You can stop automatic negative thoughts

Personality is comprised of two parts:  Thinking and Behaviour  The different patterns in these constitute personality.  For example, if you allow yourself to think negatively, a pattern of automatic negative thoughts develops.  Note I use the word patterns. Because if you behave in a particular way for a day or two, it would not be a part of your personality.

Because most of us are unaware of our habits, we develop automatic negative thoughts. In this article, you’ll get the complete automatic negative thoughts list alongside steps on how to challenge each one. But first, you need to understand the following key concepts:

Humans, for the most part, have constant personalities. As we grow older and develop self-awareness, we learn to control and hide our feelings or we may become desensitised to them, but underneath we are still the same person. IQ remains constant throughout and only life-changing incidents can impact personality in the long run.

Personality cannot be altered because we can’t change who we are as a person (there is absolutely no reason to do that anyway) . . . however, personality CAN be improved by challenging negative thinking habits.

Over their lifetime, few people change for the better. Why?

  • We all believe that we are unique and therefore we are right.
  • We are naturally prejudiced against new concepts that conflict with our beliefs
  • Anything that changes our beliefs seems scandalous to us. We feel as if we are destroying our identity
  • We see no need to change ourselves because we believe that we are already perfect.

*If we really want to become a better person, we need to accept a few things:

  • I am not perfect -Everyone in the world should not be like me.
  • Everyone thinks that they are right, but if this were true, our world would be a Utopia today.
  • I make mistakes because I am human. It is normal and I must learn to accept them.
  • can become a better person. In fact, I need to. But to challenge automatic negative thinking that has built over the years, will take time and effort.*

Thinking is of two types

American motivational speaker and author Jack-Canfield says negative thinkers are pests and calls them ‘dream stealers’!  Because they are so common (You might even be one yourself!) we have become used to them and don’t notice their negativity anymore.  But to categorise people into pessimists and optimists would be polarising- which is a form of negative thinking itself. Most of us lie somewhere in between, in varying shades of grey.  Still, even having a single habit of negative automatic thinkers is terribly dangerous, can ruin your personality and suck the happiness from your (and other people’s) lives!

Why Negative Thinking is useless

  • Negative thinkers rarely attain contentment in their lives
  • When they achieve anything, their negative thinking patterns don’t let them enjoy it
  • They are a pain in the ass! They suck the happiness from everyone’s lives

How to Challenge Negative Thinking

Identifying the traits of automatic negative thinking in ourselves is the first step in eradicating them. Usually, we are totally unaware of our chain of thought and where it is taking us. After reading through this list, try noticing your thoughts as they wander off throughout the day and catching yourself in the moment.

If you manage to notice your thinking patterns, you’ve won half the battle of challenging your negative thoughts.

List of Automatic Negative Thoughts that we Repeatedly Have

Please only continue reading below the line if you agree with what is written in the (*) above.

1. Polarising

Seeing things in black and white. It’s either right or wrong, good or bad.

You have to be world-class or third class. You can’t afford to be anything less than the best. If you come second or third, you feel like a failure. If you can’t be the best at something, you give it up.

Catch yourself doing this? Here’s what to do:

Start seeing things in shades of grey instead. Remind yourself incessantly. ‘Completing a task is also an achievement.’

2. Personalising

Relating everything that happens with yourself.

The weather, other peoples’ moods and even the cards you are dealt- if they’re not favourable its due to something you did wrong. You think that your teacher/boss always picks on YOU, that bad things always happen to YOU, that YOU are unlucky, the world is out to get YOU.

Catch yourself doing this? Here’s what to do:

Realise that there are 7.442 billion people in the world beside you. Not everything occurs because or for you.

3. Expecting the worst

Also known as worry.

You have a habit of anticipating the worst that will happen.

The party will not go as planned. That you will fail in your exam, that you will not give a good interview, that you will have an accident if you drive, that the children will get a flu if they go out, that the world will end, etc.

Catch yourself doing this? Here’s what to do:

Understand that in any situation, there are two scenarios that can happen

A) That everything will be fine and according to plan. In that case all worrying will have gone to vain

B) That nothing will be fine and everything will go wrong. In that case, all the worrying in the world will not help.

In neither of these cases will worrying help. Anticipation, worry, anxiety, these only give grey hair and wrinkles. Better get up and act.

4. Focusing on the Worst

In other words; ‘ingratitude’.

When you go to bed at night, do you think of all the good things that happened all day, or all the bad things?

When it comes to a person, do all their good qualities come to mind or all their bad qualities?

Focusing on the worst only brings unhappiness to your life. Some people believe that if they became happy with their success (enter their comfort zone), they will become content in their current state and less motivated to achieve success.

This is not true. Happiness and gratitude bring only more happiness to one’s life.

Catch yourself doing this? Here’s what to do:

To combat these negative automatic thoughts, take time to appreciate what you have, not what you don’t have.

Understand that positivity is a stronger motivator than negativity.

Remember that all bad times are followed by good times that outweigh them.

5. Victimisation

Playing the victim or the person who has been wronged all the time gets addictive. This type of thinking goes like ‘Everything goes against me…so and so won’t let me do this…so and so cheated me…whenever I try to do something, something bad always happens’. Whoever said the world is a fair place? Mishaps and misfortunes happen to all.

If you open your eyes and if you look through an unfiltered lens, you will see that you are one of the lucky ones!  Limitations are present everywhere Every person on this planet has a different starting line. But that should not stop you.

Catch yourself doing this? Here’s what to do:

Accept your flaws, limitations and boundaries and find ways to overcome them.

Understand that all people have some measure of bad luck. Some just fight harder.

All images I own.

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