Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Automatic Negative Thoughts

I have been learning about Automatic Negative Thoughts.

These are things we tell ourselves without realizing it throughout the day, pretty much all the time. All just below the surface of our minds.

Thoughts like "No one has ever really liked me", "I will never get ahead at work because no one really notices what I have accomplished", "If I try to do this I will probably fail", "Everyone at this meeting is repulsed by the way I look", "Everyone will shun me if I have a panic attack".

I have always thought I was an optimistic person.

But after hearing about automatic negative thoughts, I decided to experiment and carefully monitor my thinking for a day.

I was surprised at what I was "hearing" myself say!

One part of cognitive therapy can be to discover common automatic negative thoughts we have and replace them with more realistic positive ones.

For instance, when I hear myself think "I am a boring person with nothing to say - no wonder no one wants to talk to me" I need to tell myself "Stop".

Then deliberately create a more positive thought. "I am a valuable person with my own unique perspective on life. The things I say can be very interesting and refreshing.`

Catastrophizing is another form of negative thinking. Expecting the worst outcome possible and dwelling on those thoughts cause intense feelings of anxiety and dread.

Cognitive therapists call automatic negative thoughts ANTS sometimes, as a way to be cute I guess but also probably as a useful acronym.

Try it ! Monitor your own thoughts today and see if you catch yourself thinking unhelpful negative messages.


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