How do you deal with negative thoughts and limiting beliefs?
Are you aware of your self-talk and thinking patterns?
Many people suffer from an ANT infestation, which stands for Automatic Negative Thoughts. Our self-talk is often automatic and can be difficult to notice. We go through life making decisions and behaving based on these automatic thoughts, and instead of controlling what we think about, our thoughts control us.
The thoughts than run our life are often self-defeating, irrational, and simply not true. Negative self-talk leads us to believe we must be perfect, that we’re helpless, or that we’re a victim. If we’re not careful negative self-talk will lead to anxiety, worry, and depression.
You can learn to identify your ANTs and begin to separate and rationalize your negative thoughts before reacting to them.
Four types of ANTs
Do you ever think, “What if something bad happens?” Worrying promotes anxiety and tends to magnify problems. If you’re always focusing on and preparing for all the bad things that “could” happen it makes it very difficult to have any joy in life. Remember that 95% of what we worry about never comes true, so if you’re going to use your imagination to tell stories, you might as well make them positive.
The critic is our ANT that tells us we will never be as good as someone else and that we might as well quite. When we judge and criticize ourselves it leads to a sense of low self-worth and we tend to ignore the positive traits we all have. Be careful not to always compare yourself to others, and be willing to cut yourself some slack and validate how you feel.
When you encounter an obstacle do you believe you can make progress, or does it seem too difficult to work through? We have all played the role of victim in our life. It comes out during those times when we feel helpless and out of control about something. It’s easy to tell ourselves “I can’t do this!” Playing the victim role can lead to feelings of depression because we feel hopeless and incapable of making change.
Are you good enough? Have you achieved enough? This ANT is always pushing you to do more and do it better. The perfectionist is never satisfied and always expects more. This is the voice that tells you you’re no good when you get second place instead of first, or you get a 95% instead of 100%. The perfectionist ANT leads to burnout and chronic stress, and will always steal your happiness despite wonderful achievements.
Learn to question your negative thoughts.
It’s time to terminate these ANTs and replace them with positive supportive statements. You can learn to take a step back, rationalize, and create effective mental habits.
You are going to be attached to these thoughts, but you must realize that despite how attached you feel, the validity of these thoughts are based on how they hold up under scrutiny.
Develop some counter statements that can offer a more realistic and empowering perspective.
If you notice any of these ANTs infesting your life, ask “What is the evidence for this?” Develop a counterstatement that can help you bring your thinking to a more rational place. One where you know you can handle it and that you’re good enough.
The negative statements from the worrier, critic, victim, and perfectionist have little basis in reality. Once you can discredit these ANTs you can begin to incorporate more positive and supportive statements.
Anytime you are feeling vulnerable or stressed it can impact how you respond and what you think about.
So, developing greater self-awareness will help you to recognize what’s leading to negative self-talk and help you stay focused and present in order to manage these thoughts.
Mindfulness is being fully aware of what is happing internally with our mind and body, and externally in our environment. In essence, it is as if we are stepping outside of ourselves and becoming an objective observer of our self and surroundings.
Learning to develop mindfulness of thought is a little more advanced stage of mindfulness practice, though when you’re able to do so, it offers a chance to gain greater awareness and simply experience our thoughts without having to react emotionally.
As you begin to direct your attention to the thought processes taking place you will see how quickly your thoughts and feelings shift from one moment to the next.
We often live such busy lives we don’t pay attention to the signs of our emotional response.
What was going on in the environment?
What were you thinking? Did you have worry thoughts?
What were you feeling?
What were your actions?
Paying attention to the feeling or the valence of our emotions can be a great signal into the type of thoughts you are having. Do you feel positive or negative? Is what you’re feeling pleasant or unpleasant?
When you feel unpleasant don’t get caught up in this. You can relax and step back instead of unconsciously brooding in this state. You can simply acknowledge how you feel and bring your attention back to your body or breath.
You can begin to go below the surface of the tumultuous waves of the mind, where there are calm waters, and develop peace and serenity by learning to be in control of your mind as opposed to the mind controlling you.
Joe is an personal development and career coach who manages the blog Shake off the Grind, where he helps people find success through the up’s and downs of life. You can also find Joe on Twitter.
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