Automatic negative thoughts can control how we think, act, and feel. Those suckers are tricky to deal with, especially when they happen automatically. We’ll explore how we can take control of our thoughts and make them work for us!
Recognizing Automatic Negative Thoughts
Our negative thoughts can come in many forms. Sometimes they ain’t even logical let alone rational. They can even be downright hurtful.
Examples of automatic negative thoughts:
“I always fail”
“I suck at math”
“I’ve never been fit”
“I’m not creative”
“I’m not attractive”
“She never listens”
When we repeat these automatic negative thoughts, it makes it harder to get rid of them. Thankfully, there is hope! It doesn’t take much time or effort to shift our state of mind.
We can fight back and take control of our thoughts. Remember, we have the freedom to choose to focus on positive or negative thoughts.
An undisciplined mind is often filled with a continuous stream of fears, anxieties, worries, and distorted perceptions. With a bit of discipline, you can recognize these thoughts thus free yourself of the negativity and stress they bring. You can enjoy life despite the day-to-day burdens that come from living in this world!
Controlling Automatic Negative Thoughts
Every thought or decision we make rewires our brain, right down to our neurotransmitters. We can choose to have positive or negative thoughts or let our thoughts default to autopilot.
Science shows the benefits of being able to control our thoughts favorably. When we have positive thoughts and make good decisions, it improves our cellular activity and even genetic expression. Just taking control with focused thinking keeps thoughts from running rampant can have a massive improvement in how we think and feel.
Not controlling our thoughts or choosing negative thoughts can lead to distress, confusion, and even despair. Without conscious control, we are prone to running on negative thoughts and emotions. These feelings can grow into depression if allowed to repeat and reinforce our negative thinking.
Rather than focusing on what you don’t want to happen, focus on what you do want.
Destroying Automatic Negative Thoughts
After deciding to control our thoughts, we need a way to address them. The simplest methods of taking control of negative thoughts are with objective thinking, write down the negative thoughts, and reframe the thoughts into positive statements.
Objectively Observe Thinking
Whenever you feel angry, sad, nervous, or frustrated, think about what type of automatic negative thought you are having.
Write Down the Negative Thoughts
When you write down your automatic negative thoughts, you can find some relief just by externalizing them.
If you write down the truth afterward, you can diffuse the negative thought.
You can get to the truth by asking four main questions:
Do I know for a fact that the negative thought is true?
How do I react when I think this thought?
How would I feel without this thought?
Who would I be without this thought?
Reframe the Thoughts
We want to direct our attention in order to stop the negative impact of the thought and reframe it into a healthier thought.
Take the negative words in your thoughts and replace them with positive ones. We want to take the thoughts and positively realign the negative beliefs.
Just because we have a negative thought in our heads doesn’t mean that it is true.
Mastering Your Thoughts
Beyond actively capturing and destroying your automatic negative thoughts, there are several ways you can strengthen your ability to master your thoughts.
Master your Past
Sometimes our past experiences can carry more weight than we’d like to give them.
Thankfully, we have the power to strengthen or weaken our emotional memories.
Bad memories consist of smaller parts. When you disconnect the pieces, the bad memories will fade away.
If you disassociate yourself from them, you can diffuse them or you can let them empower you into change. It all lies in reframing the meaning behind them.
We want to make sure we learn from the bad mistakes and memories, rather than reliving them.
At the end of the day, we can’t let our past determine our future. It helps to think about the future as much as you think about the past, to balance out your thinking. Thinking about the future is the first step in planning for it.
Two things to remember here…
Master your Present
You can quiet your mind and focus your attention on the present moment. Simply practicing meditation or yoga can help you shift your focus from your thoughts to your breathing.
You can also focus on what you are grateful for. It is hard to both give thanks and count all the ways things are going wrong at the same time.
When it comes to others, we want to avoid surrounding ourselves with negative people as much as possible. There are many naysayers and pessimists who will project their own self-doubt and negativity onto us. Along those lines, we want to make sure that we don’t project our own negative emotions onto others.
Remember, negativity breeds negativity.
If you are wrestling with automatic negative thoughts that are hard to shake, you can try to take the focus off yourself by doing something nice for someone else
In the end, we aren’t responsible for everything that happens to us in our lives, but we are responsible for how we respond.
After reading this, you should have a better understanding of automatic negative thoughts and be able to recognize the different types of negative thoughts in yourself and in others.
We have discussed practical ways of controlling and destroying these thoughts. We also have a clear sense of how we can strengthen our ability to master our thoughts!