In today's fast-paced, modern world, cases of stress-induced heart attacks and other anxiety-related diseases are becoming more and more commonplace. As a result, many people are losing their peace of mind and happy lives to stress and worry.

While there are a number of reasons why stress exists and why it’s becoming a common factor in ruining lives, it boils down to one simple factor – negative thinking.

It may be the most overused cliché you've ever heard: negative thinking leads to negative outcomes. But don't write it off just yet!

If it's a cliché, it's because it's the absolute truth, not just in some mysterious, proverb-style abstract way.

Negative ideas can wreak havoc on your life in incalculable ways.

Allow me to explain how this occurs.

The majority of people are completely unaware that they are experiencing negative thoughts. These are the thoughts that sneak up on you and sap your confidence without you even realizing it. Simply put, negative thinking is thinking that does not serve you in any way - it does not always have to have an immediate effect on you or make a difference. 

Negative thinking has three basic characteristics that you can identify it by:

• At the most basic level, it doesn’t help and sometimes even actively hinders your ability to achieve something you want.

• It does not help you feel better or good about yourself; sometimes, it can be powerful enough to make you feel bad, depressed or even anxious.

• It does not improve your life in any manner, making each day difficult to get through.

Let me quantify these ideas with simple examples that will explain how negative thinking leads to negative results. When you are pessimistic about something, you more than likely will not achieve it. How does this happen?

For instance, let us assume that you are trying to lose weight – it’s something that most people find challenging, so it’s a good example of how negative thinking can lead to failure! So in trying to lose, say 20 pounds or so, you are working hard, yet you see slow results. 

The problem is that instead of changing your behavior or strategy, you keep telling yourself, I can’t lose weight. That is a negative thought.

And here is how it affects your goal. When you tell yourself something constantly, you slowly begin to believe it. Again, it sounds like something straight out a cliché commercial – again, it is the truth! 

Repetition is one of the most inherent ways of getting your mind to accept something; science has proven over and over again that this kind of repetition leads to belief. So when you tell yourself constantly that you’re not going to lose weight, you begin to believe it.

Now, why does that belief matter, given that belief and faith are all abstract concepts? Most people dismiss the power of positive thinking because thoughts don’t translate into the real world – they are sorely mistaken. The way you act is defined by what you think; when you think positively, you take positive actions.

But when you think negatively, you hinder yourself by not doing what you’re supposed to do in order to reach your goals!

For instance, in this example, when you keep telling yourself that you can’t lose weight and start to believe it, you will eventually stop eating healthy or exercising. Your sense of self will take a beating; you will ask yourself, what’s the point?

Every time you think about working out, you’ll end up wallowing in self-pity and even become depressed. Your confidence in your abilities will also start to decrease. Your motivation levels will dip to an all-time low, and you will abandon your weight loss journey.

And thus, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. You believe that you cannot do it, which translates into inaction in the real world. When you do not actively pursue your goals, it goes without saying that you will never reach them.

Even when you push yourself and try to achieve your goals, you will actively work against your positive efforts simply because you do not believe that you can do it. It seems contrary – let me explain how this works. While your conscious mind accepts that you must work out and you do work out, your subconscious has accepted that you won’t lose weight. 

Thus, you allow yourself those minor infractions in the hope that you will not be able to do it after all – you eat the occasional unhealthy food in the idea that, hey, you’re working out anyway, so it will burn off! But in reality, it adds to your weight and doesn’t actively let you lose those pounds, once again becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. 

In simple terms, you become self-sabotaging – by this time, you’re so used to failure and depression that even the hint of a good, positive situation is frightening.

Now, do you see why negative thinking is so dangerous? Because you think negatively, you behave negatively. You become self-destructive, and you don’t even want to try. On the other hand, if you were thinking positively, you will look at failures as an opportunity to learn; your thoughts will translate into actions that have powerful effects on you and your goals.

In the same example, if you think I can lose weight, you will make eating a healthy diet a priority and work out regularly – you may even push yourself to do extra! You will make healthy behaviors a part of your daily routine, and when you do fall off the wagon, which will happen on occasion, you will quickly pick yourself up and keep going instead of giving up. 

Positive thinking does not guarantee instant success; what it does is help you accept failure and learn from it in a manner that facilitates future success!

So starting today, start thinking that the glass is half-full! It won’t come easy and will require practice– each time a negative thought pops into your head, stop.

Shake your head and convert it into something positive! Turn the "I can’t" into "I can" and keep trying – it’ll make your life much easier.

All the best, 

Dr. Antwala