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 end up leaving 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 automatic negative thoughts can be, most of us can learn how to regain control of our mind and retrain our brains to overcome the power of negative thoughts.


How ANTS Form

According to the Center for Redeployment Psychology, all of our thoughts, whether they are our memories of actual events that happened, or are 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 your mind 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, and over time we can literally reprogram our brains.

Current research shows that 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 healthy, frame of mind.


Steps to Take to Squash Your ANTS

  1. Look for positives. To begin to conquer your ANTS, you will first need to identify some positive thoughts to have ready so that you can substitute and focus on them, rather than the negative thought, when it comes to mind.
  2. 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 in contact with one of these triggers.
  3. Learn to relax. Learning relaxation techniques, such as mindfulness and meditation, such as 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 the positive thought in its place.
  4. 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 realize 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, and 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 each day as you lead up to your speech and start each day off right with positive affirmations that help to boost your self-esteem. When the time comes, focus on remaining calm and visualizing your positive thought and you will find that your mind is so powerful, it will work to make your positive vision come true!

You can apply this same technique to virtually any negative thought or memory that can come to your mind. By identifying your negative thoughts and memories, actively watching for them, and substituting a positive thought in their place, you will unleash the power of your mind and it will squash your ANTS for you. Over time, you will overcome more obstacles, reach more goals, and improve your sense of self-worth and well-being and even your overall health!


About Sonia McDonald

Sonia McDonaldSonia McDonald, CEO and Founder of LeadershipHQ, is an Entrepreneur, Thought Leader, Dynamic Keynote Speaker, Leadership Coach and Author of Leadership Attitude (now on BOOKTOPIA!). She was recently named in the Top 250 Influential Women Leaders across the Globe. Sonia is one of Australia’s Leading Executive Coaches. She has over 25 years’ human resource management, leadership and organisational development experience. She has held senior leadership roles in organisational development, learning and development, human resources and talent management fields across the globe. She is also an inspirational and dynamic leadership and neuroscience keynote speaker.

Connect with Sonia at:

1300 719 665 or +61 424 447 616



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