How To Stop Being Addicted To Negative Thinking


Did you know that thinking can be addictive? It’s true. And for whatever reason, I’ve found negative thinking to be far more addictive than its positive counterpart.

Have you ever found yourself stuck in a cycle of negative thinking, wondering when the dark clouds will ever clear from your mind? Well, as you’ll learn by the end of this article, you may be waiting forever.

The truth is, without intervention on our part, negative thinking will stick around for good. Our minds thrive off repetition, so the longer you allow negative thoughts to frequent the space between your ears, the harder fighting off the addiction becomes.

Now, I know it may seem unusual to use the term addiction to describe negative thinking. We aren’t likely to associate addictiveness with thoughts. Substances can be addictive, but is thinking really something we can grow addicted to?

Yes, I believe thoughts feed addiction, and negative thinking is one of the most addictive situations we can find ourselves in. The consequences of which are dire on both our lives and performances.

Negative Thinking Addiction

Whenever we think of addiction, most of the time it’s associated with substances. For instance, someone may be addicted to nicotine, alcohol, or some other drug.

Addiction also takes place in the form of behavior. You can be addicted to working, eating or gambling. No matter what you may be addicted to, one thing remains constant: the uncontrollable nature (at least in the moment) of the addiction.

The American Society of Addiction Medicine defines addiction as:

“A treatable, chronic medical disease involving complex interactions among brain circuits, genetics, the environment, and an individual’s life experiences. People with addiction use substances or engage in behaviors that become compulsive and often continue despite harmful consequences.”

Negative thinking easily becomes chronic, compulsive, and definitely harmful to our lives. In fact, the root cause of most mental game challenges, such as anxiety, perfectionism, depression, low confidence, etc. is poorly regulated thoughts.

These negative thought patterns that grow addictive cause incredible harm to our lives and wreak havoc on our performances. But why is it that these negative thoughts grow addictive? What is it that keeps us coming back for more?

My Addiction To Negative Thinking

I hate to admit it, but I have experienced this addiction on many occasions. In fact, the very reason I was inspired to write this piece was because of a recent bout of negative thinking that I couldn’t seem to kick.

To help you understand my recent experience, we need to travel back a little more than a year. My girlfriend had just broken up with me, I was playing professional baseball in Texas, and I was alone.

It was a scary situation to find myself in, but something inside of me switched. I became determined to use the experience to strengthen my mind.

Up until that point, I had witnessed negative thinking come and go time and again. I knew my thoughts and feelings were what I needed to take control of, and so I got to work.

Over the next few months I grew stronger within my mind. Naturally, my thought process became positive, and it was much easier for me to remain in a positive state.

Fast forward to about a month ago and that’s when I noticed things begin to change. I hadn’t been putting as much effort into the development of my positive thoughts, since I had felt pretty good about the way I was thinking.

My failure to continue the progress which had gotten me to that point proved fatal. Due to faltering attention, negative thinking reentered my mind. Here’s where the addiction took hold.

Each day, I would hope my thoughts would turn positive. But alas, the addiction grew worse, and I found it increasingly difficult to rid myself of this form of thought. The negative feelings were easier to experience than the work required to alter them.

So, my mind became overrun by such thinking. However, I have noticed my mistake and am now working towards progress, which we will dive into later in the article. What’s interesting to look at now is why such an addiction forms in the first place.

“Each day, I would hope my thoughts would turn positive. But alas, the addiction grew worse, and I found it increasingly difficult to rid myself of this form of thought. The negative feelings were easier to experience than the work required to alter them.”

What Causes The Addiction To Negative Thoughts

The question of why and how negative thinking grows addictive is best answered through my own experience. I have yet to do any formal research on the subject, but sometimes I believe the best research is personal experience.

Much to my own dismay, I have a plethora of experience in the realm of negative thinking.

Answering the question of how negative thoughts become addictive comes in two forms. First, you must understand how thoughts operate. You see, our minds are machines that feed off repetition.

