What Makes Negative Thinking Such a Difficult Habit to Break?None By Homaira Kabir
Have you ever caught yourself ruminating about painful, negative thoughts and found that you just aren't willing to let them go? Or have you been in the company of complainers who, despite your best efforts, simply continue with their self-defeatist story, on and on and on?
I don’t think any of us purposely chooses to bring ourself down. After all, we’re wired to want to grow toward the highest version of ourselves. But surprisingly enough, our brain is also wired to activate its reward system when we feel negative emotions, such as shame, guilt, and worry.
In another time, this response may certainly have helped us step out of our caves and hunt for food, or mend our ways so we didn't get rejected from our tribe. But today, when our fears lie primarily in our psychological world, this evolutionary glitch may be causing us more harm than good.
The good news is that we don’t have to remain victims of our wiring. We have the ability to override it when necessary—and here’s how to do so.
Name the Emotion
Emotions arise in a part of the brain that’s nonverbal and conveys its messages through bodily sensations. This form of communication can be lost on us, since we’re so accustomed to our mental language centers. Simply naming the emotion (think: "fear" or "embarrassment") moves it from the emotionally charged systems of the brain to the more rational areas, where we can make sense of what’s going on. Ask yourself whether it’s anxiety, worry, sadness, or frustration that you’re feeling. Verbalizing an emotion helps the brain feel in control of it, rather than at the mercy of its urge to act.
Identify the Thought
With every emotion comes a running mental commentary of what’s going on. This commentary helps us make sense of the world around us as we try to piece together what happened with what we know of the world. Strangely enough, even if the meaning we give a situation is painful but corroborates our mental frameworks, we feel a bittersweet sensation. “She refused to come over because she doesn’t like me” is not a cheery thought, but to a mind that believes in its unlovability and fears rejection, it initiates the release of the pleasure hormone dopamine.
Here’s where we have to be wise protectors of our mental space. Instead of letting our internal commentator have a heyday, w