Negative Thoughts are Contagious
Most people understand how both positive thoughts and negative thoughts can have an impact on one’s mindset, perspective, experience, and health. Now the science is there to explain why. As it turns out, our thoughts really do matter. In fact, the old adage “change your mindset, change your life” holds true.
Complaining Can Kill You
In a recent article by Jessica Stillman published in Inc. Magazine, the neuroscience to support this concept is explained. It all begins in the synapses in our brains. According to Steven Parton, a computer scientist who has studied neuroscience, “…collections of synapses separated by empty space are called the synaptic cleft. Whenever you have a thought, one synapse shoots chemicals across the cleft to another synapse, thus building a bridge over which an electrical signal can cross, carrying along its charge of the relevant information you are thinking about.” Whenever the electrical charge occurs, the synapses move closer together. Or, as Parton explains, “The brain is rewiring its own circuitry, physically changing itself, to make it easier and more likely that the proper synapses will share the chemical link and thus spark together—in essence, making it easier for the thought to trigger.”
This means the more you repeat, relive, or reinforce a negative thought, the more likely it is for the thought to be available to you in the future via your brain circuitry. The rehashed thought becomes readily available to you and you will rethink it many times in the future.
Do you know someone who constantly complains about a certain situation? I certainly do. It feels like listening to a recorder playing the same story over and over. It’s as if the person telling that particular story is living in the negative moment. They dwell on the same negative thoughts, reliving the situation in their mind. The brain has re-circuited itself so that the experience is readily available.
The lesson here is that negative thoughts breed more negative thoughts. I am sure many of you have experienced a moment in which you woke up and your day got off to a bad start. You may have even stated out loud, “Oh, no, this is going to be a bad day!” And as each moment passes in which you have other bad experiences on that particular day, this particular thought keeps going through your mind. When you focus on that same negative thought, you are literally reinforcing the thought which now has actions and experiences that reinforce to your brain that this is going to be a bad day.
This would be tantamount to the feed of those negative thoughts and you re-circuiting your brain with negative thoughts. If you took this a step further and you focused on negative thoughts on a daily basis, can you imagine the ongoing re-circuiting of your brain with negative thoughts and how this could severely change your mindset for the worse?
This same process may be what happens when someone experiences depression. The sadness and negative thoughts keep feeding one another until the person is in such deep despair that they have to battle their internal thoughts to turn around all of the negative and sad thoughts. This is not to negate depression, which is a very real mental health condition. Realizing the impact of your thoughts and having self-awareness around them is one way you can improve your mental health. It is also important that we stay as positive as possible so that negative thoughts do not completely take over.
Negative Thoughts Breed
Science has shown how negative thoughts have a negative impact on our mindset and our brain’s circuitry. This results in effects on other parts of the body. As Parton explained in the Inc. Magazine article, “When your brain is firing off these synapses of anger, you’re weakening your immune system; you’re raising your blood pressure, increasing your risk of heart disease, obesity and diabetes, and a plethora of other negative ailments.”
With an emphasis on negative thoughts, the body releases more of the stress hormone cortisol. When cortisol is elevated, this impacts the ability to memorize and learn new things, affecting immune system function, altering metabolism, and causing a number of physical ailments including high blood pressure, heart disease, elevated blood cholesterol and glucose, and more.
Negative thoughts can literally make you sick.
The neuroscience thus illustrates the power of your thoughts, both on your mood and on your physical well-being. You can devote yourself to working out and eating healthy, but this will not serve to counteract health issues caused by prolonged negativity. Healthy habits are a good start. But if you are negative person who constantly entertains negative thoughts, you are counteracting your fitness lifestyle with your attitude.
Be Aware of the Company You Keep
Your inner circle may impact your thoughts patterns. If you hang out with pessimistic people, their negativity can affect you.
When those close to us exhibit their pain or sadness, we may connect with empathy. The brain fires up the synapses when this happens, as if the feelings and emotions are our own. The hormones react as if the experience is our own. This is why it’s important to be consciously aware of the people you share your time and energy with on a daily basis. If you are around people with a positive nature, this can help your thoughts stay positive. If the opposite is true, their negativity will have an impact on you. Negative thoughts can outpace the positive ones. So, in order to keep the odds stocked in your favor, make sure your crew of friends and loved ones is stacked on the positive side.
Now that you know how important your thoughts are, the challenge lies in changing them! When you go through tough times, it’s inevitable that you will experience sadness. It will take time to get your emotions back on an even keel. However, it is essential to work at this. Because if you allow your sadness to linger, and you focus on it, your brain circuitry can be negatively affected.
Protect your brain and the rest of your body by thinking positive.
So, in a difficult world full of challenges to our moods, how do you stay positive? Have you ever allowed your negative emotions to spiral out of control? How did you get out of your negative funk?
Please share your comments. We can learn from you.
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