top of page

Are Your Symptoms Turning You Into a Negative Nancy?

Updated: Apr 13

By Jenny Peterson

When a person is experiencing chronic symptoms, it is natural (due to the design of the brain), to kind of become a Negative Nancy. We don’t feel well, so we complain, think about our symptoms, talk about our symptoms, worry and fear them. 

When this happens we unconsciously program our brain to think negatively. All of a sudden, all our inner and outer dialogue is coming from a negative place. This has a great effect on your healing. 

Today, you will learn the top 8 negative thinking patterns I often see, if they are a part of your world, and how you can change them so you can support your healing. 

Our brains are naturally wired to be negative. It's part of survival. 

In India, when training elephants, handlers begin by chaining one of the elephant’s legs to a tree. Over time, they gradually decrease the size of the chain until all it takes is a flimsy string to hold the elephant. It’s not the string that restrains the massive animal. It’s his mind.

Your mind limits you in the same way. It can relentlessly pick apart and criticize your every move, second-guess everything and sabotage your relationships with insecurities and emotional walls. Your mind can keep you stuck and hold you back in all areas of your life, like the elephant’s string.

But it doesn’t have to.

By recognizing your negative thinking patterns, not buying into them, and turning them around, you can put your mind to work FOR YOU instead of against you.


All humans have the tendency to be more like Eeyore than Tigger.

Your brain is built to remember and focus more on bad experiences than positive ones. It was actually an evolutionary advantage that helped our ancestors survive by avoiding danger. This negativity bias is still active in your brain today and can get in the way of your happiness, up your stress and worry levels, and damage your brain and health.

Each of us experiences the world uniquely because our brains add their own subjective tint when giving meaning to incoming stimuli. The color your brain adds is determined by your physical brain function, memories, beliefs, and attitudes about yourself, others, and the world shaped by family, religion, school, and life experiences.

The material is largely negative because it’s your brain’s job to hold onto and learn from the bad to protect you in the future. This negative mental filter is typically below your conscious awareness, but it impacts how you respond to the world, act in relationships, and think of and talk to yourself. In other words, it creates your reality.

Over time, through the process of neuroplasticity, habitual negative thinking patterns become physical neural traits in your brain. If you get stressed out often about every little thing, your brain is going to forge and strengthen connections making it reactive and anxious. If you expect the worst in all situations, you’re reinforcing this kind of thinking in your brain every time you engage in it.

The negative thought patterns in which you routinely engage become the default pathways for your neurons and the strings that tie you down and limit your life – just like the elephant. Eventually, you may find yourself trapped in a downward spiral of anxiety, stress, depression, which your brain is perpetuating in a continual feedback loop.

In his book, Just One Thing, Rick Hanson writes:

"There’s a traditional saying that the mind takes the shape it rests upon; the modern update is that the brain takes the shape the mind rests upon. For instance, if you regularly rest your mind upon worries, self criticism, and anger, then your brain will gradually take that shape – will develop neural structures and dynamics of anxiety, low sense of worth, and prickly reactivity to others. On the other hand, if you regularly rest your mind upon, for example noticing you’re all right right now, seeing the good in yourself and letting go…then your brain will gradually take the shape of calm strength, self confidence, and inner peace.”


Some of the most common negative thinking patterns, which you may recognize and indulge in, are:

Black and white thinking: “I can’t even do this. I never do anything right.”

Mind reading: “They think I’m boring. I know they have better things to do than hang out with me.”

Crystal-ball gazing: “There’s no point in even trying. I know I’m not going to get better anyway.”

Over-generalization: “This protocol didn’t work out. I’m never going to heal.”

Over-reacting: “My friend hasn’t replied to my text in 3 hours. She hates me. Nobody likes me.”

Unrealistic expectations: “I have to get better in less than 3 months.. Nothing less is good enough.”

Name calling: “I can’t believe I said that. I’m such an idiot.”

Predicting the worst: “Since I can’t get this right, I will never heal and my life will stay this way. 

