Negative automatic thoughts & how to challenge yours! You up for the challenge?

Recently, I was speaking to a dear friend of mine about something that I know as NATs; or rather, Negative Automatic Thoughts. We all have these and lots of the time we don’t even realise it. This is because they are automatic; you have done something for so long that it just happens without your conscious awareness. But the good news is, NATs are never set it stone and can be changed if you are up for trying. And with that, I challenged my friend to try changing hers… She accepted ☺️

NATs can affect the way we feel, making it an important topic to be aware of. There are different types of NATs and some of the most common ones can include:

1.All or nothing thinking: this is when you see things as black and white, with no grey area. If something you do isn’t right, it’s wrong. If you’re not perfect, you’re a failure. Eg. “I’m not thin, so I must be fat” 

2. Mental Filtering: You ignore any positives about a situation and focus on the negative(s). You don’t see your strengths or look at what you do well. Eg. “I went 6 months without self-injuring then had a set back; I completely failed and will never be able to stop” 

3. Emotional reasoning: You confuse your negative thoughts with facts. When you feel bad you assume things are bad. Eg. “I feel ugly so I must be ugly” 

4. Mind reading: you presume you know what everybody else is thinking about you. Eg. “Everybody thinks/will think I’m stupid” 

5. Personalising: You blame yourself when things go wrong or if something bad happens, without thinking of the likely causes. Eg. “It was all my fault my relationship ended, I’m a horrible person” 

6. Catastrophising: You focus on the negatives until they become huge. You magnify mishaps which makes them seem like total disasters. Eg. “I made a joke but not many people laughed, I made a complete fool of myself and it was a disaster” 

You may already know about those; maybe you have heard people talk about black and white thinking, for example. I never really understood that phrase until I learned about it. 

So, back to my friend; I explained to her that before we can challenge our NATs, we first need to become aware of them and when they happen. This is difficult at first, but the more you do it the easier it becomes. It might be a good idea to start by counting how many NATs you have each day. This is a good way of getting used to recognising when they are occurring. Writing your NATs down can also help you to recognise them, and it can also be enough to help you challenge them. You will also notice that some NATs occur regularly. It can be difficult to begin with, but with practice it can get easier. 

Once you are used to recognising your NATs you are ready to challenge them. Ask yourself questions that might help you to see other potential answers. If you see that you do a lot of “mind-reading” you could ask yourself “how can I be sure I am right?” Or “are there any other explanations?”. If you tell yourself you’re crap because you are not perfect a lot of the time, you could ask yourself “what is perfect? Is your definition of perfect even possible or likely?”.

Have you got any NATs that you can think of? Would you be up for the challenge of changing your NATs into PATs? Tell me you know the ‘P’ is for ‘positive’ right? 😉

Get your pen and paper ready and go for it!! Most important thing; have fun as well… Don’t focus on crap stuff all the time.

Here’s one of my recent paintings and couple of the things that comes to mind when I look at it is hope and positivity.  ❤️

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