Do you find your mind veering off to negative space often? Do you have trouble stopping them and switching over to positive thoughts?
Maybe you are a victim of automatic negative thoughts.
No need to worry if you have this affliction. An overwhelming number of the world population is also with you on this. However, the severity of this problem varies a lot among the sufferers.
If you experience intense bouts of automatic negative thoughts, you may find it impossible to change tracks. This can make you feel lost and depressed.
This article helps you understand why you are experiencing automatic negative thoughts and how they can impact your mental health. You will find here the different kinds of cognitive distortions that can overpower your mind and refuse to leave it.
Negative thoughts can be oppressive and limiting. The challenging negative thoughts worksheet pdf will help you break the negative thought cycle and regain control of your life.
Why do you indulge in automatic negative thinking?
An automatic thought is an image or mental activity that is the result of a mental trigger. It is something that pops up in your mind without conscious effort. An automatic negative thought is more common than its positive counterpart.
One of the most common reasons for negative thinking is stress and anxiety. When you are stressed and anxious, your mind is already not in a good space. Mental health experts believe that negativity is the default setting of our minds. There is also a high amount of inertia to think positive. All these make the mind see the negative side of things, ponder on negative topics, and immerse in negative thinking.
When your mind is dwelling in the past or worried about the future, the thoughts may careen towards negativity. If you are unhappy about some past incident, your mind will be working overtime to rewrite the story. But every alternative seems to have an equally negative or worse outcome than what actually transpired. As you are not satisfied with any of the alternatives, you continue to torture yourself with negative thoughts.
On the other hand, if you are worried and anxious about the future, your mind tends to find every single negative outcome that may happen. Even if nothing bad has happened yet, you will continue along this path. The only way out is to find ways to overcome anxiety and stress and stop overthinking.
Your mind may succumb to automatic negative thoughts when you are experiencing a bad day. When you are feeling low, the world will look bleak and your attitude will be pessimistic. All you can see is negativity everywhere around you. You feel bad and blame yourself. If you allow this to continue, it can lead you to depression. It is vital for your mental health that you learn to overcome negative thinking.
Examples of automatic negative thoughts
Negative thoughts come in many shades of grey. The lighter ones are easier to deal with and overcome, while the darker thoughts may need more attention and effort to subdue.
Before we think about devising strategies to eliminate negative thoughts, it would be ideal to understand what kind of negative thoughts are we dealing with through automatic thoughts examples.
The negative thoughts themselves differ from person to person. But they can be broadly classified so that dealing with them is easier.
So, here is a list of cognitive distortions commonly found in humans.
1. Blaming yourself or others
When you are unhappy about what happened in the past, you ponder over it and try to fix the blame on yourself or someone else. You do it thinking that it will bring you relief and some closure. This is just a myth. Blaming will only make you pull yourself down and feel sad and depressed.
You need to realize that blaming is not helping you in any way. What is past is past. You should learn to move forward and not dwell in the past and make it worse for yourself or others. One way to get rid of negative thoughts is to look at the incident from another angle. A different perspective can change the outcome.
2. Reading the mind
Without any substantive evidence, your mind guesses what others are thinking. Typically, this has something to do with you. When a person doesn’t answer or return your call, you start thinking that they are annoyed or angry with you.
You believe this to be true even if the other person gave you no such indication. Based on this “feeling”, you beat yourself up and may even take supportive actions like distancing yourself from the person.
Instead of guesswork, you need to learn how to talk to others directly. By clearing misapprehensions promptly, you can save yourself from avoidable stress and anxiety.
3. Predicting the future
These are your predictions. One common feature in all your predictions is negativity. In your thoughts, you presume the worst and expect only bad things to happen to you. Or, at least not anything positive.
For example, you are experiencing some unfavorable health symptoms and you are going to the doctor to get it checked. You will think up all worst-case scenarios and even imagine that you are going to die in a few months.
You can easily wait until you meet the doctor and get the diagnosis. Instead, when you indulge in negative thinking, you are making yourself anxious and stressed for no apparent reason. Even if you are diagnosed with a serious ailment, having a positive attitude can help you overcome it. A negative mentality can only pull you further down.
Mindfulness exercises for adults are intended to bring your focus to the present. It’s not about trying to fix anything. It’s just about being aware of what you’re doing right now. You can do this by practicing meditation or yoga or even just breathing deeply.
4. Drawing comparisons
This is something on the rise in this age of social media. When everyone is competing against everyone else, it is hard not to compare yourself with others, whether in a negative or positive light. Both kinds of comparisons are harmful but negative comparisons tend to inflict more harm.
It would be worthwhile to remember that no human is born perfect. Our positives and negatives are balanced out one way or the other. If you feel you are inferior to others in some aspects, you will be better in others. It is as simple as that. You just need to open your eyes and learn to see the whole picture instead of zooming in on one aspect of your life.
When you are not satisfied or unhappy about something in the past, your mind tends to go back in time and dwell on it. Then you try to rewrite the story with alternative approaches. All these can lead to thinking about what should have or must have happened. You will start thinking about alternative case scenarios with the “if only…” approach.
With all these ponderings, you will start blaming yourself and feel guilt over your imagined faults. Once you go down this path, there is no end to negativity and blame-game.
No matter how much you wish, you cannot change the past. Realizing this simple truth is the only solution to this problem. Every time you find your mind entering this zone, bring it back to positive territory forcefully by changing the narrative of your thoughts.
Here are some more examples of negative thoughts.
- Overgeneralization: Since you failed in something similar, you will fail this time as well.
- All-or-nothing: If you are not the winner, you can only be a loser. There is no in-between.
- Discrediting the positive: You dismiss positive experiences as aberrations or classify them in the “don’t count” category for some reason.
- Jumping into conclusions: Without any supportive evidence, you arrive at a negative outcome.
- Emotional reasoning: You feel it in your bones, so it is true.
- Personalization: Anything you are associated with is bound to fail.
Recognizing and accepting negative thinking is the first step in overcoming it. You need to teach yourself to challenge these cognitive distortions. Reframing negative thoughts into positive automatic thoughts is achievable through positive activities like meditation, practicing gratitude, and repeating affirmations. Surrounding yourself with positive people has a huge impact on your thought process.
All these positive steps begin with self-belief and a positive attitude. You may also want to download a challenging negative thoughts worksheet to print and fill in at your leisure.