11 negative thoughts (NATs) to avoid and how to swat them - Brilliant Living HQ

11 negative thoughts (NATs) to avoid and how to swat them

11 negative thoughts to avoid. And how to swat them.

Our thoughts are critical. 

“If you realised just how powerful your thoughts are, you would never think a negative thought.” – Peace Pilgrim

The wrong types of thought, the negative thoughts that often come to mind throughout our day, can make you feel bad and stop you achieving our best.

So today we’re thinking about NATS.

And we don’t mean those pesky little insects that buzz around you and over your head when you’re enjoying a warm summer’s evening walk or drink outside the pub. 

We’re talking Negative Affirming Thoughts (NATs for short).

And if you’re not recognising them, then they might just be preventing you living your fullest life now and getting in the way of you achieving your goals or making the changes you want in your life.

“The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it.” – Eckhart Tolle

So today we want to look at the different varieties, or maybe we should say ‘species’ of NATs out there. 

Because if you’re aware of them you’re more likely to recognise them and do something about them when you notice yourself thinking them. And sometimes just catching out that thought is enough to dissipate it or stop its influence on your behaviour.

Why are these thoughts affirming?

You probable think of affirmations as something positive (like those we’ve talked about before) but affirmation just means affirming something, or making it firm, and this can be in a negative way just as much as in a positive way.

So with negative thoughts the danger is that you constantly reaffirm or reinforce them until they become the way you think and then get in the way of you doing what you want to do.

In his book, Change your Brain, Change your Body Dr Daniel G. Amen puts forward 9 types of negative thought (that he calls ANTs – automatic negative thoughts).

David Burns, in Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy, outlines 10 common mistakes in thinking, or thinking errors he calls cognitive distortions.

NLP has a similar concept so we decided to roll them all into one bundle and somehow we’ve ended up with 11!

So here’s all 11, how you can spot them and then swat the little beggars!

So go on, see if you’re thinking these thoughts and learn how to stop them before they take a hold (you know you want to!)

The 11 Negative Thoughts

1.     All or nothing thoughts

This is when you think some is all good or all bad, all black or all white. 

You miss a day on your diet – you think you have no self-control and give up. 

You’ve given up smoking and then had a quick puff?  Immediately you tell yourself “I can’t do this no-smoking malarkey, I just can’t quit!”

It’s all or nothing with you and if you’ve set yourself an aim of doing something, in your eyes you’ve failed.

Swatting those NATs:

Recognise, one slip up doesn’t mean you’ve given up; it means just that – you’ve had one slip up.

2.     ‘Always’ thinking – overgeneralization

Always thinking or overgeneralizing is typically accompanied by words such as always, never, every time, or everyone. 

“You never have any respect for my feelings” or “Every time I ask you to do something you always say you’re too busy!”  or indeed “I always mess up!”

This kind of thinking makes you feel as if you’ve no control over your actions – and as such it’s disempowering.

Swatting those NATs:  

Ask yourself. Does this always happen, every single time?  Really? If not then recognise you’re overgeneralizing. Say to yourself – just because one event happened, doesn’t necessarily mean I am permanently this way of being.

3.    Focussing on the negative

NAT number 3 sees only the negative in life, even when the positive is staring you in the face. It’s like you have a mental filter that mostly focuses on the negative or upsetting aspects whilst ignoring massive positives.

“I set myself a task of losing 10 pounds this month, and I’ve only lost five. I’m a failure.”

Focussing on the negative makes you more inclined to give up.

Swatting those NATs: Put a positive spin on your thoughts.  “Wow, 5 pounds weight loss, my goal is getting ever nearer.”  This encourages you to keep going and makes you feel better about yourself.

Learn to look for the silver lining in every cloud and count your positives rather than your negatives – in other words look for the positives in situations.

4.    Thinking with your feelings or emotional reasoning

“I feel like I’m never going to get to grips with my bad back.”

Here thoughts occur when you have a feeling about something.  You assume it’s correct and never question it.

This species of NAT mixes up and confuses feelings and facts – which leads you to make decisions based on how you feel rather than objective reality.

It’s important here to recognise that feelings can lie.

Swatting those NATs:

Look for evidence to see if it’s really true.  If you feel you’re never going to get a grip with your bad back, then book an appointment with you doctor or physio to see if there’s anything that can be done about it.

