What Are Thought Patterns?

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  • Written By: Laura M. Sands
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 08 October 2019
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Thought patterns are best described as a person’s usual way of thinking. This term can also be described as habitual thinking, since it describes a habitual mental process. Thinking patterns can be negative or positive. When negative thought patterns prevail, however, such often leads to mental illness and can have a very damaging effect on a person’s self-esteem.

Sometimes described as obsessive thought patterns, habitual thoughts have a tendency to affect a person’s mood, relationships and experiences. Negative patterns of thought, in particular, are believed to be detrimental to a person’s quality of life. Positive thought patterns, on the other hand, are believed to lead people toward greater physical and mental health, and better overall life experiences.

Thinking patterns may be formed consciously or unconsciously. Most thinking patterns develop over a period of time and are often a result of personal experiences ranging from childhood to a person’s present experiences. A person’s thinking patterns are not always characterized as being all negative or all positive. An individual may possess certain negative patterns, which exist alongside positive patterns at the same time.


Often, when a person realizes a habit of negative thought patterns, she or he may set about to adjust these patterns in an effort to achieve a better quality of life. The process of changing thinking patterns is not always simple, but can be done with a proper amount of effort and commitment to doing so. Many people use mantras, affirmations and meditation to adopt better thought patterns. Others may employ the assistance of self-help books and articles. Psychologists, life coaches and personal development seminars also aid in the process of changing patterns of thought.

Examples of negative thought patterns, which are self-destructive in nature, include a constant need to compare one’s self to others, an inability to accept praise, being overly critical of one’s self and others when a mistake is made, and unrealistically assuming responsibility for the happiness or pain of others. Examples of positive thinking patterns include being able to graciously accept praise when it is offered, assuming the good intentions of others, expecting positive future events and believing in one’s personal abilities. It is not uncommon for people to hold a combination of negative and positive thinking patterns at times. For many, however, negative patterns can overpower positive ones or exist as sole patterns. Often, individuals in this position suffer from extreme bouts of depression and may even be suicidal if thought patterns are not eventually corrected.


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