Negative thinking is a tendency to be skeptical, an inclination to find fault, and a habit of finding the worst in a situation. It constrains your sensibilities, constricts your awareness, and impairs your ability to interact with others. Prolonged negativity conjures tension and discontent. Habitual negative thinking impairs your health. Diffusing negative thinking and the negative energy it conjures is fundamental to your wellbeing.

The Benefits of Negative Thinking

Negative thinking is a problem. The ability to find mistakes, identify errors, or expose faults is useful. Critical thinking is a valuable skill that can identify problems, expose weaknesses, and prevent negative consequences. A “healthy dose of skepticism” can be useful.

Negative thinking counteracts mindless optimism. Positive thinking can be shallow and disconnected from reality. Both excessive negativism and positivism are impractical. Ideally, both styles merge into a creative perspective.

Negative thinking cuts through false fronts. This is helpful when you find out that things are not what they seem.  Thinking negatively creates doubt, which helps to cut through misinformation and false appearances.

Negative thinking is not wrong thinking. When used wisely, it helps you to extricate yourself from situations that are bad for you. Clarifying why something will not work allows you to redirect your energy.

Negative thinking reveals what doesn’t work so that you can change your focus and engage in creative thinking.

Problems with Negative Thinking

Negative thinking is problematic as a default mode of perceiving, interpreting, and reacting to your experiences. It accumulates in you. When negativity is habitual you no longer recognize it as negative thinking. Worse, negativity is an anti-creative stance. Negative thinking is neither creative nor generative.

Habits are stealth. A habit of negative thinking is invisible. You become so used to negativity that you don’t know it’s there. You react defensively when someone points it out to you. In its most toxic form, negative thinking is your default mode of interaction. This makes genuine conversation impossible.

Negative energy is the accumulation of negative thinking. When a high proportion of your thought patterns are negative you become a “negative person.” Your negativity moves out and into the world through your words, tone, gesture, and attitude.

Years of negative thinking change the energy in your body. As negative energy grows in you it erodes your sense of wellbeing. The constant expression of skepticism, doubt, denial, rigidity, finding fault, cynicism, and pessimism coalesce into a character trait. In its most potent form, negative energy is silent, invisible, and agile. And you don’t even know it’s there.

Negative Energy in the World

We live in troubled times. It is fair to say that there is a great deal of negative energy in the world right now. We encounter climate degradation, division, deception, extremism, violence, war, and the pandemic. The energy animating our collective experience is chaotic, filled with uncertainty, and liminal. Positivity exists, of course, but it is not at the forefront of everyday life.

In a personal sense, negative energy moves within the mind as anxiety, depression, cynicism, catastrophizing, rumination, and narcissism. Technology provides easy access to bad news, outrage, and the latest troubling events.

Our lives are immersed in negative energy. The fight or flight response is a daily experience. Agitation is a sane response to the onslaught of troubling events. We feel threatened by forces beyond our control. It is not surprising that we feel physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted.

Diffusing Negative Thinking

Counteracting habitual negativity is an essential life skill. Learning to work creatively with negative energy is fundamental to health and wellbeing. Here are five ideas to diffuse negative energy:

  1. Recognize: Do you know when you are engaging in negative thinking? If you can’t recognize it, you can’t confront it. Learning to recognize negative thinking habits and patterns creates an opportunity for change.
  2. Observe: Observe the negative thought moving through you as if it were an exhibit. Ask yourself three key questions: Where did it come from? How does it influence me and those around me? What are the possible consequences?
  3. Value: As we explored above, negative thoughts can have value. Criticism can lead to a meaningful insight or incessant whining. Determine whether negative thought has value.
  4. Alternatives: Breaking cycles of negative thinking is difficult. You can begin to loosen the grip of negativity by exploring alternative ways of responding and reacting to situations. This encourages a more creative approach to your interactions.
  5. Creativity: Choose to create different forms of interaction. Improvise with everyday life. This requires experimentation with new and unfamiliar behaviors.

Diffusing negativity is a creative endeavor. You can’t read your way out of it. The kind of creative work you choose to engage in is a personal choice.

I use journal writing as a medium to explore subjective experience. When I fall prey to negative thinking, I explore ways of diffusing it through writing. This often happens in hindsight, but it also primes my awareness going forward. And it’s a slow process.

Choose Creativity

Negative thinking is unavoidable. A negativity bias is part of what makes us human. You can never fully escape it, nor do you need to. Sometimes it has benefits. And sometimes it is harmful.

Habitual negative thinking erodes your health and wellbeing. It contaminates your relationships and interactions with others. It is addictive. In a simple sense, negative energy impairs your quality of life.

Creativity is an ideal way to counteract negative thinking and negative energy. Your subjective experiences provide the raw material. You begin to improvise with the situations and circumstances of everyday life to loosen negative patterns of behavior. Along the way, you will find meaning and live with a greater sense of purpose.