Reframing Negative Thinking as Part of Recovery
Do you often find yourself struggling with negative thoughts and ideas that seem to come out of nowhere? The reality is that many people experience these types of thoughts and that they can be detrimental to one’s overall mental health and well-being.
For many people suffering from substance use disorders and mental health issues, automatic negative thoughts can become a fact of daily life, and even prevent recovery from abuse and addiction.
Fortunately, there are ways to address and reframe these negative thoughts and replace them with positive thoughts. You don’t have to live with negative thoughts. You can change the script, overcome them, and live a happy life. It does take some time and effort, but it is worth it!
In this blog post, we’ll discuss some of the common automatic negative thoughts that people experience and how to reframe them for a more positive outlook. It is worth noting that we help clients at Icarus Behavioral Health use these same techniques daily, and if you or a loved one are struggling, we would be honored to support your recovery as well!
What Are Automatic Negative Thoughts?
Automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) are what mental health professionals call those pesky, intrusive thoughts that creep into our minds without warning. They are the negative thoughts that can pop up at any given moment and lead to a spiral of negative thinking.
These negative automatic thoughts can be triggered by an event, experience, or even an emotion. They might manifest self-doubt, fear, judgment, guilt, perfectionism, and more. The most important thing to remember is that these thoughts are normal and can even clarify our deeper emotions. It’s when they become overwhelming or start to interfere with our daily lives that it becomes a problem.
Automatic negative thoughts can be harmful to our mental health and lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and even low self-esteem. Facing these automatic negative thoughts head-on is essential to managing them in a healthy way.
How Can We Reframe Our Negative Thoughts?
The goal of reframing an automatic negative thought is to acknowledge the thought and then try to think of it in different terms. This can help you see the thought from a more positive angle and keep your mind from spiraling into negative thinking patterns.
For example, if you have an automatic negative thought like “I’m not good enough” try to reframe it as “I am capable and I will get better with practice.” Similarly, rather than automatic thoughts like “I am broken,” try to form a revision statement, something similar to, “Things need work in my life,” Reframing your thoughts like this can help you gain perspective and give yourself a more optimistic outlook.
Negative automatic thoughts can also be reframed by looking at them from a third-person perspective. For instance, if you are having the automatic negative thought “I’m a failure” try to think of it as if someone else were saying that about you. This can help you realize that the thought isn’t necessarily true and allow for more compassionate self-talk.
5 Proven Strategies for Managing Your ANTs
The key to managing your negative automatic thoughts is consistency. It can take time and effort to learn how to reframe your thoughts, so it’s important to practice this on a daily basis. Here are some strategies that can help with this:
1) Write Down Your Negative Automatic Thoughts
When it comes to tracking your negative automatic thoughts, writing them down can be a great way to keep track of what triggers these thoughts. By doing this, you can start to identify patterns in the types of negative thinking that come up and then address them with more productive strategies. Journaling can also help you set boundaries and give yourself permission to let go of any negative thoughts that come up.
Doing this daily can help you be more mindful of your negative thoughts and how they affect your mood. You can start by writing down any negative thoughts that come up throughout the day, and then reframing them in a more positive light. This practice can help you become more aware of your thought process and give you better control over it.
2) Practice Positive Self-Talk
We often speak to ourselves in a way we wouldn’t dream of speaking to someone else, so it’s important to practice positive self-talk instead of negative thinking patterns. Rather than believing everything your negative thoughts are telling you, try to be kinder and more understanding of yourself. Remind yourself that everyone makes mistakes, and no one is perfect.
Practicing positive self-talk can also be a great way to boost your mood and help you feel better about yourself. Take some time each day to think of something positive you have achieved or something that you are proud of. You can even speak it out loud if it helps.
By changing the tone of your inner dialogue, you can start to view situations in a more optimistic light and let go of the self-doubt that often comes with negative thinking.
3) Challenge Your Negative Thoughts
When it comes to reframing your negative automatic thoughts, challenging them can be a great way to gain perspective. Ask yourself if there is any evidence for or against the thought. If you realize that there isn’t enough proof to support it, then you can focus on reframing the thought in a more productive way.
Another strategy is to think about how someone else would respond to your negative thoughts. If they were to say something encouraging or supportive about the situation, could you accept and believe it? This can be a great way to practice being more self-compassionate and letting go of any harsh self-judgments.
4) Be Mindful of Your Emotions
It’s also important to be mindful of your emotions and how they can influence your thoughts. Negative feelings like anxiety, sadness, or anger can lead to more negative automatic thinking, so it’s essential to take care of yourself and manage these emotions in a healthy way.
5) Reframe and Remind Yourself of Positive Accomplishments
When it comes to challenging your negative automatic thoughts, it’s important to look for evidence that refutes the thought. For example, if you have a thought like “I can’t do anything right” remind yourself of all the things you have accomplished in your life. This can help.
By being consistent with these strategies, you’ll be able to better manage your automatic negative thoughts and gain a more positive outlook on life, even if you are someone who suffers from a mental health condition like social anxiety disorder.
Automatic Negative Thoughts and Fortune Telling
The term “fortune telling” is used to describe when a person predicts the future based on current events. This type of thinking can be very dangerous, as it may lead one to believe that something bad will always happen in the future. With ‘fortune-telling ANTs,’ we often make predictions about how their lives will turn out in the future, and these predictions are often pessimistic and filled with negative assumptions.
For example, a person may think “I won’t be able to find a job after I graduate” or “I will always be alone”. These automatic thoughts can create an overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety that may lead one to give up before they even give it a try. It is important to remember that these automatic thoughts are just predictions, and there is no way of knowing what the future holds.
