9 Types of Automatic Negative Thoughts by Dr D G Amen

In his book, “Change Your Brain Change Your Body” (Piatkus) Dr Daniel G Amen identifies 9 types of negative thoughts which infiltrate our mind if we allow them to. They are labelled as ANTs which stands for Automatic Negative Thoughts.

  1. All or nothing – These are the ANTs that infest your brain when you think everything is good or all bad. It is the same as black or white thinking. If you stick to your exercise plan for a month, you think you think you are the most disciplined person on the planet. If you miss a day at the gym, you think you have no discipline and give up and go back to being a coach potato. A better approach is to acknowledge that you didn’t do your daily workout and then get back on track the following day. One slip up doesn’t mean you should give up entirely.
  2. Always thinking – This is when you think in words that over generalise, such as always, never, every time or everyone. Consider some of the thoughts such as “I will never lose weight,” “I have always had a sweet tooth – I will never be able to stop eating chocolate,” This kind of thinking makes you feel like you are doomed to fail at eating right and staying healthy. It is as if you have no control over your actions or behaviours.
  3. Focusing on the negative – This ANT makes you see only the negative aspects of situations even when there are plenty of positives. “I know I lost 10 pounds, but I wanted to lose 15, so I’m a failure” is an example of this type of thinking. Focusing on the negative makes you more inclined to give up on your efforts. Putting a positive spin on this same thought – “wow!” I lost 10 pounds. I’m on my way to my goal of 15 pounds” – encourages you to keep up the good work and makes you feel pretty good about yourself.
  4. Thinking with your feelings – “I feel like my skin is never going to clear up.” Thoughts like this occur when you have a feeling about something and you assume it is correct, so you never question it. Feelings can lie too. Look for evidence. In this example, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist to find out if there’s anything you can do to improve your skin.
  5. Guilt beating – Thinking in words like “should”, “must”, “ought to”, and “have to” are typical with this type of ANT, which involves using excessive guilt to control behaviour. When we feel pushed to do things, our natural tendency is to push back. That doesn’t mean that guilt is all bad. There are certainly things in life that we should and shouldn’t do if we want to have the best body possible: “I want to eat the chips and guacamole at the party, but I should have the raw carrots instead” or “I feel like staying in bed, but I should do my workout.” Don’t mistake these for guilt beating ANTs.
  6. Labelling – When you call yourself or someone else names or use negative terms to describe them, you have a labelling ANT in your brain. A lot of us do this on a regular basis. You may have said one of the following at some point in your life; “I’m a loser”; “I’m a failure”; or “I’m lazy.” The problem with calling yourself names is that it takes away your actions and behaviours. If you are a loser, a failure, or lazy, then why bother trying to change your behaviour? It is as if you have given up before you have even tried. This defeatist attitude can be ruinous for your body.

Beware of the red ANTs

These last three ANTs are the worst of the bunch. I call them the red ANTs because they can really sting.

  1. Fortune-telling – Predicting the worst even though you don’t know what will happen is the hallmark of the fortune telling ANT. Examples include: “I just had a biopsy I am sure it is cancer”. Nobody is safe from fortune telling ANTs .
  2. Mind reading – When you think that you know what somebody else is thinking even though they have not told you, and you have not asked them, it is called mind-reading. Listen carefully to the other person before trying to predict what they have to say.
  3. Blame – Of all the ANTs, this one is the worst. Blaming others for your problems and taking no responsibility for your own successes and failures is toxic thinking. For example: “It is your fault I’m out of shape because you will not go with me to exercise.” Whenever you begin a sentence with “it is your fault…” it ruins your life. These ANTs make you a victim. When you are a victim, you are powerless to change your behaviour. Quit blaming others and take responsibility for your actions.

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Positive Thoughts verses Reality

The Reality of Perception Quote

The Reality of Perception Quote

Positive thoughts verses reality is actually another way of saying positive thoughts verses negative thoughts. Many a time negative minded people hide behind the guise of being brutally honest because they only want to face the harsh reality. These people would usually enjoy ripping a good idea before it can ever take off. They love to pull apart and scrutinise something. In fact, anything to avoid the bitter disappointment they hold themselves against. It makes them feel good that other people are failing miserably or do not measure up to their critical analysis in any way.

Whenever I come across positive thoughts articles, they always seem to be accompanied by some type of so called “realistic” comments at the end. Usually, by reading the article I feel somewhat optimistic about improving my life. I find generally that when I think positive I behave positively. But by the time I get to the negative comments cross questioning the article, I feel a little annoyed. I think – can’t these people just try to understand the writer instead of dampening the spirit with their dark thoughts on their personal version of reality?

In fact what these negative thinking people fail to realise is that reality is in essence an entirely personal perception which is subject to change depending on the mood and frame of mind you are in. If you are inclined towards a negative way of thought, you will naturally take the stance that reality can be harsh. Usually these type of people also suffer from ill health brought about due to anxiety and stress. They choose to focus and linger on negative aspects, instead of noticing the negative and focusing on ways of improving this.

For the positive person – their reality is brighter and happier because that is how they naturally paint their life. I, for one, want to remain optimistic about things and do not really appreciate being reminded of another person’s impression of a grim reality. If I focus on the grim reality like a used to do sometimes, my inner feelings give way to fear just waiting to find an escape route. I choose to stay hopeful instead of fearful.

So the external events will happen as they do. It is my interpretation of these events which will determine whether it was a good or bad event. I can write something nasty off as a learning experience or sit and cry over it. I know what I would rather choose but I suppose the realists will sit a moan about it.

If you have a choice would you rather live in a bubble of happiness oblivious to problems which can be resolved with a happier frame of mind and in a more creative way or would you rather sit in the dark black hole which affects your thoughts negatively.

It becomes a habit to think and perceive the way we do. So try to changing your personal perception is no easy task for sure. Becoming challenging with our thought process and perception is one of the hardest things we have to do. But you don’t have to give in to the negative way of thinking. You can speak back to it and even reassure yourself that things are not all doom and gloom.

Check some of my posts about overcoming negative thought processes which usually have an element of fear associated with them.

Further Reading and Image Source: consciouslifenews.com

Related Posts: 

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Meaning and Origins of the Word Philosophy

Pie as the Greek symbol of Philosophy

Pie as the Greek symbol of Philosophy

Origins of the word Philosophy:

Philosophy is a word derived from Middle English.

The word “Philosophy” can be traced back to the Old French “philosophie” and Latin, from the Greek word, “philosophia” which translates as “love of wisdom”.

Researchers and experts in the field of philosophy are commonly known as “Philosophers.” They ask virtually basic types of questions and articulate answers.

Image Source: www.mpiwood.com

What is Philosophy?

The word philosophy literally means a love of wisdom. It is an activity which we all indulge in, this deep thought process and many of us through our personal life experiences come to our very own conclusion about life. We ponder and constantly seek answers to questions within our deep psyche about the deeper meaning of life. As a varied and deep rooted subject, Philosophy is a means of thinking deeply and contemplating the big questions such as:

“Who am I?” and “Where did I come from?” Such questions and other related ones ponder on the relationship of people with each other and the world we live in.

History of Philosophy

Philosophy is in fact a close relation to religious scriptures. Dealing with the most basic questions in life, it allows you to ponder on the unknown. Deep thinkers who have dedicated their lives to this academic subject are known as “philosophers” and there are many famous examples of these including the greats such as Aristotle and Plato.

In fact, Philosophy as a subject in its own right was originally coined by the Greeks who took this subject quite seriously. Although philosophy is primarily about the thought process, logic and rational arguments feature as main ways to prove or disprove theories. Not only does philosophy incorporate a sense of introspection thereby focusing on the thought process of an individual, but also seeks to incorporate groups of people and past knowledge of great thinkers.

The general way the study of this subject is enhanced is an attempt by the philosophers to use rationalising arguments relating to general concepts such as reality, existence and values in a critical and systematic manner. In this sense many questions emerge which need to be answered. Philosophers then attempt to analyse and define their thought processes, in an attempt to conceptualise and theorise many of the resulting ideas. Philosophers continually ask questions and consistently seek answers in an almost childlike wonderment.

Historically, although this subject has evolved and changed, currently the 6 major areas of study and focus in the modern academic sense of the word philosophy are:

  • Aesthetics: An appreciation of art and beauty, asking questions such as “why is Art important?”
  • Epistemology: Knowledge and the acquisition of it, asking questions such as “what is knowledge?”
  • Ethics: How people live and questioning and defining what is right or wrong, asking questions such as “what is good?”
  • Logic: Development of valid arguments as well as mathematical logic, asking questions such as “what is good or bad reasoning?”
  • Metaphysics: Nature of reality and the universe, asking questions such as “is there a God?”
  • Politics: Government, political obligations and citizen rights, asking questions such as “what is an ideal type of government?”

On a general level the word “Philosophy” and the concept of it can be applied to any type of subject e.g. Philosophy of Law, Philosophy of Religion and Philosophy of the Arts.

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