5 Common Automatic Negative Thoughts
Do you experience a lot of negative thinking in your daily life? Maybe you find it hard to think positively and change your negative thoughts? This is a common problem and affects many of us, but it is possible to overcome it.
It can be hard to know how to stop your negative thinking from happening or becoming worse, but there are ways that you can do this. First, it’s worth knowing why we have negative thoughts and the impact they can have.
Why Do We Have Negative Thoughts?
Some people experience negative thinking and do not know how to deal with stress and anxiety – this can often heighten the negative thoughts. This is because, when you are stressed or anxious, you are more likely to see the negative side of things and think of worst-case scenarios.
We can also have a lot of negative thoughts when we worry about the past or have a fear of the future too. If you are thinking of things that can go wrong or worrying about something that hasn’t happened yet, you need to find a way to stop overthinking and overcome anxiety.
Negative thoughts can occur when you are feeling low or having a bad day too. This could cause you to feel bad about yourself, blame yourself, and point out the negatives. If this continues every day, this can lead to a low mood or depression – so it’s important to learn how to overcome negative thoughts.
5 Automatic Negative Thought (Examples)
Before we discuss ways that you can overcome your negative thoughts, it’s probably best to talk about the types of automatic negative thoughts most of us have.
These are all quite common examples and can differ for each person, but you may be able to relate to some, if not all, of them. It’s good to be able to recognize them when they occur so that you can work towards overcoming them straight away.
1. Mind Reading
One type of negative thinking is ‘mind-reading’. This is where we automatically think that we know what others are thinking. For example, maybe someone ignored a text message from you.
A negative mind-reading thought would be: ‘They are ignoring me because they are mad at me.’ This is a thought where, despite the other person not telling you how they are feeling directly, you believe that you know what they are thinking.
This can be damaging as you may start to put yourself down and distance yourself from friends or family over something that might not be true. If you can learn to not jump to conclusions and ask people how they feel directly, it could save you from a lot of unnecessary stress.
2. Guilty Thinking
Another type of negative thinking is guilt thinking. This is where we use words such as ‘should’, ‘must’, and ‘if only’ when talking about mistakes or things we have done.
Even though you can’t change the past, it doesn’t always stop our minds from thinking and dwelling over it. People normally experience guilty thinking when they are dwelling over mistakes that they have made.
For example, you might say ‘I should have gone to the gym today.’, and this could cause you to feel guilty for not going to the gym and you may start putting yourself down. Instead of using guilty thinking, try and say ‘I didn’t go to the gym today, but that’s OK. There’s always tomorrow.’
This way, you are acknowledging what happened in a positive way and you aren’t making yourself feel guilty for not going either. If you start to hear guilty thinking creeping in, try and change the narrative and throw the feelings of guilt away.
3. Fortune Telling
Fortune Telling is a type of automatic negative thinking where you predict the worst outcome that could happen. When you focus on situations that you will have in the future, you are likely to presume the worst and think something awful is going to happen.
If you had a job interview, for example, this type of negative thinking might cause you to think something like: ‘I am not going to get this job. I just know I’m going to mess up and be too nervous.’ This is fortune telling; you are predicting the worst possible outcome for a situation that hasn’t even happened yet.
This is a bad habit to have, as it can actually cause you to stop striving for your goals, take any risks or believe in yourself. Fortune telling can have a huge impact on your self-esteem and the best thing to do is know that you can’t predict the future, and there are so many possible outcomes, that it’s not worth worrying about.
(This isn’t as easy as it sounds, however, I will be sharing my top tips to overcome negative thinking down below.)
In today’s society, it can become so much easier to compare ourselves to others, especially through social media. Everyone uploads their best pictures and stories, which can sometimes leave us feeling deflated and jealous.
When you compare yourself to others, with thoughts such as, ‘She looks so much prettier than me’, or ‘They have everything going for them, what do I have?’, it can be incredibly easy to develop a low mood and feel depressed.
Something that is always worth remembering is that everyone has flaws, and no one's life is perfect. If you can look at yourself in a positive light and remember that other people have difficulties and things they aren’t happy about too, this can make it easier to try and stay positive.