This has been proven through science, and is why methods such as cognitive behavioral therapy have become popular in psychology. They operate off the basis that our minds have been programmed to think a certain way, and therefore can be reprogrammed.

So, for whatever reason, negative thinking developed into a program for me, as it has for you if you are experiencing uncontrollable negative thoughts.

What happens next is really where the addiction takes place.

Once our natural thought patterns turn negative, the moods we experience will mirror that. Now we find ourselves stuck in bad moods, our minds fogged with unpleasant thoughts and feelings. At this point, locating positives in our lives becomes quite difficult.

For instance, when I am in the hold of negativity, it feels almost foolish to look for moments of joy. I get caught up in these terrible feelings and in a weird way, it feels good. I find myself enjoying the misery that is now a part of me.

That’s where the addiction forms. We grow addicted to the negative feelings because they are easy. Feeling sorry for ourselves doesn’t require any work, it’s not asking us to put effort into anything.

We are free to sit back and allow negative thoughts to flood our minds. But is that really what you want? I despise myself whenever I get caught in the middle of such a cycle. That’s why it’s so important to find a way to stop the addiction that is negative thinking.

How To Stop Negative Thinking

Negative thinking is a core component of most mental game challenges. Let’s use anxiety as an example. When you are feeling overly anxious, maybe leading into a game, do you know what the main driving force is?

It happens to be your thoughts.

You see, the way you think directly influences your feelings. So, if you find yourself saying, “I’m really anxious,” anxious thoughts must be filling your mind. You wouldn’t be feeling this way, if say, your mind was full of relaxing and positive thoughts.

The more anxious thoughts you have, the worse you feel, leading to further thoughts of anxiety. Do you see how this becomes a pattern? This pattern is part of the addictive process described earlier.

When a cycle such as this forms, whether it happens to involve anxiety, depression, low confidence, fear, or anything else, something must interject or else the cycle will continue, unimpeded.

Such an interjection is what we are about to uncover. If you currently find yourself in the depths of a negative thinking addiction, or you have experienced this in the past and are afraid of it happening again in the future, I’ve got some good news.

You are the only one who holds the power to kick negative thoughts out of your head.

No one else has control over your thoughts (though, sometimes we do hand this power away), which means you are the one capable and responsible of altering the patterns of thoughts within your mind.

To accomplish this, there is a tremendous technique I want to share with you. It’s the one I currently have put in place in my life to counteract the negative thinking cycle I outlined earlier.

But first, there’s an understanding we need to come to.

“You see, the way you think directly influences your feelings. So, if you find yourself saying, “I’m really anxious,” anxious thoughts must be filling your mind.”

Changing Your Thoughts Takes Effort

Look, I’ll be the first to admit it, putting forth effort to alter any aspect of my mind is tiresome, frustrating, and often the last thing I want to do. But you know what, the opposite is even worse!

Being stuck in the vicious cycle that is negative thinking leads to a life of unfulfilled potential and joy left on the table. That doesn’t make the work any easier, or less challenging, though it does help to realize the reward on the other side.

I’ve already touched on one of the key reasons negative thinking becomes addictive, and that’s the ease of allowing it to remain in our lives.

Once caught in the grasp of negative thoughts, forcing yourself to feel positive, repeat gratitude statements, or shift your mood takes a hell of a lot of effort.

If you recognize this going in, and you understand the benefits you will gain both in your performances and life as a whole, then the work will be bearable. However, if you think it’s all sunshine and rainbows, altering your thought processes, then you’ll be quick to give in.

So, if you’re ready for the work ahead, then buckle up, it’s time to kick those negative thoughts to the curb and enjoy a life filled with positive, and productive thoughts.

Overcoming Negative Thinking Through One Simple Exercise

Our thoughts thrive off repetition. Where we place our focus will become trained in our minds over time. Right now, if you are experiencing negative thinking on a regular basis, your attention is centered around such negativity.

Whether this happened consciously or not, who’s to say. One certainty is that in order for a way of thinking to materialize, continual repetition of such thoughts had to have occurred.

