It’s hard to stay positive all the time when you’re living with a mental health condition. It can be difficult not letting negative thoughts take over your mind and create havoc in your life, but it is up to you if you want those ANTs (automatic negative thoughts) out of the picture for good! It’s not an overnight solution, but there are tools you can learn to quickly eradicate the ANTs from infesting your mind. It’s a process worth starting now, to teach those ANTs that your mind isn’t a place worth nesting in.
When I find myself slipping in to a depression episode, I am most vulnerable to an ANT infestation. It’s during this mindset that ANTs seem to be most attracted to building a home in my mind. Currently I’m taking a course by Dr. Daniel Amen called ‘Overcoming Anxiety, Depression, Trauma and Grief’ from Amen University. Recently we learned about strategies to eliminate ANTs in our Brain. I’d like to share with you what I’ve learned, and also encourage you to dig a little deeper into the information Dr. Amen provides on building a healthy brain. 🙂
Step One: Journal Your REAL Feelings
Whenever you feel anxious, and you feel your internal dialog obsessing over negative thoughts, put a stop to the internal endless loop cycle of negative thought patterns by writing-them-down. Once on paper they lift from your mind (it feels so much better to give your mind some relief from that pressure!).
Dr. Amen’s newest book, ‘Your Brain is Always Listening‘ (a book I’m currently reading along with his course), talks about how your brain listens and registers every thought you have, so if you repeatedly tell yourself something negative – your brain will believe it and obey. That is why it’s crucial to put in the extra effort to re-train that mode of thinking and not allow it to take root in your brain.
Step Two: Identify What Type of Ants You Have Most Often
- All-or-Nothing ANTs: Thinking that things are either all good or all bad
- Less-Than ANTs: Comparing and seeing yourself as less than others
- Just-the-Bad ANTs: Seeing only the bad in a situation
- Guilt-Beating ANTs: Thinking in words like should, must, ought, or have to
- Labeling ANTs: Attaching a negative label to yourself or someone else
- Fortune-Telling ANTs: Predicting the worst possible outcome for a situation with little or no evidence for it
- Mind-Reading ANTs: Believing you know what other people are thinking even though they haven’t told you
- If-Only and I’ll-Be-Happy-When ANTs: Arguing with the past and longing for the future
- Blaming ANTs: Blaming someone else for your problems
Step Three: Screen Each ANT with these 5 questions…
This is the method where the magic happens, where you have a quick conversation with your mind to teach it how to discern what is an ANT from reality…
- Is it absolutely true with 100% certainty?
- How do I feel when I believe this thought?
- How do I treat myself with this thought? How do I treat others?
- How would I feel if I couldn’t have this thought?
- Is there a good reason for me to hold onto this thought?
Ask yourself if the opposite of the thought is true, or even truer than the original thought. Use this opposite version of the original ANT as an affirmation you repeat to yourself often. Write this on a piece of paper and tape it up where you can read it regularly.
Print The Journal Page and Practice Often!
I’ve compiled everything I listed above in the three steps to make it easy for you to practice ANT killing often. Once you’ve repeated this exercise a few times, it becomes more and more natural to eradicate the infestation of those pesky ANTs that can weigh down your mind and cause you a great deal of grief. The less ANTs you have invading your mind, the easier it is to maintain positive thoughts and give yourself some much needed relief and a boost to your self-esteem and confidence. 🙂
If you find this exercise helpful, I’d love to hear your thoughts on how it’s helped you! 💚 We’ll be discussing this journal page in the Facebook Group, if you’re not a member yet – please consider joining the Kindness Tribe of like-minded people committed to understanding one anothers feelings and creating a safe space to share our thoughts & feelings. 💚