Bad news. We human beings experience an average of 50,000 negative thoughts every day. 50,000. That’s one for every 1.6 seconds of the day. But there’s good news too: you have the power to change that negativity right now. You have the power to remove negative thoughts from your mind forever, if you want to. That’s right; if you want to.
I’m going to presume that right now it seems obvious that would want to remove negative thoughts from your mind forever. But that might not be the case by the end of this article, because the truth is that negative thoughts play a vital role in your life.
Ruth Harris, the author of The Happiness Trap, says that 80% of everyone’s thoughts contain a degree of negativity. Negative thoughts are perfectly natural, and in fact they are very important. Imagine that you wanted to buy a house but knew you couldn’t afford it. You might negatively tell yourself, “I can’t afford that house.” That’s a simple negative thought. Taken at face value you might think it would be more positive to to say to yourself, “I’m buying that house because I know I’ll make enough money to afford it.” But what if you don’t? What if you end up bankrupt because of it and spend your life paying off debt? In that instance your negative thought would have saved you from a lot of suffering.
Negative thoughts are imperative because they tell use how to navigate potential pitfalls. As Ryan Holiday [editor for the New York Observer] says, “Far too many ambitious undertakings fail for preventable reasons. Far too many people don’t have a backup plan because they refuse to consider that something might not go exactly as they wish.”
Cognitive scientist Art Markman, Ph.D agrees. “The research actually suggests that focusing on a positive future lowers people’s motivational energy.If you want to do a better job of achieving difficult goals, then it is important to contrast the future and the present. In particular, it is important to know what the obstacles are that will get in the way of achieving the desired future.
Sometimes a negative thought can be a good thing. But there are nevertheless certain types of negative thoughts that are harmful, types of negative thoughts that you need to remove from your mind. As Margarita Tartovsky, M.S., says, “Negative thoughts can sink our mood and perpetuate a sense of helplessness and hopelessness. They can lead to everything from lost opportunities to depression.