Do any of these sound familiar?


This kind thinking has a big impact on your healing. 

Your brain secretes neurochemicals and physically reacts to the thoughts that run through your mind. These kinds of thinking patterns will continue to feed other negative ways of thinking and you are very likely to think this way with everything in life, setting yourself up for situations that cause your body to have to adapt to survive. AKA symptoms. 

In addition, these thinking patterns are linked to anxiety and depression. They affect your mood and what actions you do or don’t take. 


Become Aware

The first step in reversing negative thinking patterns is to become aware of them. You have to “catch” yourself in the act. You may be surprised and saddened by how often you engage in some of the types of thinking listed above. One way to become aware of your thoughts, feelings, and reactions as they happen, is mindfulness.

We have our students do an awareness exercise that helps you see how often these thoughts come up. You can simply set a timer and when it goes off, write down what you were thinking. You can also journal at the end of the day to see what kind of thinking patterns show up. 

You can’t control the random thoughts that pop into your mind. However, you can become aware of them, pause, and choose what happens next.

Challenge Your Thinking

Distance yourself from and question your thoughts and beliefs.

Analyze them objectively from all angles. Is this really what you think or is it an inherited belief from your past? Drop the storylines usually running in your head and any personal emotional investment you have in the situation for a minute. Try on different points of view and zoom out. Have the intent to give your mind guidance, like a wise, caring friend. Control it instead of it controlling you.

You don’t have to believe everything you think. Knowing that they are just old programs gives you the power to choose whether or not you want to give them attention. 

Is the Thought Helping or Hurting?

When you notice a thought, ask yourself, “Is this thought helping me or hurting me?”

Usually, the answer is “It’s hurting”. When it is, I then consciously choose a thought that is more supportive, understanding, or positive. It’s just as easy to come up with thoughts that encourage and help you achieve your goals as ones that don’t help you.

You have to become aware of your thoughts, pause, and make the effort to shift your thinking.


After examining your thoughts mindfully, consciously decide what you want to believe and think, how you want to behave, and who you want to be. I call this your 2.0 version. Hold that image in the forefront of your mind and move forward taking the actions that person would do. 

You will not become this person overnight. It will take time and practice with new ways of thinking and acting. Your mind has gotten to this place because you repetitively thought a certain way, you can do the same with new ways of thinking. 


Do you recognize yourself in this list of negative thinking? It's ok if you do. Calling yourself out on old patterns is part of this work. Don’t be hard on yourself. Bringing this to light is a very important step to your healing. 

I want to challenge you to take action though. While you may know that you are thinking this way, too many people don’t take action to change it. Again you can blame the brain partially for this because it wants to stay comfortable. 

If 6 months or a year from now you knew your life and health would be completely different from doing this one thing, would you be willing to do it? I hope that answer is absolutely yes!

Make a promise to yourself that you are going to do better. Wake up and set an intention everyday to be aware of your thinking and words you speak. Intentionally stop, pause, and shift even when it feels uncomfortable or it's so much easier to do the same old thing. This is what creates change in your brain, which then leads to changes in your life and health.


We get it, you're desperate to have your illness be a thing of the past, not something that defines your days. But trying to heal WITHOUT a custom plan is costing you precious time, money and energy!

You are unique, your symptoms are connected to very specific patterns within your subconscious.

Without a plan unique to you, you will continue struggling and miss out on the life you deserve to be living! To help you get started on your long-lasting healing journey, we would love to provide you with a healing plan that is unique to you. Get your custom healing plan today!

You can also Download my free healing guide, “Why Can’t I Heal” where you will learn the 5 reasons that you haven't healed despite everything you've tried. These are the missing pieces to your healing and the key to resolving your symptoms for good.

Jenny Peterson is the founder and CEO of Mind Body Rewire (MBR). She teaches those that are overwhelmed with trying to heal chronic symptoms how to simplify their healing by focusing on just one place, the subconscious mind. Learn more about MBR here.


bottom of page