In the grand scheme of things, ants are pretty cool creatures. They have super human strength. They don’t have lungs or ears. Some ants are both farmers and can swim. They have two stomachs and some species are asexual. If you are anything like me, you probably didn’t know many of these fun amazing facts. Do you know when ants suck? When they are in your house exploring your watermelon, ruining picnics and crawling between your toes as your are sleeping. Sorry for that horrible thought, but it is the month of scary things. Generally, even if we admire all of their cool traits, we would rather not have ants in our lives.
This post is about a different kind of ant. If you noticed in our title, A.N.T. is an acronym. It stands for automatic negative thoughts. These are the pesky little thoughts that can creep into our minds while we are enjoying our watermelon. It can ruin a seemingly fun time we are having at a picnic. For all I know they might even crawl between our toes as we are sleeping. They certainly crawl through our minds no matter what we are doing. Just like the pesky little insects, they can literally come out of nowhere and multiply by the thousands!
Much like the interesting, although annoying, insects, negative thoughts can be tricky to get rid of. If you find yourself having several negative thoughts ruining your picnics or crawling through your toes while you are sleeping, the question is how to rid ourselves of them. We are going to use several mental versions of the ant killer above. In this case, it would be A.N.T. killer. The first is to acknowledge they are there. If you do your best to ignore the ants in your pantry, not only will they stay there, they may very well grow in number. Same holds true of our negative thoughts. Closing your eyes and saying over and over, “There are no ants.” will not get them out of your pantry or your head. What will? We are going to look at a few steps to take that are not only affective, but enjoyable as well.
First things first. Get a handle on the A.N.T.s you have. I recommend doing this for a the very minimum of 3 days. Carry a little pocket notebook with you and jot down any of the negative thoughts you have. We can’t begin to deal with something unless we have a concrete idea of what it is. At the end of each day take a look at your list. Are these thoughts true? Most of the time the answer is ‘no’. In this case the simple solution is every time you catch yourself thinking that thought, counter with a firm dismissal and replacement of a positive thought. An example would be if you are constantly saying to yourself, “I am so stupid!” or some version of that. As soon as the thought enters your mind, say to yourself, “I am not stupid! This is my mind’s weak attempt to hold me back from becoming all I might be!” This is not only true, but correcting yourself and reminding yourself that you are in control of your mind and not the other way around, will go a long way to turning things around. Follow this up with a more constructive thought. “I am intelligent in many ways and expanding my knowledge base daily.” In fact, spend some time thinking of what an empowering statement would be to you. Jot that down in your notebook you carry with you. This may seem awkward at first, but it will feel empowering soon enough.
Another tool is to surround yourself with things that are inspiring. As you can see, I am writing at Starbucks today and this is my screensaver. It is a picture of myself and my lovely lady, Margie. Not only does her cute face make me smile, but the knowledge that there is someone who loves me that I get to come home to is a very positive thought. I suggest using screensavers, as many of us look at them a million times a day, to inspire us. If that is a picture of the person you love, your dog, a special spot in nature or an inspiring quote. Do this on your phone, your computer and any other place you can think of. Print out pictures and place them on your desk, your mirror and here is a great idea, keep one on your dash in your car! We drive almost everywhere these days and having some inspiring picture to look at along with some ‘feel good’ music will make that journey an empowering one. Even if some A.N.T. tries to hitch a ride.
A few last thoughts about A.N.T. or automatic negative thoughts. Just like the insects, they are never going to be totally gone. One will always continue to pop up now and then and be dealt with, whether that means catching it and setting it free, or stomping on it and crushing it into submission. The next thing to remember is just like insects in your home, thoughts in your head are best dealt with quickly before they have a chance to establish themselves and start to grow. If you have an established colony of A.N.T.s in your head, know that it may take longer than if there were just a few strays. Also, remember after extermination, if you don’t keep on top of them they can come back and start another infestation. There are also many ways to get rid of ants, both the thoughts and the insects. Some work better than others and some work better in certain circumstances than others. We have looked at just a few in this brief article. I would love to hear your methods for getting rid of the automatic negative thoughts in your life. If you want to include something for the insects as well that wouldn’t hurt.