ANTs = Automatic Negative Thoughts
Ants are everywhere, and everyone has them. ANTs are the Automatic Negative Thoughts that infest minds and can destroy your feelings, your mental health and your life. Getting rid of the ANTs is time well spent, and in this article, I give you a simple 5 step process to eliminate the ANTs, clean them out and replace them with a PMA, a Positive Mental Attitude.
Where Are Your ANTS?
Automatic negative thoughts are everywhere in today’s culture. It is hard to escape the constant bombardment of negativity, from the Covid crisis to election advertising, from holiday shopping to Corona quarantine.
ANTs, Automatic Negative Thoughts, as Dr. Daniel Amen calls them, can drive anxiety, depression, trauma, and grief. They can ruin your day, steal your happiness, and prolong your suffering. These days it seems like the ANTs are everywhere.
Well, the truth of the matter is that perception often becomes a reality.
In America, 45% of those surveyed say the pandemic has impacted their mental health. For others, the holiday season can be the catalyst for more stress, anxiety, and loneliness.
This relationship is real for those already suffering from a mental health condition, with 64% of people diagnosed saying the holidays make their symptoms worse.
And in one survey, 75% of respondents said the holidays contribute to feelings of sadness or dissatisfaction.
Do you feel stressed, nervous, anxious? Did you know that anxiety issues are the most common mental health condition in America, with over 18% of the population—over 40 million American adults–experiencing symptoms.
And these are the pre-pandemic numbers; a more recent study suggests the post-pandemic rate is skyrocketing to 32%.
Negative thinking affects the way you feel. When you have a negative thought, your brain and your body release chemicals that make you feel bad. The opposite of this is also true. Happy, hopeful thinking makes you feel good.
Hope On The Horizon
More and more, the evidence is clear. Our brain-body connection and how well it operates together are very adjustable, malleable, changeable.
The science is out there. It is well established that Neuroplasticity, neurogenesis, Brain-derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF), nootropics, and many more are proven scientific principles. Many of these, even the most well-read student might need a dictionary (remember those?) or access to “Google search” to understand.
The bottom line is that we can help ourselves in this onslaught of negative thoughts. We can influence the way we feel by controlling our thoughts. Like anything in life, it takes a little consistent effort, and before you know it, you have a new mindset.
Now we have a triple threat bearing down upon us—first, a deeply divided culture with a richly debated election. Second, the Corona pandemic and government-imposed “distancing” driving many people towards isolation. Third, to top it off, holiday stress and anxiety piling-on an already overcrowded pressure-ridden life.
In addition, we can harbor negative thoughts from our past. They can reside deep inside your subconscious, covered-up by years of denial or suppression. Many of these thoughts may not even be true. That is why you must use a system to eliminate them.
Killing the Ants
Killing the ANTs does not have to wait for us to understand the science. You can take action yourself, and do them immediately, in the comfort of your own home. These actions can make a world of difference in your whole outlook.
Waiting for help may only make your symptoms worse. This triple threat “dog pile” requires immediate action. So here is a little self-help wisdom for you to solve or at least reduce the stress in your anxiety-filled life.
Change Your TV Channel
Changing your TV channel, I am talking about using positive Transformational Vocabulary (TV) can do you a world of good. Whenever you feel yourself getting mad, sad, or out of control, use the following five simple steps to change the TV channel.
We can use this method to deal with trauma, stress and emotional pain by interrupting the pattern, evaluating its origins, reframing it and reinforcing the new mindset—thus driving home the new beliefs.
To go from stress, grief, and sadness to gratitude, strength, and resolve may not seem possible at this moment, but our minds are amazingly adaptable.
With this technique, we can create a new, more empowering mindset and result. I summarize this technique as A-E-I-O-U.
A – Awareness is a superpower. Write down the negative thoughts. Often these thoughts are a pattern of thinking. Writing them down will allow you to refer back to them later and see if there is a pattern. Allow you to determine what triggered the thought, and then, of course, how you will KILL it. If you are already aware of the issue, you might consider looking at it a bit deeper, what might have happened earlier in your life, and why you continue to feel this way now? Or, if the feelings are even more intense, explore why they are this way? When we are children, we sometimes over-dramatize situations because they look so much “bigger.” Awareness can be a big part of interrupting a pattern of thinking.
