Having thoughts you can’t seem to get rid off? How to alter automatic negative thought (ANTs) – CBT

It is not unusual to find that a person suffering from anxiety, will also usually suffer from low self-esteem. The chances are they have put themselves down in their own minds. This is a natural way of thinking as their confidence has diminishes. Low self-self-esteem can be a direct result of maladaptive thoughts.

There are some steps that you can take to try and overcome negative thought patterns. Let’s have a look at a few of these ideas:

A trigger point can occur simply by you perceiving a remark by someone else, to be negative. If you find yourself feeling upset at another’s remark, learn to recognize why you are upset. Take action by not allowing the maladaptive thought to fester. Don’t give it time to build up, as this can create a snowball effect of anxiety. One way to do that is to try and relax internally. Use the breathing techniques (Mindfulness Breathing). Even if it’s only to close your eyes for a few seconds. Try and at least inhale one deep breath through your nose, and exhale the air through your mouth. It is enough to take your mind away from an instant automatic reaction.

Case Scenario: Let’s suppose you are in a meeting and feel excited at doing your own presentation. Your mood is good and positive. Then someone comes at you with what you perceive as an insulting remark. Whilst you take that deep breath, think about the situation you are in. To help you understand why the remark triggered a negative thought ask yourself:

  1. Is it the person rather than the remark?
  2. Would you have felt the same no matter who had said that same remark?
  3. Have they actually made a valid point?
  4. Did you experience a mood swing as soon as the trigger point happened?

By using our example, we know that the person felt happy and confident only moments before the comment. When they received the negative remark, they felt annoyed and upset.


Automatic Thoughts

Automatic Negative Thoughts and CBT - YouTube

If an instant mood swing does happen, it means that you have experienced an “automatic thought.” Most automatic thoughts are instant negative responses. Again, be aware and ask yourself: –

  • Am I now thinking negative remarks detrimental to my self-confidence, such as “I’m useless at this,” or “that person never liked me?”
  • Look for evidence in your mind that might support why you had such an automatic negative response.

By asking yourself such questions, it forces you to look objectively at the automatic thought process. Is there any evidence to support why you are now thinking about this person in a negative way? Or, is their point a good one?

The remark caught you unawares and unprepared. Before you use an automatic response, assess the situation in your mind as fast as you can. By learning to see your own trigger points, such as this one, you will know when not to respond immediately. The last thing you want is to come across as aggressive, so stop and think. As you are busy analysing the situation in your mind, it allows for a short pause. that’s a good thing as you are not responding instantly. It brings to mind the saying, “Think before you speak.”

Characteristics of ANT
The New Rules For The Power Of Positive Thinking

Positive Thinking

Bring in some positive thinking too, for example:

  • Only one person raised any comments, so that’s not too bad.
  • I can’t be useless if I’m standing here doing a presentation of my ideas.

If you manage to stay calm and answer the question sensibly, then pat yourself on the back. You’ve managed to challenge those automatic and maladaptive thoughts. Now you can approach the objector calmly and not make a fool of yourself. Your response can be a measured one because you have taken full control of your thinking.

This is only a simple example. It reflects a situation that would need to be performed on the spot, to stop any automatic negativeness.

Beware when you are feeling vulnerable and want to snap at someone for something they said. Pause and ask yourself: Am I having an instant thought and reaction? Has what they said caused a swing in my mood and emotions? Can I stay calm and smile and stop assuming negative stuff in my head?

If you have decided to do a journal and something like this happens in your day, take notes. What was the situation that forced your automatic negative reaction? What was your instant mood when it happened? How did you deal with it? When you get a chance, look at your notes to analyse them to see if you could have changed anything. Learn from the experience, don’t ignore it. Learn to master the process of pausing to analyse. It is a start to your challenging all maladaptive thoughts, in all situations.

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