Dealing with Automatic Negative Thoughts Part One - Recognising and Analysing.

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Hands make a heart, depression, anxiety, happiness, mindfulness, Automatic Negative Thoughts,

I talked previously about what Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANT) are and today's post is going to talk about recognising when you are experiencing them and what to do. These thoughts are both destructive and distracting, many of us can relate to feeling constantly distracted from either your work, chores or even favourite hobbies and past times by the thoughts that are constantly running through your head. These thoughts rob you of enjoying the here and now.

So how do you beat them?

First of all, you simply need to be aware of every thought that you have. This is quite easy to say but hard to put into practice when your head is a constant whirr of thoughts, ideas, questions and scenarios however, this is the first major stepping stone to beating those bad thoughts and feeling better.

Whether you are making the bed, the school lunches or sitting in traffic, when you find your mind wandering stop it and ask yourself what you are thinking about and why. Then ask yourself the following:

'Is it positive?'
'Is it true?'

In therapy, people who experience ANT are given various different questions to ask themselves but I find these two work the best for me. They're quick and to the point.  Most of the time the answer to the first question will be NO THESE ARE NOT POSITIVE THOUGHTS. Otherwise you wouldn't be feeling crap and you wouldn't have stopped that thought mid flow to question it.

Next you need to ask yourself:  'Is this thought true?' initially you may automatically think yes but if you dissect the thought, you will probably discover that it isn't. You may think someone is snubbing you or acting 'off' but when you ask yourself if they honestly have a reason to act 'off' or have you done something to make them dislike you the answer will most likely be NO.

The thing with a mental health illness is - and I mean this in the nicest way possible - it can actually be quite a self indulgent illness. We only ever look to the end of our own noses. Those ANT are all about us and why something is wrong with us. We assume someone must have an issue with us because those thoughts never let us see past our own world.

They make us question everything about ourselves and who we are as a person.

We forget therefore, that actually everyone else on this planet has their own shit going on:

Melanie appeared to blank you did she? Well maybe Melanie is actually worrying about her sick father or maybe it was because Melanie didn't have her glasses on so didn't even see you.

We are so quick to think it is about us because those ANT are self involved bastards. If you know DEEP DOWN there is no way on earth that you have pissed off Melanie then you know that you haven't pissed off Melanie. End of. And all of those niggling little thoughts about how you may have said something or how you may have come across are bullshit. They are the ANT trying to pull everything you do or say apart and make you unhappy.

Think about anxiety; our thoughts are telling us that everyone is going to be staring at us, judging us, picking fault with us when in reality no one has even noticed you are there. When you think that everyone is looking, reverse it and think about if you are looking at everyone else. Are you? Chances are you're not so chances are no one is looking at you either.

Once you start opening your mind up passed your own thoughts you will begin to see things a lot clearer and realise other stuff may be going on. Think about the amount of times you have been off with people because of perhaps your anxiety or a hangover or because you were just feeling grumpy that day. What if a friend of yours went home feeling as though you were being off with them when in fact you just had your own stuff going on?

By monitoring your thoughts and listening to them rather than letting them just run through your head  endlessly and affect your mood you are able to control them more. You are able to stop the bad ones evolving and let the good ones through. It is hard at first but gradually, like anything, if you persevere you get used to that way of thinking. You will start to listen to the logical part of your brain rather than the ANT. It isn't easy, but not everything in life is.

Most importantly of all only YOU can make the change.

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