positive thinking

Break the Cycle: Common Types of Negative Thinking

In an earlier post, we talked about the importance of positive self-talk and why this should be one of your New Year’s resolutions. Replacing negative self-talk with positive self-talk is an effective way to lift your mood, improve your health and lower the risk for depression. But how can you do this effectively if you don’t know how to recognize negative self-talk? 

Negative thinking is not just about hearing bad things in your head. It can take on many forms, and some aren’t all that obvious. Below are some of the most common forms of negative self-talk. By recognizing them, you can eliminate this type of thinking and replace it with better thoughts! 


With filtering, you magnify the negative aspects of a situation and filter out the positive ones. For example, you had a great day at work. You enjoyed your coworkers, completed your tasks on time and even had a chance to organize your files. But when you get home, your mind goes right to the one project you haven’t completed yet. This is filtering – you are only focused on the bad. 


Personalizing happens when you put the blame on yourself – even when you have no bearing on the outcome. Let’s say you make plans to go out for dinner and the restaurant is closed – it’s your fault. Or, your plans were canceled and you assume that no one wanted to be around you. Even though these things are clearly not your fault, you can’t help but blame yourself. 


With catastrophizing, you automatically anticipate the worst. Let’s say that you slept through your alarm, causing your morning to be rushed. Catastrophizing causes you to think that your whole day will be bad. Essentially, the smallest things turn into major catastrophes in your head. 


Blaming is the opposite of personalizing, but it’s still a negative way of thinking. With blaming, you try to say that someone else is responsible for what happened. Not only can blaming cause problems in your relationships, but also it prevents you from taking accountability for your thoughts and actions. 


Magnifying happens when you take a magnifying glass to your own flaws or errors and exaggerate them. This can happen in conjunction with catastrophizing. For example, your doctor may tell you that you need to exercise more, and you think that you’ve failed yourself and are unhealthy. 


Has anyone ever told you that you think in black and white? This could be because of polarizing self-talk, which is where you see things as only good or bad. There is no middle ground. This type of thinking isn’t healthy because it makes you think in absolutes – something can only be right or wrong. 


While it’s healthy to have goals to strive for, it’s not healthy to be a perfectionist. Why? Because keeping impossible standards and trying to be perfect sets you up for failure. You are human, and you are going to make mistakes. Learning from these mistakes and bouncing back is what’s important. 

Now that you know a bit more about what negative self-talk looks like, you can hopefully catch it in the act and replace it with more positive, constructive thinking. Jack Rourke is an experienced life coach in Los Angeles who can help you work toward a more ‘glass half full’ mindset. Book your appointment today!