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5 Proven Exercises to Help You Transform Your Unwanted Automatic Thoughts into Positive Ones



5 Exercises To Help You Stop Believing Your Unwanted Automatic Thoughts




Unwanted automatic thoughts are those negative and irrational thoughts that pop up in your mind without your conscious control. They can make you feel anxious, depressed, angry, or hopeless. They can also affect your self-esteem, your relationships, and your performance at work or school.




5 Exercises To Help You Stop Believing Your Unwanted Automatic Thoughts


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But you don't have to let these thoughts ruin your life. You can learn to stop believing them and replace them with more realistic and positive ones. Here are five exercises that can help you do that.


1. Identify and label your unwanted automatic thoughts




The first step to stop believing your unwanted automatic thoughts is to recognize them and name them. This can help you distance yourself from them and see them as separate from yourself. You can use a journal or a smartphone app to record your thoughts whenever they occur. For example, you might write down something like:


  • "I'm such a failure. I can't do anything right."



  • "Nobody likes me. I'm always alone."



  • "I'm too fat. I'll never be attractive."



Then, you can label your thoughts according to the type of cognitive distortion they represent. Cognitive distortions are common errors in thinking that make you see things in a negative and unrealistic way. Some examples of cognitive distortions are:


  • All-or-nothing thinking: You see things in black-and-white terms, without any shades of gray.



  • Overgeneralization: You draw a general conclusion based on one or few instances.



  • Mental filter: You focus on the negative aspects of a situation and ignore the positive ones.



  • Catastrophizing: You expect the worst possible outcome and magnify its importance.



  • Personalization: You blame yourself for things that are not your fault or that are beyond your control.



For example, you might label your thoughts as follows:


  • "I'm such a failure. I can't do anything right." (All-or-nothing thinking)



  • "Nobody likes me. I'm always alone." (Overgeneralization)



  • "I'm too fat. I'll never be attractive." (Mental filter)



2. Challenge and question your unwanted automatic thoughts




The next step to stop believing your unwanted automatic thoughts is to challenge them and question their validity. You can do this by asking yourself some questions that can help you examine the evidence for and against your thoughts, such as:


  • What are the facts that support my thought?



  • What are the facts that contradict my thought?



  • Is there another way to look at the situation?



  • What would I say to a friend who had this thought?



  • How likely is it that my thought will come true?



  • What is the worst that could happen? How could I cope with it?



  • What is the best that could happen? How would I feel then?



For example, you might challenge your thought "I'm such a failure. I can't do anything right." by asking yourself:


  • What are the facts that support my thought? (I failed an exam yesterday.)



  • What are the facts that contradict my thought? (I passed all the other exams this semester. I have good grades in other subjects. I have other skills and talents.)



  • Is there another way to look at the situation? (Maybe the exam was too hard or I didn't study enough. Maybe I can learn from my mistake and do better next time.)



  • What would I say to a friend who had this thought? (I would say that one exam doesn't define their worth or ability. I would encourage them to keep trying and not give up.)



  • How likely is it that my thought will come true? (Not very likely. I have many opportunities to succeed in the future.)



  • What is the worst that could happen? How could I cope with it? (The worst that could happen is that I fail the course and have to repeat it. I could cope with it by asking for help from my teacher or tutor, studying harder, and managing my stress.)



  • What is the best that could happen? How would I feel then? (The best that could happen is that I pass the course and graduate with honors. I would feel proud, happy, and confident.)



3. Replace your unwanted automatic thoughts with more realistic and positive ones




The third step to stop believing your unwanted automatic thoughts is to replace them with more realistic and positive ones. You can do this by using the information you gathered from challenging and questioning your thoughts, and by using some techniques that can help you reframe your thinking, such as:


  • Using more balanced and accurate w