Don’t Let ANTS Get the Better of You – Squashing Automatic Negative thoughts
What are ANTS?
I love this acronym! ANTS are “Automatic Negative Thoughts.”
“You never listen to me.”
“They don’t like me.”
“This situation is not going to work out. I know something bad will happen.”
ANTS cause us to look at the future with anxiety and pessimism. What if . . .? They cause us to regret our past, and be unsatisfied with the present. ANTS cause chemical changes in our brains and bodies that make us feel bad and behave in ways that distance us from others. Consider this – if you aren’t thinking about your thoughts, (how often does this happen?) they’re automatic and are not necessarily true. BUT because we think them, we assume they must be true. This includes thoughts about ourselves, others, our world, our work, etc.
I’ve been enjoying reading some of Daniel Amen’s work. He’s an MD, physician, psychiatrist, best-selling author, and brain enhancement expert. I was really struck by his comment that “Every cell in your body is affected by every thought you have. That is why when people get emotionally upset, they actually develop physical symptoms, such as headaches, stomach aches, or worse. A negative thought is like pollution to your system.”
What I love about ANTS is that we can do something about them!
- Tune in and notice them.
- Write them down to gain clarity.
- Talk back. Consider why they might not be true. If you struggle with this part, it can be useful to recruit a trusted friend or family member to help you gain perspective.
Here are a couple of my favorite examples:
ANT = My boss doesn’t like me.
Response = I don’t know that. Maybe she’s just having a bad day. Bosses are people, too.
ANT = I’m stupid.
Response = Sometimes I do things that aren’t too smart, but I’m not stupid.
ANT = I’ll never be a success like ___________ (fill in the blank)
Response = We all have different talents and strengths. I may have different ones than __________ and need to learn the best ways to apply them. Or – They’ve been working at their career/goals much longer than me. It takes time.
Give it a try! See if you can squash a few of your ANTS.
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Tina Hallis, Ph.D., a professional speaker and consultant for The Positive Edge, a company dedicated to helping individuals and organizations increase their positivity to improve the quality of people’s work lives and the quality of company cultures. She is certified in Positive Psychology, an authorized partner for Everything DiSC®, and a Professional Member of the National Speaker’s Association.