How to Overcome Black and White Thinking About the Future
Recognize when you are engaging in fortune-telling. This can be done by becoming aware of your thought patterns and noticing when you are making assumptions about the future. Once you’ve identified when this type of thinking is happening, you can start to challenge the thoughts and reframe them to be more positive.
With the help of mental health therapy, in particular, a form of cognitive therapy called Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) you can better see the negative aspects of such thinking and minimize it in your life.
Automatic Negative Thoughts and Personalizing
Personalizing occurs when a person takes responsibility for something that is out of their control. This type of thinking often leads people to blame themselves for situations or events that are not their fault. With automatic negative thoughts, people may assume that they are at fault for something even if there is no evidence to suggest this.
For example, a person may think “I’m the reason my friend is mad at me” or “It’s all my fault that I didn’t get the promotion”. These types of automatic thoughts can cause a person to feel guilty and ashamed and can lead to low confidence and self-esteem.
Recognize when you are engaging in personalizing. Become aware of your thought patterns and notice when you are assuming responsibility for something that is not your fault.
While we cannot provide an official automatic negative thoughts worksheet from our program, our automatic thoughts questionnaire typically involves recognizing a negative thought pattern, then working on replacing it with positive thoughts over time.
Automatic Negative Thoughts And Catastrophizing
Catastrophizing occurs when a person assumes the worst possible outcome of a situation or event. This type of thinking is often irrational and leads one to believe that something bad will inevitably happen. With automatic negative thoughts, people may jump to extreme conclusions and assume the worst-case scenario will happen even if there is no evidence to suggest this.
For example, a person may think “I’m going to fail this test” or “Nothing I do ever works out”. These types of automatic thoughts and cognitive distortions can lead one to feel helpless and can prevent them from acting.
When To Get Help For Automatic Negative Thinking
How can you get recognize when it’s time to get professional help for your automatic negative thoughts? If negative thinking has become overwhelming, if it’s preventing you from engaging in activities that used to bring you joy, or if your everyday life is being significantly impacted by the negativity, then it may be time to reach out for help.
A therapist or counselor can help you to identify the sources of your negative thoughts and work with you to reframe them in a positive light. They will also be able to provide guidance and support as you work on developing more constructive thinking patterns. Professional help is often necessary when trying to overcome automatic negative thoughts, especially if they are severe or persistent.
Icarus offers experienced professionals at our programs for inpatient mental health, and a full array of step-down and other program types to help support a path to lasting recovery.
Getting Support for Brain Health and Retraining Cognitive Biases
Another important factor to consider when deciding whether to seek professional help is the presence of other mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression. It is possible for automatic negative thoughts to be a sign of an underlying condition, and if that’s the case, it’s important to get treatment as soon as possible to ensure your overall well-being.
If you’re unsure whether professional help is necessary, it’s always best to consult with a mental health professional at Icarus Behavioral Health who can assess your particular situation and make recommendations accordingly.
Self-Care To Reduce Negative Feelings and Thoughts
Self-care is an important component of effectively managing automatic negative thoughts. Developing and incorporating healthy habits into your daily routine can help to reduce the frequency, intensity, and duration of these negative thoughts. Self-care activities can include exercise, mindfulness meditation, yoga, journaling, talking to friends or family members about how you are feeling, engaging in a creative activity, or simply taking some time to relax and read a book.
Regular physical activity can be especially helpful in reducing automatic negative thoughts. Studies have shown that exercise releases endorphins, which can help uplift your mood and make it easier to regulate unpleasant automatic thoughts and emotions. Exercise also helps to reduce stress levels, improving overall mental health.
Mindfulness Meditation for ANTs
Mindfulness meditation can also be beneficial in reducing automatic negative thoughts. Mindfulness is the practice of focusing on the present moment, non-judgmentally and without attachment to any outcome. When we observe our automatic thoughts and feelings as they come and go, we can begin to recognize them for what they are – fleeting mental events with no real power over us. This allows us to gain some distance and perspective from our negative thoughts, allowing us to reframe them in a healthier way.
Creative Activities to Support Positive Psychology
Engaging in creative activities can also be helpful in reducing automatic negative thoughts. Creative activities such as painting and drawing (and other forms of art therapy), along with writing, playing music, and so on can serve as an outlet for difficult emotions and allow us to express ourselves in a healthy way. Additionally, these activities can be fun and enjoyable, providing a much-needed break from difficult automatic thoughts and depressive thinking.
Taking Time to Relax
Finally, taking some time to relax and decompress can be beneficial in reducing negative thought patterns as well. Taking a break from a stressful event, chronic stress, or an overwhelming situation allows us to recharge our batteries, regain control, and come back feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the day ahead.
Simple activities such as going for a walk, taking a hot bath, or watching a movie can be great ways to take some time for ourselves and give our minds a break, ultimately creating positive thoughts.
Get Help for Your Negative Thoughts and Feelings Today
If you have suffered from negative self-talk for a long time, you may believe that this pattern has become so ingrained that it is impossible to break out of it. This is not the case. Icarus Behavioral Health can help you overcome your negative thinking so that you can be happy again.
No matter how your own thoughts have turned against your interests, we can help you to overcome the fallout. Whether you struggle with substance use, trauma, depression, or a combination of issues, Icarus is here to support lasting recovery.
Contact us to find out more information on how we can help you or a loved one today. All calls are completely confidential, so reach out in confidence and get options for help now!