Sat, 25 April 2015
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 , 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
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
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
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
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.
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’
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Blaming others for your own problems and not taking responsibility for your actions is toxic and disempowering.
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?
Remember, recognising negative affirming thought patterns is the first step in learning to change them.
Changeability Podcast – Episode 39
Resources and links mentioned in Episode 39