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How to recognise and correct negative thinking

Smile, and the world smiles with you. A happy disposition acts as a positive magnet and draws the rights kinds or people and events into our lives. However, even though we all enjoy being happy, negative thought is a big part of human nature and can easily plunge us into a spiral of sadness and even depression. There are ten particularly common and destructive negative thoughts (known to professionals as cognitive distortions) that we need keep an eye on.

Woman with slight smile

All-or-nothing thinking

This is the queen of black and white – if you don’t succeed, you’re a failure; if you don’t get a job, you’ll always be unemployed, and so forth.

Solution: Stop thinking in absolutes and remind yourself that all experiences are a part of learning.


Stereotyping gone wild, overgeneralisation happens when you use a sweeping statement to categorise a situation or event: “He’ll just cheat on me – all the good looking ones are unfaithful”, etc.

Solution: Fight the urge to give into prejudice and think of positive outcomes.

Mental filter

If you’ve ever dwelled on and over-analysed something until it made you feel like a fool, you’ve had a mental filter moment. 

Solution: Take a step back and try to see the whole picture.

Disqualifying the positive

Ever discounted a compliment from friends because you thought they were just being nice?

Solution: Learn to accept praise. Believe it. (And say “Thank you”!)

Jumping to conclusions

This happens when you presume the worst by either:

  1. Mind reading: Assuming that someone is thinking or acting negatively towards you.
  2. The Fortune Teller Error: Convincing yourself that things will end badly.

Solution: Don’t make assumptions without proof. Force yourself to see positive outcomes.

Magnification or minimization

Like a distorting mirror at a carnival, you magnify your bad qualities and shortcomings, and minimize your achievements and good qualities.

Solution: Remind yourself of your self-worth.

Emotional reasoning

Instead of using logic you allow your negative emotions to take control – “I feel stupid, so I must be stupid” etc.
Solution: Let your brain in – it’ll make quick work of emotional disillusions.

Should statements

The ultimate guilt-trip, you qualify everything with “should” and “shouldn’t” statements causing frustration and anger – “I should be great at this” “I shouldn’t be so weak” and other negativities.

Solution:  Stop putting pressure on yourself and accept that in life there are no definites.

Labeling and mislabeling

How you view yourself is how you feel, so if you give yourself negative labels (“doormat”, “bimbo”, “freak”, “loser” etc), the repercussions are serious.

Solution: Don’t allow yourself to stereotype – view erroneous behaviour as a slip rather than a definition of who you are.


You blame yourself for an event that you have no control over: “If I hadn’t made him angry he wouldn’t have been caught speeding” etc.

Solution: Acknowledge that you cannot control external events and behaviours – don’t take on full blame.

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