5.    Disqualifying the Positive

This involves always shooting down good or positive experiences for no real reason – so you can keep a negative belief even though the evidence points to the opposite.  It’s as if the good stuff doesn’t count because everything else is bad about your life.

Swatting those NATs:

Think about what does count and why.

Learn to accept compliments by just saying ‘thank you’ (so when someone compliments you on your new shoes just say thanks instead of – well they were only cheap, or I got them in the sale)

Or try bigging yourself up – or bolster your view of yourself by listing your good qualities, skills and accomplishments.

6.    The Guilt Trip or ‘should-ing’

Spotting this one is a cinch.    You’re thinking in words like ‘should’, ‘must’, ‘ought to’ and ‘have to’.

“I really should get this job done” or “I feel like watching TV, but I ought tobe doing my gym workout.”

Here you’re using guilt to control your behaviour.  And guess what? When you feel obliged to do something, you rebel against it!

Swatting those NATs: Although guilt isn’t all bad, don’t use excessive guilt to control your behaviour.

Try asking yourself questions like – what is stopping me doing this, or what rule says I should, or simply ask ‘why should I?’ Another technique is to use ‘could’ instead of ‘should’.

7.    Labelling and mislabelling

Ever guilty of labelling yourself in some way? Of explaining your behaviours by labelling it?

“I’m useless at maths.”  “I’m such a loser.”

There’s an error in logic going on here, where you make a leap from a behaviour or action to an identity, so the identity is determined by the behaviour.

Guess what?  If you’ve given yourself an all-embracing label it takes away your control over your actions and behaviour.  Now although this might be a good excuse for lack of action on occasions it’s also taking away your control and self-efficacy – which is never a good idea.

Swatting those NATs:

Ok, so you may not be very good at maths at the moment, but you can’t just give up before you’ve even tried.  That’s just defeatist.  You didn’t say when you were a child “I tried walking once and I was useless at it.”  You didn’t, did you?  OMG!

8.    Magnification and Minimisation

This is where you magnify or exaggerate the negatives and minimise or understate the positives – people often do this to themselves.

I can also be where you catastrophise – or jump ahead to the worst possible outcome, expecting the worst case scenario to actually happen. Or thinking that a situation is unbearable when it’s just unpleasant; like when you think ‘I  can’t stand this.’

Swatting those NATs:

Ask yourself what would happen if you did stand this.

Examine exactly how something is so bad – and compared to what.

9.    Fortune telling – jumping to conclusions

Here you predict the worst, even though you don’t actually know what will happen. You’re anticipating things will turn out badly, as if your prediction is already a fact.

Whenever I try to give up smoking, I end up giving up!”

Fortune telling thinking can lead to a self-fulfilling prophecy, i.e. it becomes true.

Swatting those NATs:

Talk back to those thoughts.  Ask how you know it will turn out this way. Say – Ah, that’s fortune telling thinking –  and tell yourself it doesn’t always have to end that way.

10.Mind reading

Another form that jumping to conclusions takes is when you think you know what someone else is thinking even though they haven’t told you.

“She’s looking at me strangely, she must think I’m stupid” or “He’s looking at my tummy, he must think I’m fat.”

A chance look from someone doesn’t mean they’re judging you.  She/he could like you, or noticed that you’ve spilt something on your top!

Swatting those NATs: It ain’t true unless someone actually tells you that’s what they’re thinking.  Examine the evidence – check out the facts and if in doubt ask.

And how about letting go of a need for approval because you can’t please everyone all the time.  As to thinking about you, the truth is most people are too busy thinking about themselves to think about you.

11.Blame –

In the blame game you blame yourself for situations and others behaviours that are not necessarily directly connected.

So for example, your son’s doing badly at school so you think you must be a bad mother.

Or you might find yourself saying “I can’t diet because you never support me” or “It’s your fault I’m in this situation.”

Blaming others for your own problems and not taking responsibility for your actions is toxic and disempowering.

Swatting those NATs:

When you find yourself blaming yourself ask how much of this problem is really your responsibility.

And quit blaming others and take responsibility for your actions.  If you are smoking, it’s because you choose to and equally, you can choose to quit!  Empowering, isn’t it?

And finally.

Remember, recognising negative affirming thought patterns is the first step in learning to change them. 

Changeability Podcast – Episode 39

Here us talk about all of this and more in episode 39 of the Changeability Podcast.  Listen by clicking above or subscribe to our podcast on iTunes or Stitcher.

Resources and links mentioned in Episode 39

 

 

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