Your Thoughts Aren't Facts: Turning Automatic into Alternative

Today, I want to help you learn about: automatic thoughts, narratives and core beliefs, and how you can come up with alternative thoughts to improve your mental health!

Just like the name implies, our automatic thoughts are AUTOMATIC. These are the thoughts that pop into your head and then leave, often as quickly as they come. Many are random or even unconscious, meaning we don't choose them and are sometimes not even be aware of them or why they pop up.

We each have thousands of thoughts a day. Research has found that 80% of those thoughts are critical or negative. 

Often we take actions and engage in the world based on our thoughts, without taking time to slow down and assess if they are true. Thoughts are NOT automatically true just because we think them. 

Our thoughts in and of themselves don't cause distress, it is the meaning we assign and value that we assign to them that does. The thoughts we water are the ones that will grow. 

Do you notice yourself having recurring negative thoughts? Our recurring negative thoughts are often based in the narratives we create or the core beliefs that we have. 

In order to understand our thoughts, we first have to understand our narratives and core beliefs that drive them.

Not the sure or the difference?

Narratives: The stories we tell ourselves about ourself and the world. They are often based on past negative experiences and become the framework for how we perceive future experiences.

Example: I am always going to fail, because I failed in the past. 

Core beliefs: The beliefs about ourselves based on past experiences. Many of our core beliefs develop by age 4 based on how our needs are met or unmet. 

Example: I am unlovable or unworthy.

Once you can slow down to understand your thoughts more, it can be helpful to ask yourself these 3 questions:

1. Is this thought true? What evidence exists?

2. Is it kind or compassionate? AKA would you say it to someone else.

3. How is this thought or type of thought impacting my well-being?

Once you ask yourself these questions and realize the thought isn't serving you, you can work on creating something different: an alternative thought if you will. 

It is often assumed or implied that alternative thoughts are opposite. They are not always opposite thoughts. Why? Opposite thoughts will often feel unrealistic or true when we are so intrenches in the current thought process we are having. 

Alternative thoughts are just more compassionate or factual alternatives to our automatic thoughts. You can create alternative thoughts by first noticing your automatic thought and then coming up with a thought that is less critical.


Automatic thought: I never do anything right. I am such a failure.

Alternative thought: I am doing the best I can right now, even if I failed this time.

Once you identify your most common automatic thoughts, narratives, and core beliefs, you can begin to make changes. Using affirmations and coming more in contact with yourself, your body, and creating safety all have the power to shift your negative automatic thoughts and turn them into something more positive or neutral.

You can change the way your brain processes information when you come up with alternative thoughts. Your brain and body want to be well and are continually trying to maintain a place of well-being.

Ready to try some on your own? Here are some worksheets to help you get started identifying your own narratives and core beliefs. These will help you understand your automatic thought processes.

Want even more? I have a workbook and mini course all about understanding how powerful our thoughts can be! 

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