Staying positive keeps you healthy

Staying positive keeps you healthy

Many people suffer from Automatic Negative Thoughts. Our thoughts are often automatic and can be difficult to control. Our decisions, behavior and life are based on these automatic thoughts.Automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) are ‘the ideas that pop into our heads uninvited, like burglars, and leave behind a mess of uncomfortable emotions’.

Nowadays I think negatively about everything in my life and worry a lot. I often try to stop this but I don’t have any control over them. Though I am not sure, I always worry about the negative consequences. I am always fearful, tensed and anxious. Help me madam. - Ajay Koorapati, Kakinada.

“Negative thoughts stick around because we believe them, not because we want them or choose them” -Andrew J. Bernstein

Many people suffer from Automatic Negative Thoughts. Our thoughts are often automatic and can be difficult to control. Our decisions, behavior and life are based on these automatic thoughts.Automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) are ‘the ideas that pop into our heads uninvited, like burglars, and leave behind a mess of uncomfortable emotions’. ANTs are cynical, gloomy, and complaining thoughts that just seem to keep coming all by themselves.

The thoughts than run our life are often self-defeating, irrational, and simply not true. Negative self-talk leads us to believe we must be perfect, that we’re helpless, or that we’re a victim. They will also lead us to anxiety, worry, and depression. ANTs can cause both physical and mental issues. Thoughts shape our neurobiology – the inner circuitry that influences our weight, immunity, adrenal function, energy, food cravings, sleep, mood, mental focus, and numerous other influences.

Each time we have a negative thought our body releases various stress hormones and immunologic chemicals that impact our well-being. On the other hand, pleasant, confident, empowered, and joyous thoughts put us into a good place hormonally and immunologically.

In the 1960s, one of the founders of cognitive therapy, Aaron Beck, concluded that ANTs sabotage our best self, and lead to a vicious circle of misery: creating a general mindset that is unhappy or anxious or angry and which again generate new ANTs. We get stuck in the same old neural pathways, having the same negative thoughts again and again. Recognising these ANTs is the first step in learning to change them. He identified ANTs or distorted thoughts which create negative mindset.

Some of them or given below:

Over generalisation:

Coming to a general conclusion based on a single event or one piece of evidence. If something bad happens once, you expect it tohappen again and again. Such thoughts often include the words “always”and “never”.

Example: “I forgot to finish this chapter on time. I never do things right”.

“He didn’t want to go out with me. I’ll always be lonely”.

Filtering (Selective Abstraction):

Over concentration on negative thoughts lead us to ignore positive thoughts.

Example: I know sir said most of my homework was good but he alsosaid there were a number of mistakes that had to be corrected…he mustthink I’m really hopeless.

All or Nothing Thinking (Dichotomous Reasoning):

Thinking in black and white terms (e.g., things are right or wrong, good or bad). A tendency to view things at extremes with no middle ground.

Example: I couldn’t write my final exams well. I am a failure person.


Taking responsibility for something that’s not your fault. Thinking that what people say or do is some kind of reaction to you, or is in some wayrelated to you.

Example: Ramu didn’t say hello when I wished him. He hates me.


Overestimating the chances of disaster. Expecting something unbearable or intolerable to happen.

Example: my heart beat is faster, it must be heart attack.

Nothing is ever going to work for me.

Emotional Reasoning:

Mistaking feelings for facts. Negative things you feelabout yourself are held to be true because they feel true.

Example: I feel like a failure, therefore I am a failure.

I haven't felt like doing anything. I guess I'm just lazy.

Mind Reading:

Making assumptions about others feelings and behaviors without checking the evidence.

Example: My teacher is talking to Mary soshe must like her more than me

Fortune Telling:

Anticipating an outcome and assuming your prediction isan established fact. These negative expectations can be self-fulfilling predicting what we would do on the basis of past behavior may prevent thepossibility of change.

Example: I’ve always been like this; I’ll never be able to change.

Should Statements:

Using “should”, “ought”, or “must” statements can set upunrealistic expectations of yourself and others. It involves operating by rigidrules and not allowing for flexibility.

Example: I shouldn’t get angry.

People should be nice to me all the time.

Labeling and mislabeling:

This is an extreme form of over-generalisation. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself: “I’m a loser.”

Although we all have unhelpful thoughts (ANTs) some time or other times, and although we are not always very aware of them, the good news is they can be changed and that by challenging or questioning these thoughts, you can feel happier and more in control.

Practice the following simple steps:

Identify or be aware of your negative thoughts.

Develop the skill of identifying and listening to the negative messages you give toyourself. Writing a journal of your automatic negative thoughts may be aneffective way to do this.

Evaluate your thoughts.

Once you become aware of the ANT evaluate and challenge it. Ask yourself: “is it helpful to think this way / does it serves me?” or “am I being realistic?”

Learn to challenge your negative thoughts.

You should learn to terminate the ANTs and replace them with positive supportive statements. You can learn to take a step back, rationalise, and create effective mental habits.

Look for evidence.

If you notice any of these ANTs infesting your life, ask “What is the evidence for this?” Develop a counter statement that can help you bring your thinking to a more rational place. One where you know you can handle it and that you’re good enough.

Often the negative statements have little basis in reality. Once you can discredit these ANTs you can begin to incorporate more positive and supportive statements.

Search for alternative explanations.

Is there another way of looking at the situation, or are there other explanations? Restructure the thought with more positive and realistic outlook.

Example: I am not skillful to do this assignment (-ve self-talk), e.g. I am a loser

I can learn how to do this assignment (+veself talk), e.g. I can try again.

Re- attribution.

Instead of automatically assuming that you are bad and blaming your - self for the problem, think about other factors that might have been contributed to it. Instead of feeling guilty, focus on solving the problem will be better approach.

Meditate or do yoga.

Do yoga, meditation or practice any relaxation technique. It will take away your focus from your thoughts and bring the attention to your breath. Yoga is also very relaxing which help to ease your mind. It helps to stay present to your experience. So instead of jumping to what could happen, it will bring you back to the now—the only moment, the most important moment.


Laugh and smile. It really does help change your mood and relieve stress. You also fee lighter because it takes fewer muscles to smile than to frown.

Watch your thoughts, they become words.

Watch your words, they become actions.

Watch your actions, they become habits.

Watch your habits, they become your character.

Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.

Happy positive thinking!

By:N Radhika Acharya

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