The Damaging Effects of Negativity by Bree Maloney
You make think that a disease or illness are the reasons for your tired body or prolonged aches, but have you ever thought that thinking negatively could be the reason? Pessimism affects more than just your emotional health. In fact, doctors have found that people with high levels of negativity are more likely to suffer from degenerative brain diseases, cardiovascular problems, digestive issues, and recover from sickness much slower than those with a positive mindset.
What Causes Negativity?
Negativity is often a product of depression or insecurity. It can stem from illness, life events, personality problems, and substance abuse. Like many things in life, negativity too, can become a habit. Frequent criticism, cynical thoughts, and denial can create neural pathways in the brain that encourage sadness. These negative tendencies can cause our brain to distort the truth and make it even more difficult to break the negative cycle. Luckily, most habits can be broken. Experts say that it takes 21 days to break a habit.
What are the Types of Negativity?
Negativity can manifest itself in numerous ways:
1) Cynicism: A general distrust of people and their motives.
2) Hostility: Unfriendliness towards others; unwilling to develop relationships.
3) Filtering: Only noticing the bad in what should be a happy experience or memory.
4) Polarized Thinking: The belief that if something or someone is not perfect, then they must be horrible.
5) Jumping to Conclusions: Assuming something bad will happen because of circumstances in the present.
6) Catastrophizing: The belief that disaster is inevitable.
7) Blaming: Blaming others for personal maladies, and feeling that you are a victim to life’s uncontrollable events.
8) Emotional Reasoning: Using your emotions to define what is real and what is not.
9) Fallacy of Change: The thinking that if people or circumstances change, you can then be happy.
10) Heaven’s Reward Fallacy: Type of negativity that assumes there will always be a reward for hard work and sacrifice. When the reward does not come, you become bitter and depressed.
How Does Negativity Affect the Body?
Negative thoughts and emotions are a natural response to disaster and heartache. But extended bouts of negativity can result in serious health problems. Negativity sends our body into stress, or ‘fight-or-flight’ mode. Our bodies are designed to deal with stressful situations by releasing cortisol into the bloodstream, making you more alert and focused. Though some stress is good for us, too much can be detrimental to your health. Extended periods of negativity slows digestion, and decreases the immune system’s ability to fight inflammation. This is also why negative people are more likely to get more sick than optimists.
Some of the common effects of negativity include:
- Chest pain
- Upset stomach
- Sleep problems
- Social withdrawal
- Drastic changes in metabolism (i.e. overeating or under-eating)
Prolonged negativity also hurts mental health, making individuals more likely to turn to smoking or substance abuse as a way of coping.
In the same way that negative thoughts create neural pathways in the brain, positive self-talk and reinforcement can also become a habit. Research suggests that happiness and optimism are more of a choice than influenced by circumstance. Here are some tips to overcome negativity:
1) Learn to recognize what is REAL. See both the good and the bad in the world. The more you become a realistic optimist, the more you will be able to focus your energy on the positive.
2) Live in the moment. Focus on the task at hand, and avoid thinking of past mistakes or future fears. If a negative thought enters your head, respond with at least three positive affirmations immediately. Positive thinkers can control their mind and are aware of which thoughts enter their head.
3) Be positive. If being positive is a habit, then you need to practice optimism everyday! Participate in activities that cultivate happy thoughts–like hobbies, spending time with loved ones, and meditation. Engage in uplifting media and conversations.
4) Turn your negativity into action. Experiencing negative emotions and thoughts is inevitable, but positive thinkers know how to turn those negative statements into action. For example, a positive thinker may look in the mirror and see that she has gained a bit of weight over the holiday season. Instead of dwelling on her appearance, she uses it as motivation to live a healthier lifestyle.
5) Spend time with uplifting people. Negativity is contagious. Don’t catch the pessimist bug from someone else! Instead, spend time talking with those who care about you and leave you feeling enlightened and content. Humans are social creatures, and developing a healthy network of family and friends can help you to see the glass half-full.
The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.