Sarah Ash, Subject Advisor for health and social care
Negative thoughts can be experienced by everyone once in a while. Some of us though can have continuous negative thoughts about ourselves. Others around us can see something positive day-to-day – so what is it that’s stopping you embracing positivity?
It is of course negative thoughts. We are hard wired to recognise negative thoughts. Psychologists call this ‘negativity bias’ – we recognise and respond to negative events more easily than positive events. If you are in a regular pattern of negative thinking rethink.org suggest that it can be a sign that you may not have good mental health, and it could be a symptom of depression, anxiety disorders or personality disorders. To remove negative thoughts requires the right mindset, it requires us to recognise and acknowledge the negativity within.
One therapy that can help with negative thinking patterns is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). This explores how a person’s thoughts, feelings and behaviours impact on everyday life and works with you to alter those thinking patterns so that we notice them and can challenge them. See www.sane.org.uk. But if you can’t access CBT for whatever reason, are there ways that you can help yourself?
In an article for the personal growth website medium.com ‘Solving a problem that has not been named’, Joe Brewer says: “The human mind needs clear concepts to make sense of the world. When a chronic problem has not been properly named, we are unable to think clearly about it and figure out how to solve it.” Therefore we have to give negative thoughts an identity – which means facing the negative thought head on and admitting to it, because if we don’t face up to it we can’t change it.
This is not easy but it is important. Recognising and naming our thoughts and problems is a starting point. It helps us make sense of what is happening if we give things a name.
There are some interesting examples of unhelpful thinking patterns in an article on livingwell.org.au. Here are just a few of the negative thought processes mentioned in the article:
Do explore the article more. I will be honest – I recognise some of these unhelpful thinking patterns: maybe you recognise some of these or others in the article in yourselves. Once we’ve given the unhelpful thought a name we can begin to challenge those thoughts and start to break the cycle and a way that we can do this by being in the present.
Noticing our thoughts and feelings and the world around us can help us gain a better perspective. According to nhs.uk/every-mind-matters this is known as being more mindful. On the NHS website is a video that gives some excellent suggestions as well as other tips on reframing your thoughts. One method is to keep a thought diary. This can help you to identify if there is a pattern to your thinking such as times of day or events that trigger the negative thought process.
The NHS mental health ‘reframe thoughts’ video summarises by using the phrase ‘catch it, check it, change it. A catch phrase like this is a useful tool as it taps into a common, rich, and vivid understanding, and offers up an implied metaphor, by likening the situation in which they are used to the situation in which they originated (psychologytoday.com).
With a problem identified and the pattern noted, we can begin to understand the negative thoughts and how they are affecting our daily lives, at work and at home. This is a small step but a significant change. As is often the case with mental health issues, it’s the little things that matter.
So set yourself a challenge – name that negative thought and identify the pattern. It can have such a big impact on our everyday existence that it is a change worth making. We’ve adopted ‘hands, face, space’ over the last year, so for our mental health lets adopt ‘catch it, check it, change it’.
The mentalhealth.org.uk website has lots of activities, advice and resources to help you with your mental health. Check out to see what is there.
If you do find yourself struggling to cope, remember that there are organisations that can help. Here are three that you might find useful:
Mental Health Foundation
We’re here to support you so if you have any queries or questions, you can email us at email@example.com or tweet us @OCR_Health. You can also sign up to subject updates and receive information about resources and support.
Sarah was a teacher of health and social care for ten years. This is her main subject area and her degree and PGCE qualifications are in this subject. She has also taught child development along with several other subjects at KS3 and moderated on the A Level Health and Social Care for another awarding body. Sarah worked in secondary schools and a sixth form college in Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex teaching KS4 and KS5 and as a teacher in a care home for young people aged 16-18 and supported them in preparing to leave care. She now works as a subject advisor in our Cambridge office.