Are negative thoughts really that bad?

Hello! Seiiti Arata. Having negative thoughts isn’t always a bad thing. At times, negative thinking can help you to be more careful in potentially dangerous situations. For this reason, negative thinking can actually help you to avoid bigger problems. The problem with negative thinking comes when it starts to affect your reality.

Your reality is affected by objective and subjective changes

If you want to change your reality, there are two basic options: objective change and subjective change.

To change objectively, you need to modify the observable situations in your life. To change subjectively, you should change the way that you interpret the situations that you find yourself in.

Some common examples of objective change are having the perfect body, having more money in your bank account, being in a relationship, having a nicer house, a new car, a new phone. That is to say, objective change is strongly linked to HAVING and is a transformation in reality that can be verified and measured, by different independent observers.

Do you know what the classic problem of achieving happiness is through objective change is? It’s that happiness is hardly ever permanent when all we focus on is HAVING, because as soon as we have the object that we desire, that desire disappears. This is a paradox that we’ve know about since the time of Plato. We put a lot of effort into reaching the desired point and, when we do, it seems that joy is temporary. We quickly become accustomed to the new state of affairs and begin to desire other changes.

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On the other hand, subjective change is a strategy that’s often easier to implement and can bring more lasting happiness. Instead of seeking changes in the observable and objective reality, you could devote yourself to interpreting reality differently. This is subjective because it depends on the way that you see the situation. You become the main subject in the construction of reality. Therefore, this kind of happiness is found in BEING, and not in HAVING. We can change our mindset so that we deal with negative thoughts in a more constructive way. 

When you change your mindset, you change your reality

Many studies have proven that subjective change has a measurable impact on our reality, and in turn causing objective change.

For example, Harvard University has conducted an experiment to test the effects that a change in mindset had on the health of cleaners that worked in hotels in the US.

These cleaners do a lot of physical activity while cleaning hotel rooms. But when asked by researchers whether they considered themselves to be physically active people, most cleaners said no. Many of them scored themselves a ZERO on a scale of zero to ten, in terms of daily activity.

The researchers then began to work towards changing their mentality. They showed the cleaners how, in fact, they were much more physically active than the average population. That their work was the equivalent to spending hours in the gym.

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Just four weeks after changing the mentality of how they saw their work, cleaners slimmed down, their blood pressure improved, and their percentage of body fat was reduced.

They changed the mentality that they were just working and began to see their day to day as a series of exercises. This brought practical results to their health. The subjective change caused an objective change.

Negative thoughts cause bad practical results

Just as an optimistic mindset can lead to improvement in health, negative thoughts can increase the amount of problems and difficulties we experience.

This doesn’t mean that having one or two negative thoughts will ruin your life. It’s not necessary to control all your negative emotions and thoughts.

It’s normal for you to have negative thoughts from time to time. We all have them, depending on the situation. The problem is when these negative thoughts become dominant, bringing bad practical results to your life.

When we speak of positive or negative mentality, also known as mindset or mental model, we are mainly interested in those recurrent thoughts with which we identify ourselves. Ideas that are part of our belief system, our personal values, our own identity.

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Is your standard mental model positive or negative?

There is a whole set of values, conventions and behaviours that we choose for our interpretation of reality and for our decision making. Let’s call it all the standard mental model.

If your standard mental model is positive, you tend to interpret reality in a more optimistic, confident, cheerful way. If your standard mental model is negative, the tendency is for you to interpret the same reality in a pessimistic, gloomy, downbeat way.

Understanding this difference is fundamental. The facts are the same. What changes is the way you interpret the facts and act upon them. The way you interpret situations is determined by your outlook on life. 

Some thoughts simply appear in our heads and then go away, without causing any impact or influence on our actions.

On the other hand, there are certain types of recurring thoughts that end up influencing us directly or indirectly. These are the thoughts we want to observe with awareness and wisdom to understand how they influence our decisions, feelings, and behaviours.

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In addition to raising our level of awareness, we also want to acquire cognitive agility. We want to be clear about what kind of mentality we’re using in a particular context, so that we can make the necessary changes.

For example, let’s imagine that I’m in danger. In this case, it would be important to be more cautious and alert to signs that may require me to run away or have to fight to defend myself.

In a situation of danger, worry isn’t a detrimental negative thought. In this case, negative thinking is even a necessary precaution.

Now let’s imagine that I’m getting ready to make a presentation in front of my team at the company.

In this situation, the concern to run away, the fight or flight mode, isn’t the most appropriate way of thinking. Here, this negative thinking is harmful. Negative thinking makes me anxious, tense, worried. I’m unable to activate a mindset of spontaneity, enthusiasm and connection that’s necessary for a good professional presentation.

What I’m trying to say is that having negative thoughts isn’t necessarily bad. Depending on the situation, negative thoughts may even help us.

What we need is to be able to change our way of thinking depending on our goals and the context. We want to know when to make a subjective change. It’s important to know whether our standard way of thinking is optimistic or pessimistic.

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It’s very possible to change your standard mental model

At the beginning of our conversation, I said that there are two ways to change your reality: objective change and subjective change.

Objective change is wanting to objectively change everything around you. Your body, your clothes, your house, your relationships, your material possessions …

Subjective change is changing your mindset, the way that you interpret reality.

The main tip I want to share with you is that people often try too hard for objective change and forget about the power of subjective change. We don’t always need to seek change around us, outside of ourselves. The change that we need might be simply in the way we think ..

Stanford University has decided to research whether it’s actually possible to change our mental model.

After a decade of analysing how people think, researchers concluded that there are basically two types of mentality: the fixed mindset and the growth mindset.

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People with a fixed-minded predominance believe they have personality traits and abilities that can’t be modified. They don’t believe that they can change. They think they’re stuck with the level of intelligence or skill with which they were born.

People with the growth mindset believe that virtually anything about themselves can be changed through study, effort, and constant practice. They believe that they can change their thinking and, therefore, have fewer negative thoughts.

What we’ve learned from this is that it’s very possible to change our standard mental model. It’s perfectly possible to continuously improve.

The easiest way to change your life for the better is to change yourself. Instead of seeking to change everything around you, seek to develop as a person. Try to have an optimistic, curious mentality, always in search of learning and continuous improvement.

This is also a path that requires effort, discipline, and persistence. But it’s an easier path than wanting to change everything around you.

When it comes to personal development, true learning is done through transformation. If you don’t transform yourself, there is no learning. You might have memorised or conceptually understood something, but no true learning has happened.

Our mentality is formed through the narrative that we give to the facts and experiences that we live. The facts, events and experiences in themselves don’t have an objective and universal meaning. Each of us interprets the facts and events differently, through our own narrative.

Therefore, reaching understanding about your own narrative is the key step that needs to be taken in order to improve your mindset. Having negative thoughts isn’t necessarily harmful. What is harmful is when you become dominated by negative thoughts that trap you in a fixed mindset.

The combination of negative thoughts and a fixed mindset can make it difficult for you to make important subjective changes. For a better life, we can replace negative thoughts with a growth mentality and subjective changes.

Want to know how to adopt this clever way of thinking and develop more as an individual? If so, take part in our special Personal Development course, in which you’ll learn how to achieve improvements in your life, starting with yourself. To do this, all you have to do is click here: