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Automatic Negative Thoughts

A coaching exercise taken from the downloadable book
available at: Life Coaching Exercises

Negative Thoughts & Alternatives

This exercise is concerned with Automatic Negative Thoughts (known as an “ANT”s) such as 

An Automatic Thought is a thought that pops into your mind regularly, frequently or in certain types of situation. An Automatic Negative Thought is an automatic thought which involves a negative assumption or conclusion, often with a self critical element. ANTS sometimes involve exaggerations or generalisations and use of phrases such as ‘always’ or ‘never’ which may well not be justified by the actual evidence.

What are the personal ANTS which are causing you problems at the moment? Record in a table like the one below occasions when you say something negative about yourself which you think is a fairly typical put down that you say to yourself or a negative assumption about a situation.  In the right hand column, list alternative possible thoughts to try to say to yourself in the situations when you find your particular ANTS occurring.

The idea in generating alternative thoughts is to be as creative as you can – you can use humour, logic, self knowledge to brainstorm possible ideas.  You may not be able to stop or avoid the automatic thoughts initially but you are looking for finding simple ways of dealing with them in a more relaxed and balanced way. There is no right or wrong here, just try to create possibilities that might work for you to take the stress out of the situation and make you feel more positive. What you are trying to achieve is a change in mood.

Example ANT & Alternative Thoughts

What is the ANT?

When and in what situation did it Occur?

What Possible Alternative Thoughts could I say to myself in future to achieve a change in mood?

I am always a burden to everyone.

4 July – John got annoyed with me when I took a long time getting ready before we went out.

  • Relax – John may have had a bad day
  • Nobody’s perfect
  • Sometimes I’m slow but the end result is worth it

Exercise for Automatic Negative Thoughts

Please identify any typical negative descriptions, assumptions or statements you make about yourself or your situation during the week and write them down in the left hand column of a table like the one below. In the right hand column write down an alternative statement which balances the first statement by moderating it in a realistic manner, putting it in perspective or giving it a simple positive ending to it.

Automatic Negative Thought

Alternative Statement














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