Automatic Thoughts: 7 Constructive Ways to Cope

Have you ever experienced your mind getting filled with numerous unwanted thoughts when you are just sitting idly? And no, we do not mean overthinking by this.

There is no point in a day where our mind is completely free, it is constantly filled with thoughts, automatic thoughts to say the least.

Automatic Thoughts: 7 Constructive Ways to Cope

There are times when we do not want to think of a specific thought but our mind has a slightly different plan and starts flashing those thoughts around, sometimes even creating a whole scenario consisting of what-ifs.

It is not necessary whether the thoughts floating in our mind are true or hold importance or not they are just created and most of the time vanish as quickly as they come. But when these automatic thoughts start taking over your life that is the point where you should know about how to control them.

People also call automatic thoughts as routinized thoughts. Some things are not in our control and our thoughts somewhat fall into this category, but it does not mean you can let them affect yourself negatively.

Automatic thoughts
Andrea Piacquadio

Thoughts have the power to manipulate yourself in the worst possible way out there, the self-criticism can reach a point where you might spiral out of control and do things that could harm your well-being.

Having negative automatic thoughts can also worsen or create Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD) in people. Wondering what it is? Read on!

Social Anxiety Disorder (SAD)

People with social anxiety disorder, commonly known as social phobia, have difficulties mingling in a social setting. They feel that the people out there are judging them, making it difficult for them to talk in a crowd, start a conversation with new people, or present something to an audience.

Automatic thoughts
David Garrison

The automatic thoughts make the condition worse by making the brain think that everyone out there is secretly making fun of you. Social anxiety disorder is not shyness, it is much more as it can disrupt one’s way of living a healthy life.

Symptoms of Social Anxiety Disorder

There are many types of anxiety and to identify if you or someone you know have a social anxiety disorder is by looking out for these symptoms.

Not everyone goes through all the symptoms, as everyone is different. The following symptoms are the most common symptoms of social anxiety disorder.

In a Social Setting:

  • Increase in heart rate
  • Trembling
  • Inability to speak
  • Blushing
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Nausea

Psychological Symptoms:

  • Missing out on important events due to anxiety
  • Worrying about events for days
  • Always staying in the background, so that no one can notice you.
  • Always looking out that you do not do anything that could embarrass you in a social situation.

Having a social anxiety 1disorder can be difficult as the automatic thoughts are constantly swarming around in the mind with no way of stopping them. Social anxiety disorder should be treated as early as possible to avoid facing difficulties in a work or personal environment.

Anxiety is a result of a response to a trigger, a trigger can be anything, an object, a situation, or even a person. These triggers create thoughts inside our minds that are no good, making it almost impossible to overcome them.

So, what is the next step, you might be wondering to gain control of these automatic thoughts? Below mentioned steps are a great help in gaining control over automatic thoughts.

Ways to Cope with Automatic Thoughts

  1. Recognize Your Thoughts

In everyday life, our brain works in a way where it lists out all the worst-case scenarios, which gives rise to negative thinking. Once you start to think negatively, stopping yourself can be a hard task. Your perspective of everything changes drastically, as only the negative points are highlighted to you.

Recognizing your thoughts is the first way to stop the automatic thoughts from taking control over your mind and start spreading negativity. The toss of a coin has only two outcomes but this example should not be used while living our lives.

Thinking of the extreme endpoints should never be the goal, everything in between should also be considered, black and white thinking should be avoided at all costs.

  1. Manage Your Thoughts

Keep a thought record or journal, write down every single thought which arises in your mind, even if you feel that one is not important. You might be surprised by how much your mind can think every day.

Automatic thoughts

Writing down thoughts, whether they are negative or positive can help you feel in control of them. It is not entirely possible to have the journal with you 24/7 but once you start writing them, it will become a habit of you.

Also, writing down your thoughts can help you feel relaxed as they are now out of your mind, now on the piece of paper.

  1. Challenge Your Thoughts

When you can recognize your automatic thoughts well, the next step is to know how to challenge them.

Consider asking yourself, if the self-criticizing thoughts that manipulate you into thinking that you are not enough were spoken by your loved one, a friend, or a family member.

What would you do? You would make sure to make your friend believe that whatever they are thinking are just thoughts only. You would go to any length to ensure that your friend stops thinking about negative things and focus on more positive ones.

