From Negative to Positive
If you recognize that perhaps you do fall into a negative thinking trap, your next step is to examine your specific thoughts. for instance, consider a stressful situation that occurs often, such as traffic stress, fear of speaking to an audience, or interpersonal conflicts.
Ask yourself about your automatic thoughts:
- Do they have a pattern? Style?
- Do they consistently seem to exaggerate or distort the situation?
- Do you usually blame yourself?
If most of your answers to the above are "yes" you're experiencing negative thoughts.
The next time you are caught in traffic or in a similar stressful situation and feel ready to explode, try this:
- Release physical tension
Ask yourself these questions:
- Does this thought contribute to my stress?
- Where did I learn this thought?
- Is this a logical thought?
- Is this thought true?
In time, a new more realistic response will emerge.
This exercise will start you in the process of challenging automatic thinking. If you can learn to identify these thoughts, you can begin to examine them, eliminate the knee-jerk responses, and then choose how you would like to respond.
Remember, it took years for many of us to acquire a scaffolding of worries and anxiety provoking thoughts - it will take practice to let go of that framework and replace it with a new one. These first steps will pave the way.