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5 positives of negative thinking

Is the glass on the table half full or half empty? The optimists are in favour of the first theory, the pessimists of the latter. It turns out that a bit of pessimism is sometimes healthy.


1 Negative thinking... protects against frustration
No sooner said than done? But the truth is much more complicated.

It has been proved by Joanne Wood, John Lee from the University of Waterloo and cooperating with them Elaine Perunovic from University of New Brunswick. A group of students was given a task: they had four minutes to write on a piece of paper all their thoughts and feelings – a stream of consciousness. Their work was interrupted by a gong every fifteen seconds – each person was obliged to think: “I’m a wonderful person!” As it turned out, none of them felt better after this exercise. Indeed, those who had low self-esteem, feel even worse: they didn’t feel like a wonderful person, they were rather of the opinion that they are useless.

In practice: Think negative corresponds to your profound conviction. Stop deluding yourself. If there is anything in your life that bothers you, ask yourself: how can I change this? It is much more effective.

2 Negative thinking... improves concentration
Positive thinking puts us in a condition similar to falling in love. Everything is great and beautiful. We become lazy and lose our vigilance. It is clearly visible during tests on concentration, reflex, but also in statements of witness seeing for example traffic accidents. Those who were in worse mood, thought pessimistic, tend to memorise more details, because at the time of the incident they were concentrated on their surroundings.

In practice: You have a goal – for example passing FCE or driving licence exam. A little bit pessimism will be good for you. Talk to yourself: “I know almost nothing, I think I will fail” – then you will not rest on your laurels. Another trick to use: studies proved that it is easier to recall those memories when we felt emotions similar to those that we are experiencing currently. Are you usually in bad mood during a test? When learning try not to improve your mood, don’t console yourself and don’t think positively – during a test you will not have a problem to recall the revised material.


3 Negative thinking... it’s a sign of common sense
Bernard Madoff, arrested and sentenced to 150 years in prison for financial fraud, said during the trial that he was aware of the fact that his swindles must come to light, but... he hoped it won’t happen during his lifetime. This is a classic example of wishful thinking. Negative thinking is not so bad. Look at it from a different perspective: it’s a natural defensive reaction of your mind to a threat, risky situation. Sometimes it worth to use such defence.

In practice: Think negatively whenever you encounter something unknown or you have to make a decision which consequences you will bear for many months or even years. For example decision about taking credit. Instead of saying to yourself: “Everything will work out, next year I will get a great job and in a few years – an inheritance, so paying instalments will not be a problem”, ask yourself: what would happen if it turns out that I don’t get job or inheritance? How will you handle then? Probably your dark prophecies will not fulfil – but negative thinking will open your eyes on other, not necessarily joyful visions of the future. And will protect against serious trouble.


4 Negative thinking... strengthens motivation
If you have ever lost weight, you probably know how ends thinking about a dream figure – right at the beginning of the diet. Your weight is not decreasing! The same happens with convalescents after the heart attack. It turns out that this group, which use positive thinking: “Everything will be fine”, “Nothing has happened, I can handle this” is much more slowly returning to health than those who show limited pessimism: “It is a serious problem, it could end up badly...”, “My life will never be the same as before”, “I can have another heart attack”.

In practice: If you want to change your eating, health habits, do not be optimistic. Think negatively to really feel that the current state doesn’t suit you – then you will be determined to make a revolution in your life.


5 Negative thinking... helps to overcome fears
Under the therapy psychotherapists are increasingly recommending the patients to create negative scenarios. Will they dismiss me? Sometimes, it is worth to go too far even in dark visions until the point of absurdity: imagine a bailiff, living under a bridge... Because then comes reflection: it cannot be so bad...

In practice: If you are very afraid of something – face those fears. Play around with creating worse case scenarios. Keep in mind that only every fifth bad forecast comes true. So if only 20 percent of your worst case scenarios comes true, you....will be able to survive?   

Jagna Kaczanowska, psychologist

Published: Thu, 07/01/2016 - 17:32

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