- Negative thoughts are more automatic than positive thoughts.
- Reflective thoughts are not automatic or based on past failures but rather in the moment and supportive.
- A chasing-the-good template shows that we can learn to chase the good and not the bad through reflection rather than reflex.
Our thoughts are not on an even playing field. Research suggests that negative thoughts are four to seven times more prevalent than positive thoughts (Moawad, 2022). Negative thoughts have more access than positive thoughts.
Negative thoughts have even been shown to reduce longevity. What can we do about this lack of balance in our brains? The implications of doing nothing are really not an option.
“I will not allow anyone to walk in my mind with dirty feet.”– M. Gandhi
Negative thoughts appear to be more automatic than positive thoughts. We do not have to conjure up negative thoughts consciously. They just happen.
On the other hand, positive thoughts are not automatic. We have to identify and process them. They are more work. Positive thoughts are outnumbered due to the fact they are not automatic and require mental engagement. They are about reflection, not reflex.
Reflexive thoughts are automatic and come from habitual reinforcement. Thoughts like: “I can’t do this,” “Nobody likes me,” “I’m a failure,” and “I’m a bad person" are examples of reflexive thoughts. They surface automatically because they have been reinforced over and over. We do not create these thoughts because they are already in our hard drives.
Reflexive thoughts are a product of past events that did not go well. They are old and use dated information that has little or no resemblance to what is happening at the moment. However, they have been reinforced to the max and are waiting to ambush.
Understandably, the person who navigates turbulent thoughts regularly will start to lose confidence and may become even more negative in their thinking. They may be chasing the bad all the time.
“Change comes from reflection.” – Genesis P-Orridge
Positive thoughts come from reflection. They are formulated out of careful consideration based on experiences and learning. They are not reflexive in nature or substance. Introspection helps take automatic and reflexive thoughts to a more meaningful level.
There will always be the challenge of automatic negative thoughts in the background, but the positive thought process can take over the foreground. Thoughts like: “This is new, but I am learning,” “I can do this, it might be hard, but I can make it," and “I am good enough” are examples of thoughts that emulate reflection. Reflective thoughts are not automatic or based on past failures but rather in the moment and supportive. These thoughts will boost one’s confidence and motivation, not tear them down.
Chase the Good, Not the Bad
Through reflection and not reflex, we can learn to chase the good and not the bad. Ultimately, reflexive thoughts are more prevalent, by four to seven times, than reflective thoughts. The salient features of a chasing-the-good template seem obvious. Without an effective positive thought strategy, negative thought and all the negative consequences will prevail. We need to chase a more mindful template.
“Mindfulness helps us freeze the frame so that we can become aware of our sensations and experiences as they are, without the distorting coloration of socially conditioned responses or habitual reactions. “– Henepola Gunaratana
Mindfulness is a state that is characterized by introspection, openness, reflection, and self-acceptance. The research is clear on the main outcomes of practicing mindfulness: there has been strong evidence coming out recently that demonstrates that mindfulness is significantly correlated with positive affect, life satisfaction, and overall well-being (Seear & Vella-Brodrick, 2012; Sin & Lyubomirsky, 2009).
Even if you have struggled with negative thoughts, there are better days ahead through a chasing-the-good template.
Moawad, T. (2022). Getting To Neutral. HarperOne, January 25, 2022, 256 pages.
Seear, K. H., & Vella-Brodrick, D. A. (2012). Efficacy of positive psychology interventions to increase well-being: Examining the role of dispositional mindfulness. Social Indicators Research, 114, 1125-1141.
Sin, N. L., & Lyubomirsky, S. (2009). Enhancing well-being and alleviating depressive symptoms with positive psychology interventions: A practice-friendly meta-analysis. Journal of Clinical Psychology, 65(5), 467-487.