If you can make your friend believe, then you surely can make yourself believe that thoughts are just thoughts and they should not affect your mental well-being.

  1. Take a Break

Taking a break when you feel that the vessel is filled, the vessel being your mind, is completely necessary. Our mind is not a machine, hence sometimes requires time to relax.

Relax by doing things that can take your mind off the automatic thoughts for a while. Doing meditation, yoga, exercise, or performing hobbies like painting, dancing, and swimming, can help in relaxing.

Automatic thoughts
Felipe Borges

Do not stress 2yourself by gaining control over your thoughts, it will not help instead it could worsen your way of thinking.

  1. Focus on Your Strengths

Instead of dwelling on thoughts like “Am I good enough?”, start focusing on things that you are good at. For every negative thought, try thinking about a positive one, and use the act of counterbalance to your advantage.

The automatic thoughts which take place in your mind can manipulate into you thinking that you are not good enough at anything, the goal for you is to quash this thinking and start working on yourself.

Focus on your goals and in no time, the negative thoughts will be replaced by more happy and positive ones.

  1. Practice Gratitude

We often feel that what we have is not enough and compare our lifestyle to others which leads to self-deprivation. To avoid falling into the spiral of self-deprivation, we must be thankful for the things and people we have around us.

amadeo valar G2BRwDpsuXo unsplash
Photo by Amadeo Valar on Unsplash

It is rightly said that we do not know the true value of things until they are not within our reach. Think about the things which make you happy, it will surely erase all your negative automatic thoughts and replace them with happier ones.

Count your blessings as it will allow you to see life from a much wider perspective which is prevented by automatic thoughts.

  1. Consult a Therapist

There are some things that you can not have control over and these involuntary automatic thoughts are one of them. The feelings caused by these thoughts can be very distressing for the person, the feeling of helplessness consumes the body making it difficult to perform day-to-day activities.

When you think things are getting out of hand or you are falling into the deep pit, consult a therapist. The therapist could help in recognizing your thoughts and managing them well.

They will make note of every thought that goes inside your head to help understand all the feelings that you are going through.

Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) is used to limit automatic thoughts, as these thoughts can lead to various diseases like anxiety, depression, panic attacks, eating disorders, addictions (drug abuse), anger issues, and phobias.

CBT 3helps in replacing negative and unrealistic thoughts with more happier and positive ones.

Automatic Thoughts

The automatic thoughts can never be entirely shut down, as they are you know “automatic”. The only thing we can do in these situations is how to manage them, how we let them not control or affect us.

Shutting off these thoughts is not a one-day process, it is a gradual process that will require your time and attention.

Ignoring automatic thoughts is never an option as they can affect your mental health very badly, without you knowing it. Our thoughts are so much more powerful than we give them credit. They have the power to either make or break a person, the way we think is how well we go with our life.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is the functioning of an autonomic thought?

Autonomic thoughts are dynamic shifts in emotion that are accompanied by modifications in visceral and bodily functions. The parasympathetic and sympathetic nerves of the autonomic nervous system control these visceral functions.

2. What is an automatic thought?

The sort of negative thoughts about yourself that arise right away, without our even realizing that we’re thinking, as a reaction to a particular trigger is automatic thoughts.

3. Is crying an autonomic response?

The autonomic nervous system, or ANS, controls automatic processes such as body temperature, appetite, thirst, and, yes, crying as well.


Thinking positive thoughts always is not possible, but making your will stronger so that negative thoughts take a backseat where they can not affect you is the ultimate goal.

So, laugh a little more today and give positive meaning to your life for us, why don’t you?

Keep glowing and stay happy!

If you liked this article, here is something you may like.

  1. Knowles, Kelly A., and Bunmi O. Olatunji. “Specificity of trait anxiety in anxiety and depression: Meta-analysis of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory.” Clinical psychology review 82 (2020): 101928. ↩︎
  2. O’Connor, Daryl B., Julian F. Thayer, and Kavita Vedhara. “Stress and health: A review of psychobiological processes.” Annual review of psychology 72 (2021): 663-688. ↩︎
  3. Atwood, Molly E., and Aliza Friedman. “A systematic review of enhanced cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT‐E) for eating disorders.” International Journal of Eating Disorders 53.3 (2020): 311-330. ↩︎

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