We’ve all been there – the teenage years. Few of us would come out and say they were an easy period of time in our lives. For most people, the teenage years are challenging experiences of self-discovery, growth and exploration. Some may say, for better or for worse.
While there is a lot of good that comes from this self-discovery, growth and exploration, there is also the real possibility of negativity and discouragement as these events are experienced. Without knowing how to properly process the complicated emotions of teenage years, much negativity can occur.
What causes negative thoughts?
Negative thoughts can come from so many different places. Teens may experience negative thoughts stemming from certain comments, situations or experiences, including:
An increase in homework load
Trying to balance school assignments and deadlines with their social life, sports, practices and other extracurriculars
Suffering from experiences of bullying, both online and in-person
Struggling to cope with the physical changes in their body
Difficulties in one’s friend group
Having high expectations for themselves, including wanting to make the team, land the lead role or score the highest on an exam
Combatting a mental health complication in addition to any of the above
Teens who experience one or more of these challenges in high school may be prone to negative thoughts, which, in the long run, can lead to various complications.
The effects of negative thoughts
Negative thoughts have, understandably, many negative impacts on a person’s psyche. But these negative impacts are much longer lasting than one day’s bad mood. Studies show that repeated patterns of negative thinking actually can decrease cognitive functioning, including causing problems with memory and presenting a higher risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Additionally, negative thoughts can increase stress, anxiety and symptoms of depression. If a teen is not properly coached on how to handle negative thoughts, persistent negativity may significantly worsen their mental health.
How to combat negative thoughts
Parents have the unique ability to guide their teens towards the proper methods of decreasing negative thoughts through healthy mental practices that fill the space once full of negativity with either neutral or positive thoughts, or gratitude. This may help their teen foster positivity in their life and avoid the negative effects of worry later on in life.
Negative thoughts can be combated in various ways, including:
Starting a gratitude journal – Writing down three to five things (people, food, moments, events, etc.) can help you focus on the good things that occurred in the day, which fosters an attitude of joy in the long run
Stopping a negative thought in its track – Don’t dismiss the thought, but be present to it and wonder if the negativity is worth pursuing or letting go of. Does the thought have to be negative, or can you simply observe the situation mindfully and let it pass (this can be effective when receiving a low grade or not making the team)
Surrounding yourself with positive people – The friends your teen seeks out will play a large role in their mental state, and so encouraging friendships with people who are positive and upbeat could be beneficial to your child
Getting the right help for mental health conditions – Your child will be more equipped to handle any negativity that comes their way if they are not also battling symptoms of a mental health condition; counselors can provide this treatment effectively and discreetly
Encouraging them to believe that they don’t need to panic about what is out of their control – When teens have the freedom to let go of what they have little control over, you are likely to notice an increase in positivity
Spending time in nature – It may sound earthy, but getting outside for a walk, sometimes reading in the sun or a hike on the weekend is actually a great way to get some vitamin D and help give struggling mental health a boost
Exemplify positive thinking – If you, the parent, foster a sense of positivity in your life or encourage it within the home, your teen will learn from your example; this means that positivity will become learned and more natural to your teen as a fallback when negativity and stress inevitably challenge them
Each teen will benefit in different ways from these methods of fostering positivity and may, over time, decrease their negative patterns of thinking.
Need help with positive thinking skills?
If you have noticed your teen struggling with negative thinking as they progress through high school, it may be time to consider the benefits of a therapist. Therapy can help them process the emotions, physical changes and mental health challenges they are facing, as well as the social and academic situations high school often presents.