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Automatic Thoughts: How do they Control Our Lives?

Automatic Thoughts: How do they Control Our Lives?

Automatic Thoughts: How do they Control Our Lives?

Posted on May 18, 2023

At Restorative Therapeutic Counseling, we understand that our thoughts have a profound impact on our lives. These automatic thoughts, as we call them, can influence our emotions, behaviors, and overall well-being. They are like the controllers of our lives, directing our actions and shaping our perception of the world around us. In this blog post, we will delve into the fascinating realm of automatic thoughts, explore their significance, and provide strategies to manage them effectively.

What are Automatic Thoughts?

Automatic thoughts are the spontaneous, rapid, and often unconscious stream of thoughts that pop into our minds in response to different situations or events. They are automatic in nature, meaning they happen effortlessly and without deliberate intention. These thoughts can be positive, negative, or neutral, and they play a significant role in shaping our emotions and behaviors.

Negative automatic thoughts often arise from cognitive distortions, which are irrational or inaccurate thought patterns. Examples of cognitive distortions include overgeneralization (drawing broad negative conclusions based on limited experiences), personalization (attributing external events to oneself without sufficient evidence), and catastrophizing (exaggerating the negative aspects of a situation). Recognizing these distortions is crucial to gaining control over our automatic thoughts.

The Impact of Automatic Thoughts on Mental Health

The influence of automatic thoughts on mental health cannot be overstated. When we consistently engage in negative automatic thinking, it can lead to increased anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. For instance, if we constantly think, "I'm a failure," or "Nobody likes me," these thoughts can undermine our self-worth and contribute to a negative self-image.

On the other hand, positive automatic thoughts can bolster our well-being and resilience. When we have optimistic and constructive thoughts, such as "I am capable of overcoming challenges," or "I have the skills to succeed," we cultivate a sense of self-efficacy and confidence.

Identifying and Challenging Automatic Thoughts

The first step in managing automatic thoughts is to become aware of them. Paying attention to the content and frequency of our thoughts can help us identify patterns and triggers. By noticing when negative automatic thoughts arise, we can begin to challenge their validity and replace them with more balanced and realistic thinking.

One effective strategy is to examine the evidence supporting and refuting our automatic thoughts. Ask yourself, "What evidence do I have for this thought?" and "Is there any evidence against it?" Often, we realize that our negative thoughts are based on assumptions or distorted perceptions rather than concrete evidence. This realization empowers us to reframe our thoughts and adopt a more rational and helpful perspective.

Restructuring Automatic Thoughts

Once we've identified and challenged our automatic thoughts, it's time to restructure them. This process involves replacing negative or irrational thoughts with more positive and adaptive ones. One technique commonly used in cognitive-behavioral therapy is called cognitive restructuring.

Cognitive restructuring involves examining the accuracy and usefulness of our automatic thoughts and replacing them with more balanced and realistic alternatives. For example, if the automatic thought "I will never succeed" arises, we can restructure it by reframing it as "I may face setbacks, but with perseverance and learning from failures, I can achieve my goals."

Seeking Professional Help

While self-help strategies can be beneficial, seeking professional help is often crucial when dealing with persistent negative automatic thoughts or mental health concerns. A licensed therapist or counselor can provide specialized guidance and support in understanding and managing automatic thoughts. They can help individuals develop personalized coping strategies and address underlying issues contributing to negative thinking patterns.

At Restorative Therapeutic Counseling, we are dedicated to providing comprehensive counseling and therapy services to individuals in Cumberland County and surrounding areas. Our experienced therapists are skilled in helping clients navigate their automatic thoughts and develop effective strategies for improving mental well-being.


In conclusion, automatic thoughts have a significant impact on our emotions, behaviors, and overall mental health. By understanding and managing these thoughts, we can gain greater control over our lives and enhance our well-being. Remember to pay attention to your automatic thoughts, challenge their accuracy, restructure them into more balanced alternatives, and seek professional help when needed.

If you're struggling with negative automatic thoughts or would like to explore how counseling or therapy can support your mental health journey, we invite you to get in touch with Restorative Therapeutic Counseling. Reach out to us at 910-302-3392 or email us at [email protected]. Our compassionate team is here to provide the guidance and support you need to live a more fulfilling and balanced life.


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