It’s Not What Happens to You, but How You Think About It

It’s Not What Happens to You, but How You Think About It

Last update: 01 January, 2016

Negative thoughts can be very harmful to us. Traumatic events in themselves don’t affect us as much as the stress and anxiety that they create. Controlling our thoughts is the key to coming out ahead and moving forward without the burden of guilt.

A study done in 2013 with more than 30,000 subjects revealed that fixating on the negative events in life can be the main trigger for some of the most common mental health problems today, especially because of the guilt that these events generate.

The results indicated that it is not what happens to us in life that matters, but the way in which we think about it that shapes our psychological wellbeing. In this sense, acting on our thoughts will help us to limit this feelings of guilt with which we punish ourselves.

“Whilst we know that a person’s genetics and life circumstances contribute to mental health problems, the results from this study showed that traumatic life events are the main reason people suffer from anxiety and depression. However, the way a person thinks about, and deals with, stressful events is as much an indicator of the level of stress and anxiety they feel,“ said the head researcher, Peter Kinderman.

While self-reflection can be a key ingredient to living a conscious and happy life, these new findings demonstrate that rumination or dwelling on the negative aspects of our lives and our past is not good for us.

Therefore, while self-understanding is a means to overcoming our personal battles, it is also necessary that we practice self-compassion and not make enemies of ourselves.

In this sense, overcoming our internal critic will help us to banish the guilt and the self-deprecation over what happened to us, what we did, or what we stopped doing, thereby giving ourselves the opportunity to think positively about what we still have ahead of us, as well as propping ourselves up with the good that we have done and the values and attitudes that make us stronger.

To overcome these negative, self-destructive thoughts, it is important to start by learning to distinguish and recognize them, as well as to identify the moments when these thoughts come up. In this way, we will start filtering them, avoiding them, and even confronting them with definitive responses and zero tolerance.

On the other hand, when we find ourselves thinking negatively, when we remember things that affect us in a negative way, it is much better to stop agonizing over them, to stop ruminating on what happened. It is much more effective to cut these thoughts off right away and to think about something else.

According to the conclusions drawn from various studies, cognitive-behavioral interventions can be effective at reducing worry. In this sense, various studies have proven that treatments in which participants are encouraged to change their way of thinking or their emotional response to rumination, agonizing over thoughts, and worrying so much about them have had positive results.

Other studies have indicated that self-compassion is associated with a greater capacity for emotional recovery, with more caring behavior toward oneself, since self-compassion is based on a basic feeling of one’s own dignity as a human being.

Thus, starting to banish negative thoughts requires an enhanced awareness not to listen to these thoughts, to develop self-compassion, and to act against the directions given to us by our internal critic.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.