Related article: How to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others & Be More Confident
Another common type of negative thinking is blaming, you blame yourself or others for problems or mistakes that happen. This can cause you to feel like you are a failure and you can bring yourself down, causing low mood.
You may find that when any little or big thing that happens, you blame yourself for. It can be hard to look at things from a different perspective, but it can really help you to change your way of thinking to a positive view.
On the other hand, you might also find that you are blaming others for your problems and not taking personal responsibility. On the other hand, easily accepting fault everyday will not help you either – you must stop blaming yourself.
This can be an especially negative way of thinking if you are blaming others, as you might find it difficult to try changing your situation and looking at things from a different view.
How To Overcome Negative Thoughts
Now that we know the different types of automatic negative thinking, it’s time to discuss the different things you can do to overcome it. This doesn’t mean that you will entirely get rid off negative thinking; it’s something that everyone will go through.
However, there are ways that you can challenge and overcome your negative thinking when they do appear. So, you know how to recognize negative thinking – read on to find out what to do when they occur.
Meditation can be a really great way to refocus your mind and bring attention to the present moment and how you feel. It can help to bring you back to the moment, so it can be a great practice to do if you are in the middle of having automatic negative thoughts and can’t seem to stop them.
It can be very relaxing and the way it works is that if any negative thoughts appear while you are meditating, you let them in and then let them go. You recognize they are there, but you don’t give them any attention and focus on your breathing.
If you are having negative thoughts and can spare 10 minutes or so, try to meditate and focus on your breathing to help calm you down and take your attention away from the negative thoughts.
Related article: How To Meditate: Step-By-Step Beginners Guide To Meditation
2. Reframe Your Thinking
When you are aware that the negative thoughts are coming up, you can then start to try and reframe them. Maybe you could ask yourself why you might be having these thoughts? Is it because of something else that’s happened? Is there any way you can look at it from a different perspective?
Another way that you can reframe your negative thoughts is to try and change the narrative. For example, if you have a thought such as ‘I’m going to fail this exam today.’, instead, reframe it in a more positive way: ‘I know I’m worried about failing this exam, but as long as I try my best, that’s all that matters.’
If you can start to reframe your negative thoughts, it can really help you to put things into perspective and change your thinking to a more positive language.
3. Surround Yourself With Positive People
Have you ever had a group of friends that put you down? Or made comments that were unhelpful and negative? It can really influence your own thinking and how you view yourself too.
If you are feeling down, supportive friends and family can offer advice and give you a different view on what it is you are worried about. If you're finding it hard to be positive when surrounded by negative people, just change your company.
You don’t want people around you who feed your negative thinking, as this can just make things worse for you. Make sure you surround yourself with positive, supportive people who can lift you up and not bring you down.
4. Make A Gratitude List
You may have already heard about making lists of things you are grateful for, and they are great for many different reasons. When you write down things that you are thankful for, you are constantly focusing on good, positive things in your life for that time.
These lists work as a great gratitude exercise to practice where to write positive things about yourself as well. Focus on the good things about yourself, for example, that you are caring or supportive. Write down all of your positive traits.
This can help you to only focus on the positives and not the negative thoughts you may have been experiencing before. You could do this once you have woken up before you go to bed, or even start writing when you are having negative thoughts.
5. Use Affirmations
Again, you may also be familiar with affirmations. Affirmations are statements that we can say to ourselves to keep us in a positive mood and show ourselves self-love and positive energy. This can really help if you are feeling particularly negative one day.
You could use affirmations such as ‘I am feeling positive and I know I am going to have a good day.’ or ‘I will spread positivity to others and also to myself.’ If you can do this, it can truly help to squash any negativity you might be facing.
Whenever you decide to say your affirmations, try to really believe in what you are saying and focus on the positive feelings you get too.
The free ebook ‘Clearing Negativity From Your Life’ can help you to recognize your own limiting beliefs and find the cause of what could be keeping you in a cycle of negative thinking.
There are many reasons why you may be surrounded by negativity; it can be from the people you surround yourself with; your environment; the way that you perceive and talk to yourself.
Our free ebook can help you to understand that you have limitless potential and that you can clear negativity from your life.