The human mind is constantly thinking and imagining, sometimes about happy and positive things, but we also have automatic negative thoughts most of the time too!
Dr. Daniel G. Amen, a psychiatrist, physician and author, calls this type of negative thinking ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts). He says that ANTs are “cynical, gloomy, and complaining thoughts that just seem to keep coming all by themselves”.
They pop up in our minds involuntarily and therefore are not the product of reflection or reasoning. There are different types of automatic thoughts, but all of them seem plausible at the time and can be difficult to turn off.
The type of automatic thoughts that are of particular interested to me as a Coach are ANTS, which are connected with a person’s mood and distort and limit that person’s capacity to address issues and move forward; these thoughts can be manifested as words, images or memories.
The 5 Most Common ANTs
There are five different ways that your thoughts lie to you to make situations out to be worse than they really are.
Focusing on the negative. When you can only see the bad in a situation.
- Mind reading. You believe that you know what another person is thinking and it’s not good. Even though they haven’t told you and you didn’t even ask.
- Labeling. You attach a negative label to yourself or to someone else.
- Personalization. This is when you take a seemingly innocent event and take it to have a personal, negative meaning.
- Blame: This is the most harmful ANT and it happens when you blame someone else for your own problems.
3 steps to eliminate your ANTs
Ask yourself what would your life look like if you thought more positively? How much happier and productive could you be? What would you welcome into your life more by having a more balanced outlook? Here are 3 steps to help you stomp out your ANTs:
- Learn to become aware of your thought process. This is the first step in stopping your negative thought pattern, be ready to notice when an ANT is entering your mind, acknowledge it and tell yourself it is simply a thought and thoughts aren’t the truth. What makes a thought feel real is the attention we bring to it.
- Challenge your thoughts. Ask yourself what would you do if someone spoke negatively of you, which wasn’t true? Would you challenge them on it? I doubt you would let it go. So why are you not challenging your thought process? Learn to stop and ask yourself why am I thinking like this? Stand up to them and don’t let them limit your life.
- Start replacing your thoughts to be more positive and affirming. The key to being more positive and happy is to successfully identify an ANT and flip it to a more positive and affirming thought.