Automatic Negative Thoughts: ANTs
As soon as I heard this term, it connected with me in the most profound and aggressive way. Like a smack in the face - I thought the metaphor of negative thoughts being ants was perfection. One or two appear without any notice, but soon you've got a whole trail crawling all over you! Itchy, annoying little buggers. Now, I don't know about you, but I am prone to Automatic Negative Thoughts. In fact, recently myself and my partner did a little assessment of each others best qualities - and then the qualities that serve us the least. This is not the sort of thing that's easy to hear, (luckily for me he knows how to lay on the honey thick). Anyway, one of the things he said serves me the least - is my tendency towards negative thoughts. And my 'worst case scenario' mentality. If, like me, you're one of those people - let's figure out how to get rid of those annoying ants!
I've always considered myself a positive and care-free kind of person. Although maybe everyone thinks of themselves that way? But really I'm a bit of a worrier. You know, hope for the best, prepare for the worst. Which sounds logical and reasonable, but it's really not. Generally the 'worst case scenario' is not something that you can control the outcome of, so how will preparing for it be beneficial? Usually, we spend a lot of energy worrying about things that never happen. Surely, it's more reasonable, to reserve our energy and simply use it when the thing actually happens? Sounds pretty good to me!
Easier said than done, amiright? SO, now that I've decided my negative thoughts and worrying aren't actually helping prepare me for what lies ahead - getting rid of them is another task entirely. I've been testing out a couple of strategies, it's a work in progress, but I'll share them with you to implement if you'd like to.
Automatic Positive Thoughts - APTs
See what I did there? Turned that shit around. Simply just trying to stop having negative thoughts is a doozy of a pickle. By saying to yourself 'do not have negative thoughts', you're actually telling your brain to direct energy to the negative thoughts. The very thing we are trying to avoid. Instead, let's tell our brains to direct our energy to positive thoughts. You can't really have a negative thought if you're busy having a positive one. Pretty clever, I know. So, here's a few things I've tried - to create the habit of positive thoughts.
Every time I notice that I'm slouching - I stand up straight, I push my shoulders back, my chest out and repeat in my mind - I AM AWESOME.
This probably sounds ridiculous, I'm aware. But it's seriously been working for me. I came up with this little strategy because, a) I slouch a lot and b) I'm anchoring my thoughts to an action. Which helps the whole thing gel. So, slouching is actually proven to make you mentally shit house - generally speaking. When our bodies are curled over and small, it sends the signal to our brain that we're afraid. We're not confident. We're not in control. We're worried. So let's fuck that right off. When I shoot my shoulders back and stand up straight and loudly proclaim in my mind that I AM AWESOME - it's actually having a chemical effect on me. My brain is suddenly filling me with chemicals that make me more confident, more positive and more powerful.
Pretty cool! I've been enjoying that. Usually this happens quite a few times throughout the day. If I catch myself having a negative thought - I'll do the same thing. Pattern interrupt. And then once I've reset that baseline, I force a positive train of thought to follow. My default is that I'll just think about the painting I'm working on at the moment. Another technique I've heard, which might be better for some of you that already have an open stance, is walking through doors. What? You heard me - every time you walk through a door, repeat your chosen positive thought. Whatever that may be. You'll be surprised by how often you walk through a door once you start paying attention to it!
It's a slow build when it comes to restructuring the neural pathways in your brain - but well worth the effort. After however many years of automatic negative thoughts, I wonder how long it'll take me to completely retrain myself to have automatic positive thoughts instead!