Negativity Detox: 3 Ways to Stop Automatic Negative Thoughts Fast
Maybe you’ve heard the Einstein quote, “Stay away from negative people, they have a problem for every solution.” Ain’t that the truth!
Negative people breed negative thoughts, and negative thoughts breed negative habits. If you’re drowning in negativity, before you know it, life can feel miserable regardless of outside circumstances – and you might not even understand how it happened, or why you always feel so bad.
Automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) are often a major part of the equation. These create a victim mentality and generate negative internal dialogues that can easily infest your mind and make you feel scared, worried, hopeless, or stressed. If you find that you’re often spiraling down into these depths in your own head – and feeling like nothing will ever get better – it’s time to fight back.
The good news is, you can arm yourself against these harmful patterns by developing (or strengthening) your Warrior sense of personal responsibility – killing the ANTs and getting a more rational, positive outlook on life, even in the most stressful of times.
Questioning Your ANTs
Have you ever said any of the following statements?
- I’m dumb.
- I must’ve done something wrong.
- My life is terrible.
- No one likes me.
- I’ll never be good enough.
- Nobody cares.
- It’s all my fault.
- Everything I do is wrong.
Notice a theme in the above statements?
You might recognize that they reflect black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking. For example, how often is something truly all one person’s fault? Most likely, numerous factors and people have combined to create a given situation, whether negative or positive.
That’s why it’s a good idea to start pushing back against the extreme and drastic assumptions that have little basis in reality. But how can you stop these from taking over, especially when they feel like they’re so automatic?
First, when you find yourself with a growing ANT infestation, write down the thoughts that are coming up for you. Then, before you find yourself spiraling into negativity and self-pity, ask yourself 4 key questions about each thought, and answer honestly:
- Is this thought true?
- Can I absolutely know that it is true?
- How do I react or feel when I think that thought?
- Who would I be without that thought? Or, how would I feel if I didn’t have that thought?
3 Practical Ways to Avoid Automatic Negative Thoughts
When ANTs are allowed to run rampant, they can affect your entire well-being. Sometimes this can snowball before you realize what’s happening – then suddenly you’re snapping at your spouse or kids, losing it in line at the store, or giving in to road rage. But, in addition to taking a pause to become aware of your defeating thoughts, there are ways to intercept or prevent the negative thought loops that can drag you down fast.
Here are some suggestions:
Yes, we all want to enjoy luxuries like spa days and bubble baths, but I like to think of self-care as things like setting strong boundaries.
I’ve talked before about my own recovery from trauma stemming from my childhood and family, and as I worked to heal myself, I quickly learned that strong boundaries were crucial to recover my health – and my sanity. My family was full of dysfunctional people and relationships, and it became clear that I had to make changes with some of them, in order to prioritize what was truly most important to me in my life.
For example, some family members engaged in behaviors like lying, violence, and drama – that’s just how they chose to live their lives. I care very much about my family’s well-being, but I realized I’d have to love some of them at a distance and set personal boundaries in order to respect myself.
Remember that you can, and should, put yourself and your loved ones first. You can’t fix other people; they need to do that for themselves. In the meantime, simply let them know you love them and will miss them. You can be loving while still remaining detached, and their negativity won’t seep into your life.
As noted above, it’s very helpful to write down your ANTs as they come up, then work out on the page the answers to those 4 questions designed to shed some clarity on the situation. You also can make a habit of daily or weekly check-ins through a journal. This option gives you a great outlet for your difficult emotions and allows you to see over time how you react to various challenges – think of this practice as a way of collecting data.
And, after putting some of these anti-negativity strategies into effect, you’ll be able to see in black-and-white how things have improved. Journaling has been shown to assist in meeting health goals, and this is yet another way it can help you.
For an extra boost, you can also connect your journaling with a daily gratitude practice, listing a few things you’re grateful for every day. This routine helps take the focus away from everything you may perceive as going “wrong” in your life and allows you to see everything that’s going right. Chances are, you’ll find that many things on these lists are things you often take for granted.
Spend Time Alone
Solitude doesn’t have to be solemn, lonely, or sad – it’s actually a great way to recharge so that you can better show up for yourself and the others around you. Learning to be self-reliant and connecting with your own self-worth allows you to develop more confidence, which helps you follow through on other healthy practices, like setting boundaries.
It’s even better if you can take some time to be in nature, without any devices distracting you. A solo brisk walk outside gives you the benefits of mood-boosting exercise, fresh air, and alone time, making it a triple threat in the fight against any negative feelings that may creep up.
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Boundaries. Nature walks.
I’m known to be a loner. I always planned time with relatives. Some were negative. I tried to help them. I didn’t avoid them. They are all different. I find a rapport with them and still communicate and love them. I moved to a warmer climate because I was sick and at a doctors office every month.
They took it as rejection and stopped communicating visiting and mail was last to go. I got heartbroken syndrome from it. My Dr told me angina. I watch blood pressure. Diet and exercise. Supplement. Sleep. Rest time. Relax time. God and.my garden are my life.
Everyone knew my boundaries. I told them and showed them. They also knew they were welcome too!
I’m a very strong and bold and loving woman! I know who I am! I’m extremely confident and accomplished person. I’m a very positive optimist. I work at the intellectual and realistic parts of my personality. Stay away from the romantic and sentimental parts and I stay out of trouble! I saved my own life from a violent alcoholic husband. I also saved my home from another abusive man. My father taught me to not pay any attention to loved ones so I listened to Mom. She loved all of us unconditionally. I went through a lot too Tana. Thank you for your emails and TV shows. God bless you and Dr Amen.