Break the Cycle of Negative Thinking

Negative thinking can be hard to break, but it's not impossible.
Negative thinking can be hard to break, but it's not impossible.

Failure. Disappointment. We’ve all seen it before. So many times, we start out with the best of intentions for change only to end up right where we started. No one ever said it was easy – real change takes dedication. But is there something else that is preventing our happiness besides laziness and a failure to commit?

Recent research suggests that our moods are directly linked with our memory – meaning, we think happy thoughts when we are happy and sad thoughts when we are sad, causing a slippery slope of negative thoughts if we’re not careful. [source: Bower, Gordon] Our emotions serve as units of memory, therefore, causing us to recall certain memories where we felt similar emotions.

Every time we face difficulties in life, our moods take a hit. Job loss, marital problems and difficulties with weight loss - they all can put us in a funk. And, if we hold on to those negative feelings, our minds will conjure up past bad experiences to help further continue the cycle. [source: Gotlib, Ian]

Feeding fuel to the fire is further research that explains how we decide whether something is positive or negative – that determination is caused by, you guessed it, your mood. [source: Bargh, John] Meaning, once we are in a bad mood, our minds will choose to view future events more negatively than if we were in a good mood. Theoretically, once you slip into a bad mood, you could view other seemingly positive things as negative and further recall negative memories. Sounds pretty hard to escape right?

It may seem next to impossible to turn it around when your facing tough times, but here are three simple steps to help break the chain of negative thinking.