Do you have ANTs running freely in your mind? ANTs, or Automatic Negative Thoughts, are dangerous creatures. ANTS are those negative thoughts that always seem to be in the back of your mind, regardless of the situation.
ANTs make it impossible to relax and enjoy the moment, because they manage to sniff out the negative aspect of any event.
Negative thoughts rob you of being able to feel joy or happiness in the present. When you are unable to control your thoughts, negative thoughts leave you feeling worried, cynical, frustrated, drained, depressed, and defeated.
Over time, negative thoughts can have a dreadful impact on your physical and mental wellbeing, and your ability to achieve your life goals.
The good news is that despite how destructive ANTs are, most of us can learn how to regain control of our minds and retrain our brains to overcome the power of negative thoughts.
How are ANTs formed?
According to the Centre for Redeployment Psychology, all of our thoughts – whether they are memories of actual events or simply random musings and dreams – come to mind as the result of nerve impulses.
Usually, there is some sort of internal or external event – such as a person, place, or thing – that triggers the firing of a nerve impulse to make our minds aware of the thought.
The nerve impulses generated by both positive and negative thoughts travel along the same pathways in our brain.
These pathways are flexible, so they can be shaped and controlled, allowing us over time, to literally reprogramme our brains.
No matter how painful, or negative some of our past memories might be, we can each learn to become aware of negative thoughts as they occur, and choose to replace these thoughts with more positive ones.
Over time, as we actively practice substituting positive thoughts for negative ones, we can break the power that negative thoughts and memories have over our lives, and move towards a more positive and healthier, frame of mind.
How to squash your ANTS
Look for positives. To begin conquering your ANTs, you will first need to have some positive thoughts ready at hand so that you can substitute and focus on them rather than the negative thoughts, when they come to mind.
Identify your triggers. Once you have several positive thoughts to use in place of the negative thoughts, learn to identify the triggers of your negative thoughts.
Are there certain events, places, or people that seem to increase the likelihood of their occurrence? Learn to remain calm when you come into contact with one of these triggers.
Learn to relax. Learning relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness and meditation, and focusing on your breathing, can help you remain calm when you encounter a trigger for your ANTS.
As you become aware of a negative thought, remain calm – focus on your breathing or other relaxation technique – and then, consciously substitute a positive thought in its place.
Preparing for the trigger. Let’s use an example. Do you often feel nervous before you have to give a speech? Does your mind become filled and eventually overwhelmed with images of the mistakes you just know you will make?
By the time you actually give your speech, the ANTs have full control. Your negative thoughts become a self-fulfilling prophecy and you make the same mistakes that you obsessed over.
In a situation like this, it is important to realise beforehand that you feel anxious in such a setting. Before the day of your speech, practice remaining calm, focusing on your breathing and then substituting your positive image in place of the ANTs.
In this case, you might imagine yourself being calm and remaining in control during your speech, your audience actively listening to what you have to say and enjoying the event. At the conclusion of your speech, the crowd heartily applauds your performance.
Practice this positive thought every day as you approach the day of your speech, and repeat positive affirmations to yourself to boost your self-esteem.
When the time comes, focus on remaining calm and visualising your positive thought. You will find that your mind is a very powerful thing – it will work to make your positive vision come true.
You can apply the same techniques to virtually any negative thought or memory that comes to mind.
By identifying your negative thoughts and memories, actively watching for them, and substituting a positive thought in their place, you will squash your ANTs and unleash your true potential.
Over time, you will overcome more obstacles, reach more goals, improve your sense of self-worth and wellbeing, and even improve your overall health!
Prefer an e-mag reading experience? No problem! This article is also available in our 18 August 2018 digital issue, which you can access here.