Suppose a coworker or a grocery store clerk suddenly gave you a mean look. How would you react? Would you just let it slide off you, like water off a duck? Or would you take it personally and feel bad about yourself, or even get angry about it? If you turn small things into big things that bother you for days, weeks, or even longer, you're having negative thoughts.
Negative thoughts can make you feel sad and anxious. They take the joy out of life-and they can take a toll on your physical health. That's why it's so important to learn how to deal with them.
Sometimes I think my memory is actually too good. Like when I realize I still know the lyrics to nearly every song released in the '80s. Or that I can recite, verbatim, lines from at least half a dozen episodes of Seinfeld and Sex and the City. But then I'll go to transfer a load of laundry into the dryer and discover that it's already dry; seems I forgot to ever turn on the washer. Or I'll forget my neighbor's name — again. Could it be that sitcom dialogue and song lyrics are taking...
One way to deal with negative thoughts is to replace them with thoughts that make you feel better. Let's say you just learned that you have a health problem. You might tell yourself "My life will never be the way it used to be" or "This is the beginning of the end for me." That will probably make you feel pretty bad-and it will make your body weaker, just when you need it to be strong.
Or you could tell yourself something like "This is going to be a challenge for a while, but if I'm patient I can learn to adapt and still enjoy my life" or "This is a setback for me, but I can recover from it if I give myself time." This kind of thought can make you feel better and more hopeful. And it helps your body too.
Do you have any negative thoughts right now? (Sometimes it's hard to even know.) Take a minute, listen to your thoughts, and see if you do. If you're telling yourself something that makes you feel bad, remember: You are in charge of what you tell yourself. So why not come up with something more encouraging?
They're "just thoughts." What's the big deal?
Because of the mind-body connection, your thoughts really can affect your health. By telling yourself more encouraging things, you're telling your brain to produce chemicals that can: