GNAT’s & PAT’s
What matters when we have grey days, dark days, wet lettuce or call them what you like days, is that we are able to recognise that our minds are playing tricks on us because we may be lacking in sleep, dealing with distress, anxiety, panic, family or relationship issues, or simply that we feel ‘low’, ‘down’ or emotionally sad for whatever reason. Recognising the trigger factors or GNAT’s (Grizzly, Negative, Automatic Thoughts) can help us unravel some of the tricky thinking processes that we make when we feel this way. Don’t let these GNAT’s get the better of you and hold you to emotional ransom.
What matters is that we take time to step back from everything around us and focus on ourselves. Think of your mind like a rubbish bin and you’ve just realised that you’ve accidentally thrown away a winning lottery ticket. What do you do? Well, I would hope that you’d dig deep inside that rubbish bin to try and find it (wearing plastic gloves of course!) and no doubt whilst you’re having a good rummage in there you’ll see some other strange and weird things too. Some that other people have put in the rubbish bin and some that you have discarded. Think of your mind as a rubbish bin where you sometimes get rid of those unwanted thoughts or simply discard them without even realising. Your mind has two types of bins. The terrible trash one and the recycled one. The recycled ‘mind bin’ is where we tap into our thinking and take all those great ideas, amazing and magic moments to remember, solve problems and use for good, not bad. It’s where we recycle knowledge, cognitive processing and the things we need to use again. Our other ‘mind bin’ is the one where we choose (or sometimes subconsciously not choose) to trash things we want to forget because they are harmful, have a negative affect on our everyday lives or are just simply not worth having in the recycled bin. Occasionally though, the mind chooses to take one out of the other and swap them around, and we may not even realise it has done so. If at this stage you’re losing the thinking thread, stick with it, I promise you your mind will store some of this in the recycled bin for you to use later on.
What matters is that you may not always know why your mind is playing tricks on you. It chooses to do some weird stuff at times which we can not work out for ourselves. We all get this, it’s our amazing brains in action.
What matters is that you recognise the way that you think directly affects you physically and emotionally and in turn has an impact on how you behave. If you’re having a bad day, your mind is predominantly going to shout negative thoughts and feelings at you, not give you the feel good factor experiences that you may so greatly need to make you feel better or good about yourself. Thinking is automatic. Just like breathing.
What matters is you knowing that your mind is putting and placing you in a bad place when you have these GNAT’s (Grizzly, Negative Automatic Thoughts). If you’re constantly thinking bad, negative thoughts, then you’re constantly going to have bad, negative feelings. We are so used to focussing on these GNAT’s that at times we don’t even realise that we are doing it to ourselves. These GNAT’s become bad habits. We become so used to accepting that it’s just part of another bad, grey or wet lettuce day that we lose the ability to consciously register the good thoughts.
What matters is that we realise our brains go into autopilot mode and chooses to only focus on the bad, and on how bad we feel if we allow our emotions to take over our thinking processes. What we feel inside directly affects the brain. If you feel good, we have positive physical and emotional energy enabling us to tackle some really difficult jobs or thinking processes, but when we feel bad, our bodies lose that energy and so does our mind. When we are in this negative state, processing becomes the default system and then it kicks in with the fight or flight mode. When we realise this is happening to us, there is only one way to challenge it. We have to stand up to the negatives and hit them with the positives.
What matters is spotting, realising and doing something about these GNAT’s. They can bite and chew away at your thinking process and they can become contagious too. You can end up passing your GNAT’s onto others in the way you speak, hold yourself physically or the way you behave. I don’t do catching other people’s GNAT’s, I like to feed them with positive, feel good thinking so that they slowly die away.
What matters according to Dr. Aaron Beck, the pioneer of CBT, is that recognising these GNAT’s can confuse situations and experiences, becoming the main focus of our attention, not allowing our minds to block out negative thought processes but make them the predominant ones. We have to see them as ‘thought nightmares’ and learn how to change them.
What matters is learning to train your brain, and battle the GNAT’s so they don’t continually bite away at you. They don’t get passed onto others, and you get rid of them through the PAT (Positive Action Thoughts) process.
What matters when taking the PAT route is you actively become conscious of good events and experiences so that your happiness levels increase and your depression (dark, grey or wet lettuce days) decreases. Tune your brains into looking for and feeling the great moments, memories and future plans. Dr.Pooky Knightsmith,@PookyH often shares her #3GoodThings on Twitter, and embracing this simple strategy can really help. I’ve done it myself and shared with others, and you’ll be surprised how amazing this task is in relation to PAT’s. Thank you Pooky for inspiring so many of us with your own mental health journey as well as sharing your personal #3GoodThings.
What matters is we recognise the good things we do and experience on a daily basis. Writing, recording (audio or visual) and sharing these are an excellent way of celebrating your own PAT’s. I love to use the Three Good Things app. It’s easy, and also allows me to reflect on the PAT’s and not on the GNAT’s. Here is an example of yesterday’s 3 Good Things.
What matters is we recognise the positive role of gratitude, kindness and gratefulness. Being grateful for what we have, not what we don’t have. Studies have shown that practicing gratitude can be good for mental health and wellbeing, and being kind to others also does the same.
What matters for personal wellbeing and great mental and emotional health is that you are honest with yourself. Well, as much as you can be. Recognising when you may not be well, having a black, dark, grey or wet lettuce day and not allowing them to escalate into weeks and months, because if you do, this will lead to a serious mental health issue which will need professional help. You’ll be beyond the realms of helping yourself with PAT’s, and GNAT’s will most definitely have poisoned your brain.
What matters when you take on the PAT’s is that you dismiss the ideas of comparing yourself to others, setting yourself up to fail through unrealistically high expectations or dwelling on all the GNAT’s. Make a conscious decision to cultivate personal optimism. Realise and recognise that thoughts are not facts. Get a balance between reflecting on the bad times with celebrating the good times.
What matters is that you take time to know your GNAT’s and embrace them with PAT’s. Simple really. Get your GNAT’s off and your PAT’s on!
What matters right now is that you’ve have taken the time to read this and hopefully reflect on YOU.
Please remember – YOU matter.
Thank you for your time. Thank you for reading this, and thank you for what you do for others. Just be the best that you can be. You can’t ask yourself to do anything else.
I’d love to know your thoughts.
Nina (Jackson) @musicmind