Now, on a positive note, if it’s understood that negative thinking formed out of faulty attention and repetitive negative thoughts, the opposite should produce inverse results.

If you take the time and effort, training yourself to focus more on positive aspects of life, things you have to be grateful for, then that will become your natural way of thinking.

However, our negative minds are quick to shut us down whenever an attempt is made to focus on some positives. That’s why we must turn to the conscious effort I warned you would be required. In order to do so, it’s very helpful to make this training routine.

Leaving the hopes of focusing on positives up to chance is a recipe for disaster. One, you will likely forget, and two, if you do happen to remember, the negative thoughts already present will bully the positive ones out of your mind in a hurry.

As a solution, we turn to practice.

A Nightly Ritual To Alter Your Thoughts

What we need to do is make the practice of focusing on positives a routine part of our lives. For me, a large part of negative thinking is centered around what I have yet to accomplish, or what I failed to accomplish that day.

Therefore, a good alternative is for me to begin forcing myself to come face to face with what I did well. Only then am I allowed to venture into what I could improve upon. Even then, do you notice the difference in language?

I’m not saying I’m gonna focus on positives and then negatives. I’m saying my attention will be first placed on positives and then what I could improve upon (still a positive way of looking at it).

The exercise I do, and one I encourage you to take on, involves a five to ten minute practice of journaling every evening.

I sit down at my desk, open my journal, and write down everything I accomplished that day, and any positives I can think of. Not only do I write them down, but I bring feelings into the equation.

After each statement, I feel the emotions of pride, joy, and gratitude associated with such an accomplishment.

Once I have all those positives outlined, I begin examining what I could have done better. Now here’s a trick I use in tandem with this practice: after each statement I write down that I wish to improve upon, I visualize myself having done it differently.

I physically close my eyes and imagine myself having handled the situation in the manner I wish. That simple act is rewiring my brain to remember the situation more positively.

I have already noticed a difference in my life using this practice, and so I encourage you to give it a try if right now you are consumed with negative thinking.

Final Thoughts

None of us should allow negative thinking to remain in our minds longer than the time it takes to notice their presence. Negative thoughts are the crux of most mental and physical struggles we experience.

Sadly, such thoughts happen to be addictive. It’s easy to grow attached to misery. One because of the twisted comfort it provides, and two due to the hard work required to alter our thoughts.

However, if what you’re after is peak performance, joy, and a life of fulfillment, gaining mastery over your thoughts is an important place to start.

That’s not to say it will be easy. But, what I can promise it will be is worth it!

Take on the practice I outlined, begin focusing more on positives each day, and your natural way of thinking will be altered.

I hope you enjoyed the article, and if you did, please share it with others so they can realize the addictive nature of negative thinking and how they can make a change.

Thank you for reading and I wish you the best of success in all that you do.

Contact Success Starts Within Today

Please contact us to learn more about mental coaching and to see how it can improve your mental game and increase your performance. Complete the form below, call (252)-371-1602 or schedule an introductory coaching call here.

Eli Straw

Eli is a sport psychology consultant and mental game coach who works 1-1 with athletes to help them improve their mental skills and overcome any mental barriers keeping them from performing their best. He has an M.S. in psychology and his mission is to help athletes and performers reach their goals through the use of sport psychology & mental training.

Mental Training Courses

Learn more about our two main mental training courses for athletes: Mental Training Advantage and The Mentally Tough Kid.

The Mentally Tough Kid course will teach your young athlete tools & techniques to increase self-confidence, improve focus, manage mistakes, increase motivation, and build mental toughness.

In Mental Training Advantage, you will learn tools & techniques to increase self-confidence, improve focus, manage expectations & pressure, increase motivation, and build mental toughness. It’s time to take control of your mindset and unlock your full athletic potential!

Recent Articles
Follow Us

Master Your Mental Game With One-On-One Coaching

Get one-on-one mental performance coaching to help break through mental barriers and become the athlete you’re meant to be!

Master Your Mental Game With One-On-One Coaching

Get one-on-one mental performance coaching to help break through mental barriers and become the athlete you’re meant to be!