Psychology says automatic thoughts, a concept in cognitive-behavioral therapy, are images or mental activity that occur in response to a trigger (such as an action or event). They are automatic and 'pop-up' or 'blink' in your mind without conscious thought. At first, I didn’t know that the brain was hardwired to produce negative thoughts. I came across information, randomly, on the internet years ago.
For me, this was actually helpful, because, it made me realize that everyone has automatic negative thought, it wasn’t just me.
You know how sometimes you assume you are the only one who struggles?
I truly believe this was a break-through in my spiritual growth. I was studying thoughts, chakras and emotions at the same time.
A quick google search later, this is what I got off the internet for the purpose of this blog:
Automatic negative thoughts- thoughts are reflexive reactions of one’s mind based on what they believe about themselves and the world around them. These thoughts as the name suggests, cannot be controlled by one’s mind. However, people can control them indirectly by holding onto some other beliefs and challenging the ones that are leading to them.
I never believed that my thoughts couldn’t be controlled. My mind belongs to me. I can control it at any time, right? Moral of the story is- don’t believe everything you read on the internet. I made a conscious decision to stop negative thoughts from happening. Negative thoughts make you feel bad and who wants that? Plus, at the time, I realized my thoughts had a negative effect on my health. It’s high vibe season all year round around these parts.
So, how did I stop them? Well, they aren’t all the way gone, present day, but they are no longer the dominance of my inner being.
The first thing I did was come to the conclusion, I am not my body, which, in turn, meant I am not my thoughts. I concluded this from spending time in meditation. Have you ever spent time alone with yourself, trying to get your mind to shut up? You will find that your thoughts have a mind of their own and will even have the nerve to increase instead of slow down like you are instructing them to.
You will know for certain that you are not in charge of your thoughts. You are the one paying attention to the thoughts.
Next, I became aware of my thoughts. I know it sounds pretty simple, because it is. I began to pay attention to what I was thinking and even WHY I was thinking particular thoughts. I began to trace the thoughts back to negative events that transpired that had caused me to formulate opinions about things, places, people and situations. Even when I couldn’t find an origin, I knew the thought had one. Our inner dialogue is constantly influenced by our five senses.
The process of self-love coupled with the awareness of thoughts was what began to tip the scale in the other direction from negative automatic thoughts to positive conscious thoughts. I came across a quote that said, “Talk to yourself like you would talk to your best friend.”, so that’s what I began to do. I forgave myself constantly, showed myself love and compassion. I never judged myself. We are conditioned to think negatively and view the world as negative. The negative things in our world view jump out as us more easily than the positive ones because they are like wrong notes in a beautiful symphony. You will notice it more.
I eventually incorporated mindfulness into my thought processes. Mindfulness is being aware of the present moment, instead of focusing on a past moment or a future moment. Anytime, I had a negative thought I was fully aware of it and I didn’t judge it. I observed it and then, chose another thought. I know this sounds like, ‘That’s it?’ But, yes, that’s it. I reached in my bag of goodies for a better thought and decided to let that good one cultivate and grow in my cerebral garden.
I actively chose gratitude, even if it changed the subject to something else. Yes, this traffic may suck but the sky is beautiful, and I get to witness it so, I am grateful for that. I looked at thoughts and life objectively and tried to view the bigger picture as much as possible. For me, the bigger picture was the question: why are humans on Earth? Is it to love? Ok, then, I am going to start choosing love, first for myself, then for others. Is it to grow? Is it to learn lessons? Ok, then, I am doing all of that everyday. Hooray for me!
I wasn’t actively even trying to stop the negative thoughts, at first. I was, actually, trying to see if I could control my emotions. Much practice later, I succeeded at both.
So, here you are, a step-by-step guide. Practice makes…more practice but change is possible I am a living witness.