• Dr. Jin Lee

5 Common Negative Thoughts and How to Get Rid of Them

When we are stressed out, we sometimes think negatively like, "Things are not working," "I'm a failure" or “It's a doom-gloom”and find ourselves feeling more frustrated as a result. When we continue to overthink, we tend to enter into a negative spiral.

The thing is that some thoughts are helpful ("I’m experiencing some stress, but I will get through it") while other thoughts are not so helpful (“I feel like I will never get out this mess”).

David Burns, MD calls these so-called unhelpful thoughts "Twisted Thoughts" while Daniel Amen, MD coined the term “Automatic Negative Thoughts” aka ANTs.

Automatic Negative Thoughts ANTs
Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) can be sneaky!

The problem with ANTs is that they happen automatically so we don’t even know they are tricking our brain (aka negative unconscious thoughts)!


But here is the good news. Once you figure out what ANTs you experience, you can do something about it and regain control.

I listed 5 super common ANTs people experience AND how to stop automatic negative thoughts in a way that helps you un-trap your mind.


ANT #1. Black-or-White

If you are thinking, "If I make just one mistake, then I would fail" or "I'm not going to start my project until I know how to do it perfectly" then you might be experiencing the Black-or-White ANT. Your thinking pattern is literally "all-or-nothing“ so you might get discouraged to start anything or easily beat yourself up for one small mistake.

How to bust this ANT? "There are so many shades of gray" Instead of thinking black-or-white, think on a scale of 0 to 10 (0 being the least and 10 being the most success). It's kind of like a dimmer instead of an "on-off" switch. That way, you are beginning to think with flexibility and focus on a small success, which is easier to initiate.


ANT #2. "Should" "Have to" "Must"

If you catch yourself saying, "I have to...." "I should...." "You must..." then you might be giving yourself pressure and unnecessary frustration. Many times, things don't necessarily "need" to be a certain way.

How to bust this ANT? "It would be nice..." Instead of pressuring yourself, how about saying, "I would like to..." "I hope to..." It would be nice..."? That way, your language can be less emotionally driven, and you are more being gentle and caring with yourself (or others).


ANT #3. Jumping to conclusions

Have you had an experience of thinking "Well, he doesn't care about me" when your friend hasn't responded to your text for several hours? When you predict bad things will happen without solid evidence, you might be jumping to conclusions, or some might say catastrophizing.

How to bust this ANT? "Reality check" You can check the facts and analyze the situation with the potential positive, negative, and neutral consequences. When you do so, you are likely to have a balanced view. Based on the above example, you may think something like this... "Well, he may not care about me, or maybe something bad happened to him, or maybe he forgot his cell phone?"


ANT #4. Focusing on the negative

If you have a tendency to say "yeah...but it's not gonna work (or something negative)"then you might have this ANT. Even if you think about positive things, or someone points out positive things to you, you might be dismissing those positives and just thinking about the negatives.

How to bust this ANT? "Detective X" Instead of dismissing positives, do an experiment to check if acknowledging the positives might help you feel better. Investigate the positives and negatives and see if you can have a balanced, realistic viewpoint. (Just like a detective solving a problem!)

ANT #5. Labeling

"I'm a failure," "He is a loser," "I'm stupid/ugly"...do any of these sound familiar to you? Labeling is like an extreme version of the black-or-white or overgeneralization ANTs because you are defining yourself or others as a certain character and nothing else.


How to bust this ANT? "Doing Being” You are not the same thing as what you do (or don’t do). Instead of blaming yourself or others entirely, think about a specific behavior that makes you upset and tell yourself that a behavior or mistake doesn’t make a person (or you) as a failure or bad.


Got any ANTs in your head? If so, now you know how to deflect negative thoughts!

Learn how to deflect negative thoughts
YOU can get rid of ANTs in your head

If this information sounds easier said than done, feel free to email me at info@yourpediatricpsych.com


Until next time...be well:)

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