can adjust their behavior with better responses and thoughts. By acknowledging the negative emotions, instead of suppressing them, negative thinkers have better overall psychological health.

Our emotions affect us everyday and in everything we do. It affects our success and our self esteem. Even though positive psychology can help, it can also be harmful to people who naturally think negative, causing them feelings of depression and failure for not thinking positive.

Positive thinking takes effort. But many good thoughts can overcome the psychology of negative thinking.

What Your Thoughts Tell You, Your Mind Believes

The Power of Positive Thinking

The power of positive thinking is a simplistic form of psychology. In a 2012 study done by the University of Queensland found when people think there is an expection for them not to feel negative, they feel more negative emotions.

Another study published in 2009 Psychological Science, stated forcing people to use positive statements can make them feel more insecure. Psychologists don’t fully understand why some people don’t respond to positive thinking as well as others.

Some people actually respond better to negatives. When negative thinkers expect things may go wrong, it actually relieves anxiety, and they figure out how to avoid these pitfalls. Making negative people think positive, can actually damage their performance because it interferes with their defenses. Anxious people have no way to process improving their moods, just because they think positive.

Additionally, if you are too positive, you may unrealistic. Positive thinking might be blindsiding you into believing that everything is fine, when it isn’t, and then you avoid fixing the issues.

There are no simple answers to the complexities we face on an ongoing basis. We all go through good times and bad times. When things don’t go our way, there is nothing wrong with feeling bad.

Helpful Tips to Reduce Your Negative Thoughts

Negative emotions are stronger than positive thoughts. It takes work to think positive. The reality is, some people have a harder time being positive.

So if you are inclined towards the negative, I am not telling you to think positive. What I am suggesting is:

  • To do positive things.

  • Then be conscious of the positive things, so aware you think about it for 12 or more seconds.

  • Stay away from other negative people, negativity has been found to be contagious

  • Try not to overthink the negative, focus and be proactive

  • Celebrate your smallest win

  • It takes five to ten positive events to overcome one negative event
  • When you have a negative thought start the sentence by saying I am having a thought that ...
  • Imagine your negative thoughts floating away in a balloon or on a leaf
  • Sing your thoughts to the song Row Row Row Your Boat or to the ABC alphabet song so your negative thoughts will sound ridiculous
  • Tell yourself you can function even if you are having a negative thought or your negative thought is casuing you anxiety
  • For people who have a tougher time being naturally positive, there are ways to consciously direct your attention towards activities that produce positive feedback and increase a sense of purpose and accomplishment.

Do You Believe Your Negative Thoughts?

It is very normal to have negative thoughts. It's part of our evolutionary survival. We are constantly scanning our surroundings as a protection against potential dangers.

It is not so bad that we negative thoughts. It is the issues that happen when we believe these thoughts to be true.

Do you think negative thinking can be changed

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What To Say When You Talk To Your Self
What To Say When You Talk To Your Self

A great learning tool to help you with your negative thoughts



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