Negative Thinking Patterns: How to Manage, Interpret and Reframe
Today we are talking about thinking patterns.
Sometimes, we experience our thoughts racing or we draw harmful conclusions that aren't necessarily true when certain things happen in our day-to-day, or when our emotions are heightened.
For example, you may have a pending deadline at work, the subway commute may be waaay too long, or you might have gotten into an argument with someone that you deeply care about. In these moments, you may notice your mind fast-forward to the worst possible case scenario. It can be really challenging to pay attention to how you feel and what you might be thinking when certain events occur, especially when you might be running on autopilot.
Today, we are so grateful to hear from Liz Beecroft, licensed social worker and mental health advocate, about her perspective on the importance of reframing our thinking, and important tips and guidance about taking the first steps toward thinking and feeling better.
About the author: Liz Beecroft is a LMSW and content creator based in Brooklyn, NY. Liz works full time as a psychotherapist for a foster care agency, using a trauma-informed lens while drawing from theoretical frameworks such as CBT and FFT. Outside of her full time job, Liz uses her platform to share her personal style, love of sneakers and passion for mental health advocacy by creating an open dialogue and transparent voice that speaks to her followers about being genuine and authentic on social media. Contact Liz at email@example.com or follow her on social @lizbcroft
Where to begin? Noticing a new framework.
The path to positive thinking and setting happiness as a priority is something many people strive to be on, yet might not have the tools to stay on. Struggling with depressive, anxious, or negative thoughts can often be a barrier to understanding that it’s not always about what happens to you, but how you frame these situations.
The idea that you can’t always control what happens to you, but you can control how you react to it is a good place to start by understanding that it is in our own power to see a situation through a certain frame.
Introduction to CBT: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy
Using applications such as “emotional accounting” and “cognitive reframing” from the Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) model, are ways to apply this idea when you find yourself involved with negative thinking patterns. Emotional accounting is the process of transforming the negative thoughts to be more positive whereas cognitive reframing allows the broader picture to be transformed from a negative interpretation of what is happening to you, to a more positive interpretation.
The first thing to consider is having an understanding of how our thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are connected. When a triggering event happens, we tend to have an automatic thought about this event (often times related to our past experiences or irrational core beliefs). This thought that we have influences the way that we then feel emotionally, which then affects our behaviors. When people are caught in negative thinking patterns, it’s common for the feelings associated with that thought to be negative (sadness, regret, despair, depression, anger, etc). When we begin to feel this negative emotion, our behavior subsequently leads to inaction, outbursts, crying, isolation, as well as other behaviors we wish wouldn’t occur.
So let’s dig deeper: How exactly do we reframe these negative thoughts?
Focus on your awareness of your negative thinking traps. Be mindful and try your best to recognize negative thoughts and try to describe the situation as accurate as possible. Notice what thoughts make you feel a way that you do not like and take a mental note of this. Also take notice of your feelings. Be aware of the physical sensations that arise in your body. Some negative thoughts will just pass through without affecting our daily functioning, but if you notice physiological sensations in your body, that is a good indicator to try and reframe the thought.
2. Ask Questions
Literally, ask yourself questions to get a better understanding of how to cognitively cope with this negative thought. When you identify a negative thought that comes to mind, some questions you can ask yourself are: Is this thought 100% accurate? Is this thought helpful? What advice would I give to my best friend if they were going through a similar situation? What are the chances of this thought coming true? What will I think of this in a week? Could there be any other thoughts besides this one? What will I gain from accepting this thought? What will I lose?
3. Come up with an alternative view (REFRAME)
The goal is to find a better alternative view of what is happening to you. Use your personal power to come up with a “redemptive narrative.” A redemptive narrative is where you are able to tell the story of your situation in which the tough events also bring something positive. The positive may take some time, but it’s important to see a positive outlook.
Keep practicing - this can take time.
Restructuring and reframing negative thinking patterns takes practice and awareness. This is not something that will happen overnight, but if you remember to stay mindful of the negative thoughts you have, you will start to see that you are in control of how you feel!
Keep in touch!
We hope these tips have been helpful for you to begin to learning how to work with your thoughts. Thank you to Liz Beecroft, LMSW for your invaluable perspective today.
To see Liz talking through these tips as close to IRL as possible, check out our Instagram stories (and highlights on this and other topics) @findmywellbeing.
What topics do you want to hear about most? We’d love to source experts to share more perspective with you. Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.