How Negative Thinking Affects Your Brain
Negative thoughts can be crippling, debilitating and down-right awful, huh? The over-thinking, worrying and self-doubt can send the best of people into a very dark place. Negative thoughts are untrustworthy and can fool you into thinking there’s a danger when there isn’t. To understand why this happens, we need to recognize the effect on your brain.
In a Nutshell
Primarily, when you consistently have negative thoughts for a prolonged period, your brain will activate your flight or fight response. Subsequently, you’ll experience a ton of physical and mental symptoms that will only make the situation worse. Now, unfortunately, when you’ve got both of those symptoms, the negative thinking will multiply. Why? The reason is, your brain will struggle to process information and will end up being clouded by the anxiety.
The Link to the Amygdala
If you notice that your negative thinking is not a one-off occurrence, then it may be down to the prefrontal cortex portion of the brain. The amygdala is responsible for storing past experiences. But not any old experiences, just the negative ones. That’s why people who have been through tough times may develop a tendency for negative thinking.
So, when you face a situation that shouldn’t cause any extreme stress – such as a busy shopping center – the amygdala might be triggered and cause you to overreact.
Role of the Thalamus
Regarding the physical symptoms that you could experience through excessive negative thinking, the thalamus is the main player. It’s the part of the brain that sends sensory and motor signals around the body. But, the bad part is, it doesn’t recognize that negative thoughts are different from actual danger.
Therefore, when you’re having those negative thoughts, you may find your heart rate increases, along with sweating, burning skin, nausea, and dizziness. Your negative thoughts are the catalyst, but your body unnecessarily responds in a way that prepares you for physical activity.
When your cortisol levels are elevated, you’re at a much higher risk of developing depression, anxiety or other mental health disorders. Why do you think they call it the ‘stress hormone,’ eh? One of the ways to boost those cortisol levels is to constantly have negative thoughts, as they put your brain and mind under a lot of pressure.
If those cortisol levels are continually elevated, it may even cause changes in your brain, which would make it harder to rid yourself of the negative-thinking tendencies.
All of this might sound really technical, but it highlights the importance of being intentional about your thought processes and not only noticing when you’re in a negative-thinking pattern but the additional priority of turning around those negative thoughts.
Get out of fight-or-flight mode, and build a more positive and productive life.
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