Breaking Down Mental Health Terms: What Are Automatic Negative Thoughts?

I’d been in therapy for a few years when I first heard the phrase automatic negative thoughts for the first time. It wasn’t hard to deduce the meaning of the phrase, but I found it interesting nonetheless. Like everyone else, I deal with negative thoughts every single day. They might be about myself or other things, but one thing is certain: they’re negative. It’s the automatic part that I find interesting, and I wanted to learn more about this concept. That’s why today, I’ll be breaking down what automatic negative thoughts are, what they look like, and what we can do about them.

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Five Reminders for Building Mentally Healthy Habits

A lot of my focus for the past few weeks has been on habits. I’ve written about habits before on My Brain’s Not Broken, but every time I revisit the topic I learn something new. Building healthy habits is an essential aspect of my mental health toolkit, but it doesn’t stop there. Maintaining healthy habits is just as important as building them; however, that’s easier said than done. Here are five reminders about building mentally healthy habits that can help keep us as healthy as we can be!

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Forming Healthy Habits Amidst Setbacks

Living with mental illness can make people feel like they’re failing all the time. Moments of progress can feel impossible to recapture after a misstep. We can be very harsh on our failures, and our reactions can exacerbate those failures. Mental health setbacks happen to everyone, but they can be hard to deal with. Despite our failures, we should still strive to build healthy habits and goals to work toward. So, how can we form healthy habits when we feel like we have constant setbacks?

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Building a Foundation of Memories

Last week, I wrote about the summer and how it’s flying by. This weekend, everything I did reminded me of the classic phrase “time flies when you’re having fun.” While it might feel our lives are moving faster than we can handle, that can also mean we’re doing things we enjoy and are with people we love. And even though those feelings of enjoyment can be fleeting, being intentional about feeling them can actually go a long way toward long-term health and wellness.

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Breaking Old Habits and Building New Ones

After writing my post earlier this week, my mind drifted to the topic of habits. If I’m being honest, I was never too interested in forming and practicing habits. I understand their value and how they can help people improve their lives – what I didn’t like was the attitude I created toward my habits, especially in the past two years. Almost every habit I’ve created since March 2020 has been to cope with the pandemic, and it’s evolved into a mix of good habits and (mostly, in my opinion) bad ones. So how can I undo this change and reset?

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We’re Heading Into Winter

So it’s October! While September is a little less in your face about it being fall, by the time we reach October people are pretty much in full-on Jack Skellington mode or sending Dwight Schrute’s pumpkin head to their friends. But for me, October can signal a lot of changes – the most important one being that summer is over, and this year it’s especially important to me.

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I Have Bad Habits – and They Aren’t Because of My Anxiety

I bite my nails. When I’m nervous, when I’m thinking, when I have nothing else to do, I bite my nails. I know it’s not a good habit, and I know I should stop (and I’ve tried before). But it’s a bad habit, one of many I know I have – just like most people.

Why do bad habits exist? You can take the scientific approach or settle for something more experience-based, but where you end up is that there’s something that sparks these habits. Take me biting my nails, for instance. What caused that? My instinct is to say that my anxiety is at the root of it all. And while that might be true in this case, it also leads to a slippery slope of blaming everything on my anxiety.

In the past, I have been quick to blame my shortcomings on my GAD. I am not good at meeting people, so I blamed that on social anxiety. I watch too much TV because I told myself I was too anxious to sit down and read a book. I would eat food until I was sick because it kept the anxiety at bay. The point is, I developed poor habits and made poor decisions that I would chalk up to just being an anxious person. And whether you think that’s right or wrong to do (personally I’d say wrong!), it’s not a healthy mindset to develop.

I can’t help feeling anxious when meeting someone new. But I can develop strategies to use when I meet those people, and I can turn to my friends for help. I can’t help but feel trapped in my anxious thoughts. But I can use the techniques I’ve learned from years of practice and therapy to get out of that trap.

I can’t help but have bad habits. I’m human. But I can make sure that these habits are as harmless as possible, and that they don’t threaten my ability to be a good person. I can learn not to blame everything on my anxiety, and remind myself that there is a difference between being an anxious person and being a person with an anxiety issue.

Sometimes self-improvement isn’t always about the things we do, but the things we don’t do. And I’m learning not to chalk up every misstep on my anxiety. It’s one small step toward becoming a better version of myself – anxiety and all.

Will Durant