As I sit here at Panera's finishing a bowl of Broccoli Cheddar soup (my favorite), I am observing my thoughts as I prepare to write this article.
*"it is a gorgeous sunny day..."
*"you need to get more organized it has been almost two months since your last post"
*"I really do focus better in this environment"
*"how should you begin this article?"
*"I hate how my editing skills stink"
Each one of these thoughts play a primary role in how I feel right now. If I keep playing the negative thoughts over and over in my mind, changes in my body will occur that are consistent with being under threat of physical harm. My hand temperature will drop, heart rate will increase, blood pressure will rise, breathing rate shorter and more rapid, muscle tension increases along with hand perspiration.
Dr. Daniel G. Amen's latest book "Magnificent Mind At Any Age" has some very helpful ideas about the brain, thoughts and perceptions. Folk who let thoughts go unedited lose the ability to embrace their truth. Most of us occasionally have some "automatic negative thoughts" that pop up uninvited. For some folk, the repetitive nature of what Dr. Amen calls ANTS becomes a serious problem as it negatively impacts their physical health, distorts their perceptions and constricts their power to find happiness.
The following is his summary of nine different types of automatic negative thoughts that need to be challenged.
1. Always Thinking: Overgeneralizing a situation and usually starting thoughts with words like always, never, everyone, every time
2. Focusing on the Negative: Preoccupying yourself with what's going wrong in a situation and ignoring everything that could be construed as positive
3. Fortune-Telling: Predicting the future in a negative way.
4. Mind Reading: Arbitrarily believing you know what another person things, even though they have not told you
5. Thinking with Your Feelings: Believing your negative feelings without ever questioning them
6. Guilt Beatings: Thinking with words like should, must, ought, or have to that produce feelings of guilt
7. Labeling: Attaching a negative label to yourself or others
8. Personalization: Allowing innocuous events to take on personal meaning
9. Blame: Blaming other people for the problems in your life
If you find your thoughts fall into one or more of these categories on a persistent basis it is time to employ new thought strategies.
Here are some random quotes that I call "Amenisms."
-"Like a muscle, the thoughts that you exercise become stronger and become the thoughts you rely on and believe, good or bad."
-"Thoughts are powerful...Every cell in your body is affected by every thought you have."
-"Unless you think about your thoughts, they are automatic or "they just happen."....Your thoughts do not always tell the truth."
-"Once you learn about your thoughts, you can choose to think good thoughts and feel good or you can choose to think bad thoughts and feel lousy."
-"When you just think about a negative thought without challenging it, your mind believes it and your body reacts to it."
-"Whenever you notice these ANTs, you need to crush them or they'll ruin your relationship, your self esteem and your personal power."
Dr. Amen suggests questioning ANTs by asking if they are distorted and identifying their type. We can stop the ANTs by talking back or what I call reframing them. Recently, I lost 15 pounds in 8 weeks. But as I stepped on the scale and registered the weight loss, a self defeating thought would pop up and say, "...that's nothing, you need to loose more!" This brand of negative thought is both a "focus on the negative" and a "guilt beating." If I allowed these thoughts to go unchallenged and let them build, you can bet that they outcome wouldn't be to lose weight at a faster rate!
Putting a positive frame around the ANTs, "...15 pounds in eight weeks is a great start!" is one way to stop negative thoughts. I also recommend biolateral and brainwave music (see article here under label of "The Brain") There are other energy psychology techniques like Emotional Freedom Technique that are also highly effective in changing negative thoughts into positive ones.