E – Evaluate. Take an honest appraisal of the situation and ask yourself a few questions. Is it true? Is the meaning you are bringing to this absolutely true or just partially correct? Are you participating in ALL or Nothing thinking? Are you comparing yourself to others? Who would you be without these thoughts, these feelings? Write your evaluation down. Writing it down will help you keep track of your assessment—especially if your review changes over time.
I – Intention. What would you most like to feel in this situation? How would you want to interact in this situation? What are some empowering thoughts you might share with others to give them strength? What empowering belief can you bring to the problem? If you assume that all things
O – Optimism. Positive thoughts are also SUPERPOWERS. Bring a touch of optimism into your thinking, and what might be the positive outcomes of this situation? How can you bring a positive aspect or way of thinking that might influence others? Do you know what Martin Seligman found in a 22-year study at the University of Pennsylvania? In his book, Learned Optimism, he summarized that being optimistic is the most important quality you can develop for personal and professional success and happiness. Optimistic people seem to be more effective in almost every area of life. To drive this point home, once again, write down your answers and review them consistently.
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U — YOU! You need to reinforce your new way of thinking. Only YOU can do this. I like to use affirmations or what I call “I-CAN-TATIONS.” State the new empowering feelings, emotions, thoughts that you have created about the situation. Use positive, first-person sentences of “I am” or “I have.” This is the real gist of transformational vocabulary (TV). Then visualize yourself in the situation and demonstrate in your mind’s eye your preferred situation or outcome. There are other ways to develop your mindset, but these are just a couple of quick ones to get you started. Write your “I AM” statements down and state them; imagine them twice a day, morning and night. If you need additional reinforcement, you might try bringing different ways of thinking to them by going through the process again. To take it a step further, imagine yourself in the same situation in the future and see yourself acting out the new empowering behavior. This technique will help reinforce your thoughts into actions and your new identity.
Where Is the Holy Spirit?
If you are a religious or spiritual person, a believer, you might take comfort in many scriptures that emphasize this same concept. Both Paster David Jeremiah and Pastor Joel Osteen are proponents of biblically-based positive self-talk. Adding the power of the almighty to your “I-Can-Tations” can only act as a “steroid” to your transformational vocabulary and beliefs.
In a recent sermon, Pastor Jeremiah emphasized the following;
- Be positive about God’s Love for you.
- Be positive about God’s plan for you.
- Develop positive conversations with others.
- Speak positively to yourself.
Joel Osteen’s new book, “Empty Out the Negative” has a focus on:
- Overcoming disappointment, doubt, fear, and worry.
- Moving beyond the hurts and wounds of the past.
- Taking hold of success and God’s favor.
- Receive every good thing that God has for you.
Pastor Osteen has the overarching belief that God created you to be filled with love, joy, confidence, and success. A belief that God made you in His image and calls you a masterpiece. A view that you can let go of the negative and make room for the positive. Guilt, resentment, unforgiveness, anger, worry, doubt—these are things that weigh us down. They don’t have to be permanent.
It is interesting to note that both Dr. Amen and Pastor Jeremiah are not big fans of positive thinking (I am not sure about Pastor Osteen). But what we are talking about here are some practical methods to eliminate negative thinking and replace them with positive thoughts and turning those thoughts into how we feel and act.
If that involves the Holy Spirit, so be it. This is important, essential stuff!
Knowing how to destroy your ANTs has been shown in scientific studies to be as effective as antidepressant medications in treating anxiety and depression.
Challenging negative thoughts takes away their power and gives YOU control over your thoughts, moods, and behaviors.
Make killing your ANTs a daily habit. It may take some practice. You can’t just do it once and think you’ve mastered your thinking patterns. When you make it a daily routine, you will feel freer, less anxious, and much happier.
Author – Speaker – Leader – Investor
Dave spent a long and distinguished career as a pilot and leader in the United States Air Force. Along the way, he managed to obtain three graduate degrees. As an investor in the stock market for more than 37 years, Dave has seen his share of ups and downs. When Dave retired as a Colonel in 2006, he founded Razor Sharp Investments. Subsequently, he worked with an investment education company, teaching new investors how to handle their money, and then two brokerage firms doing the same thing. In 2012, Dave founded his own investment firm. Dave has always been fascinated by the question, Why do people do the things that they do? On his discovery journey, he encountered Tony Robbins. He worked with his event staff to eventually progresss through the Institute for Strategic Intervention as a coach, making him ideally suited to tackle the most formidable challenges in a relationship. Dave continues to be committed to a life of service, mainly serving those struggling in their relationships over money.
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