Unhelpful thought patterns can send you into a negative spiral, but you can change your ‘self-talk’
We can all get stuck in a spiral of dark thoughts from time to time, dwelling on what we said or did ‘wrong’. But what if your negative thought patterns are actually keeping your mood low?
What is negative thinking?
Repetitive negative thinking, also known as RNT, is defined as ‘focusing on the negative aspects of one’s experience’.1 Different types of negative thought patterns include:2
- drawing negative conclusions about past events
- focusing on negative emotions
- rumination – repetitively going over a thought or event
How does negative thinking affect mood?
While thoughts come and go, RNT can alter your brain processes to keep your mood low. It increases activity in a region of the brain called the default mode network (DMN), which is associated with self-reflection and worry.
American neuroscientists found that, in individuals with depression, the DMN can become overly dominant, leaving those people trapped in a cycle of self-withdrawal and rumination.3
However, there are things you can do to modify DMN activity, which helps shift your negative thought cycle.
Handpicked content: The link between depression and inflammation
Three ways to tackle negative thoughts
1. Get more sleep
A 2018 study by the University of California found poor sleep quality affects the connection between the DMN and other parts of the brain, triggering greater mood changes.4 Meanwhile, a study published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry linked getting enough sleep with an increased ability to regulate negative emotions.5
Handpicked content: What causes poor sleep?
2. Go for a walk in the park
Strolling through a park or forest decreases activity in the part of the brain linked to repetitive negative thoughts, according to a 2015 study.6 In turn, this reduces rumination, which is good for your mental health.
3. Practice meditation
Try mindfulness meditation, where you simply bring your attention to your breath and observe your thoughts. Researchers from Yale University found this practice reduced activity in the DMN region, resulting in decreased mind-wandering – a process associated with low mood and anxiety.7
Handpicked content: 8 essential oils for anxiety you should try
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please check with your GP before trying any remedies.
Shop our Vitamins & Supplements range.
1. Nota JA, Coles ME. Duration and Timing of Sleep are Associated with Repetitive Negative Thinking. Available from: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10608-014-9651-7
2. Rood L, et al. Dimensions of Negative Thinking and the Relations with Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety in Children and Adolescents. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2899011/
3. Hamilton JP, et al. Depressive Rumination, the Default-Mode Network, and the Dark Matter of Clinical Neuroscience. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4524294/#R12
4. Tashjian SM, et al. Sleep quality and adolescent default mode network connectivity. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5836271/
5. Baum KT, et al. Sleep restriction worsens mood and emotion regulation in adolescents. Available at: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4047523/
6. Bratman GN, et al. Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation. Available at: http://www.pnas.org/content/112/28/8567
7. Brewer JA, et al. Meditation experience is associated with differences in default mode network activity and connectivity. Available at: http://www.pnas.org/content/108/50/20254#sec-5