Have you ever wondered what causes negative thinking? Or, how you can change negative thinking to positive thinking? As a board certified clinical neuropsychologist, I daily see the impact of our thoughts and our beliefs on our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. In this article, I share one of the most important things we can do to make a positive change for our health (and, yes, it has to do with our thought life.)
Dear Dr. B:
Have you ever found your thought life stuck in a rut? I keep thinking the same negative thoughts over and over. How do I stop? Do I need medicine?
Thoughts are a funny thing. They impact us in so many ways…alert us to potential danger, crave chocolate, and often, even impact our health.
As a board certified clinical neuropsychologist, I’ve had the opportunity to minister to individuals with medical and mental health conditions ranging from attention deficit disorder or depression to epilepsy or dementia.
I believe the Bible has quite a bit to say about our health, and even illness prevention. Clearly, it is God’s desire that we would enjoy good health: “Beloved, I wish above all things that thou mayest prosper and be in health, even as thy soul prospereth” (3 John 1:2).
After diagnosis of either a health or mental health condition, patients usually want advice about what to do to improve the situation. Most people assume that my primary go-to treatment recommendations will be either medication and/or therapy.
Would it surprise you that those two recommendations usually fall further down on my list? While both of these suggestions can sometimes be helpful, they often act like a band aid without addressing the underlying issue.
What causes negative thinking?
I daily see the impact of our thoughts and our beliefs on our physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being. Scripture tells us that “an undeserved curse does not come to rest” (Proverbs 26:2). In this life, we experience both blessings and curses. Blessings come from God, while curses, hardship, and difficulty comes from our enemy. “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Ephesians 6:12).
This very enemy seeks to separate us from God and each other and distract us from God’s power, love, and purpose for our lives. The primary way he does this is through our thoughts. Proverbs 23:7 succinctly explains that “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he…”
When we worry, fret, become angry, bitter, or unforgiving, we open the door to be influenced by the enemy of our soul. One of the most important things we can do to make a positive change for our health is to guard our thoughts and watch our words. I believe that’s why Scripture reminds us “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV).
It’s imperative that we make our thoughts agree with God’s thoughts, while rejecting those thoughts that come from the enemy’s camp. When we agree with and act on the encouragement in Philippians 4:8 (NLT) to “Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise” then we train our minds to think more like God and agree with His ways and means.
John 8:32 (NLT) reminds us that there is benefit to our physical, emotional, and spiritual health from knowing God’s truth: “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you.” Our thoughts must align with God’s truth in order to find freedom from whatever condition holds us in bondage.
All too frequently, we dwell on the negative or what seems impossible, which is the enemy’s plan, whereas God’s truth reminds us that “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).
Whatever we focus on, will grow and become a greater point of focus.
- For example, if we focus on the things we fear, our fears escalate.
- If we focus on God’s provision, our fears recede.
- If we focus on feelings of loneliness, we end up feeling more lonely.
- Yet if we focus on praising God that He is everlasting and omnipresent, we feel comforted.
- If we focus on being overweight and needing to lose weight to control our blood pressure, cholesterol, or diabetes, we usually feel frustrated and restricted (and hungry!).
- Yet if we will focus on the fact that God supplies our every need, we’re less likely to turn to food to be our comfort.
So as we think about our health, and how we’d like it to be, let’s start first by examining our thoughts and ensuring they line up with the wisdom and promises of God!
How can you change your focus today so that you can overcome negative thinking?
Because of Him, Hope Prevails,