How to Release “ANTS” Automatic Negative Thoughts?
Do you want to know where most of our “STRESS” comes from? According to Psychiatrist and Clinical Neuroscientist Daniel Amen, it’s our AUTOMATIC NEGATIVE THOUGHTS (He calls them “ANTs.”) I recently heard Dr. Amen on a podcast in which he spoke about how he came up with his “ANTS” analogy. Dr. Amen had a really tough day at the office with suicidal patients and couples fighting all day long. He came home to his kitchen which was swarming with ants.
Dr. Amen had a lightbulb moment realizing his patients were suffering from an infestation of Automatic Negative Thoughts–ANTS. After he cleaned up the ants at home, he bought an ant killing spray to bring to his office along. His patients had to laugh and appreciated his humor.
When we correct our ANTs, we reduce our stress, and it becomes easier to make better choices and improve our perspective. Here’s a way to change our mindset of negative thoughts. This method is based on Byron Katie’s “The Work”, which Amen uses in his practice. Here are the 4 questions to ask:
- Is it true? (Is the negative thought true?)
- Can I absolutely know that it is true?
- How do I react when I think that thought?
- Who would I be without that thought? Or, how would I feel if I didn’t have that thought? Then, do a Turnaround statement: How can you Turn it Around?
Here’s an example that Dr. Amen uses to explain “The Work.” Brittany was hoping to lose weight before her wedding. After shedding some pounds initially, she gained a pound after the third week.
Question #1: Is it true that you will not lose weight in time for the wedding? “Yes,” she said.
Question #2: Can you absolutely know that it is true? “Well, maybe I will. I don’t know.
Question #3: How do you feel when you have the thought, “I will never lose weight in time for my wedding? “I feel frustrated, and I feel like a failure.
Question #4: What would you be without the thought, “I will never lose weight in time for my wedding? She said, “I don’t feel as hopeless.” “
Turnaround: What is the opposite thought of “I will never lose weight? “I will lose weight in time for my wedding.” Brittany then felt a renewal of energy to keep watching what she ate rather than giving up on her diet.
You can begin reducing your stress by killing the ANTs and embracing more positive, accurate thoughts that guide you to make better choices and to feel better! I have the four questions and turnaround statement written on a 3×5 index card for easy reference. Hope you find this helpful.
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Vicki Atlas Israel is an Author, Certified Guided Imagery Practitioner, Meditation Mindset Coach. Atlas is passionate about bringing more peace and healing to children and adults. She’s helping high-achieving professionals, parents and children with stress relief. Awaken to your best life with love, hope, and healing. Schedule your Inner Power Breakthrough session. Email: Vicki@InnerPowerMindset.com.