Mental Health Tips

How to Deal with Negative Thinking

Negative thinking is one of the most frequently mentioned issues among those who come to us for help. Why do we fall into negative thinking?

Psychology is a field of study and research from a variety of angles, including cognition, behavior, emotion, and thought. I'd like to focus on to how the brain works.

Among many theories, there is a view that the human brain is composed of three parts: a fairly primitive reptilian brain, such as the brainstem which plays a life-supporting role such as organ function and breathing, a mammalian brain that handles emotions and feelings in the cerebrum which is responsible for connection and communication, and a primate brain in the neocortex which handles thinking. Each of these three parts has been formed during the process of evolution, and they work individually or in conjunction to determine our behavior and emotions.

Based on this theory, it is possible to view the anticipation of danger that may occur in the future, and the antennae for uncertainties, as functions that have long been necessary for humans to protect their own lives. In other words, the reptilian brain is strongly involved. For example, if we hear a suspicious noise, we need to reflexively turn our attention to it and follow it with our eyes. We need to avoid the spot we have once encountered a bear in the forest. For humans, signals such as anxiety and fear were paramount for survival.

However, our current life rarely requires us to perceive physical danger to that extent. And yet, because the human brain has such an ancient function for survival, it is possible that even in today's peaceful and safe life, anxiety and fear signals are triggered by minor changes in the environment - feeling anxious or fearful over trivial events, repeatedly recalling hurtful experiences you once had, feeling overwhelmed by anger as a defensive reaction to someone who hurts you.

Although there are differences depending on the environment and individuality, it may be said that human beings are essentially creatures that are prone to negative thinking due to signals to protect themselves. Isn’t it a little relief to think that negative thinking itself is not “MY” fault? Then, how should we deal with negative thinking?

This coping method has been studied in psychology and psychotherapies, but here I would like to introduce two methods.

The first is to savor positive daily experiences and feel them on a physical level, and the second is to speak positive words to yourself on a regular basis. The image of this is to nourish the mind in the same way that we take in protein, calcium...various nutrients from food on a daily basis, as a conscious maintenance of the mind,

Positive experiences can be anything - delicious, happy, fun, interesting, comforting, pleasant, refreshing, relieving, calming, or healing experience. The important point is to feel the physical senses, including the five senses of sight, hearing, smell, and others, during the experience. This allows us to send signals of reassurance to ourselves that go beyond words and logic.

We also tend to be critical of ourselves. This is especially true if you are highly achievement oriented or a hard worker. As a preventive measure, it is a good idea to deliver pleasant, kind words to yourself along with a sense of comfort. It can be any kind of words such as "You did your best," "It's okay," "It's okay just the way it is," "You'll be fine," or "It's okay to be yourself just as you are.

The second is awareness.  When we are covered in negative thoughts, the world and ourselves appear as if they are actually negative in reality, and our image of future is also covered in negativity, then it will lead to another negative thought and amplify. Therefore, the first thing we can do is to become aware of this mechanism when this happens. This alone can prevent, stop, or ease the amplification. The image is like switching from the street view of a map to a normal map perspective, in other words, looking at it from above. 

Some of you may have been taking these methods naturally, while others may find it difficult, unfamiliar, or resistant.

In the Student Support Room, we carefully listen to what you are having trouble with and what you are struggling with, and we can work together on how to deal with it or discuss what would be helpful for you. Please feel free to visit us if you feel stuck.



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