When considering ways to improve the overall health of our brain and body, we tend to focus on getting consistent exercise, achieving restful sleep, and eating a healthy diet (accompanied with quality nutritional supplements).
But what about thoughts?
It’s estimated that 60,000 thoughts run through our minds each day. What effect do they have on our health, happiness, and well-being?
Thoughts Are Powerful
Our thoughts are powerful and can have a profound effect on the way we feel. They can even trigger physiological responses in the body.
“Whenever you have a sad thought, an unkind thought, or a hopeless thought – such as ‘I’m never going to land my dream job’ – your brain pumps out a dose of chemicals that makes you feel bad. On the flip side, conjure a happy, loving, or encouraging thought, and your brain gives you a blissful jolt of feel-good chemicals.” – Dr. Daniel Amen
Habitual negative self-talk trains the brain to see things pessimistically. Researchers believe that negative thinking effectively rewrites our neural networks, reinforcing pathways in the brain that make it more likely we’ll continue seeing the glass as half empty.
Additionally, having negative thoughts can reduce activity in the area of the brain involved with self-control, judgment, and planning, which can lead to poor decisions.
These patterns of negative thought can cause a downward spiral. So, exactly how can you turn around negative self-talk?
Automatic Negative Thoughts
The first step to finding liberation from negative thinking is to recognize that our thoughts frequently tell us things that just aren’t true. They tell us lies that cause us to feel emotionally down. They also can randomly pop into our minds without permission.
Dr. Amen refers to them as Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs). To a greater or lesser extent, we all deal with them. ANTs generally fall into one of these nine categories:
1. “All or Nothing” Thinking – Thoughts that are all good or all bad.
2. “Always” Thinking – Thinking in words like always, never, no one, everyone, every time, everything.
3. Focusing on the Negative – Only seeing the bad in a situation.
4. Fortune Telling – Predicting the worst possible outcome to a situation with little or no evidence for it.
5. Mind Reading – Believing that you know what another person is thinking even though they haven’t told you.
6. Thinking with Your Feelings – Believing negative feelings without questioning them.
7. Guilt Beatings – Thinking in words like should, must, ought, or have to.
8. Labeling – Attaching a negative label to yourself or someone else.
9. Blame – Blaming someone else for your problems.
Do you recognize any of these in your own thinking?
For your health and well-being, it’s important to do something about these types of thoughts. If you leave your ANTs unchecked, they can color your perceptions and wreak havoc in your life.
How to Stop Negative Thoughts
- Is it (the negative thought) true?
- Can I absolutely know that it is true?
- How do I react when I think that thought?
- Who would I be without that thought? Or, how would I feel if I didn’t have that thought?
Whenever an ANT enters your mind, write it down. Then apply these questions and you should start to feel the freedom that comes from clearing your mind of negative thoughts.
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