Dr. Aaron T. Beck, MD, the founder of neurocognitive therapy coined the term Automatic Negative Thoughts and gave it the catchy acronym ANTs.
He concluded that ANTs sabotage our best self, and lead to a vicious circle of misery by creating a mindset that is variously unhappy or anxious or angry which feeds more negative thoughts.
Our Negative Thoughts
It is normal to have negative thoughts but there is no need to beat yourself up for it.
Negative thoughts helped our ancestors to survive by constantly being on the lookout for threats and fixing problems as they arose.
Our mind imagines things that could happen and we can prepare in an effort to keep us safe.
However, when our anticipation and imagination get out of hand making small problems bigger to catastrophic, our negative thoughts become stressful and affect our body.
When those thoughts and worries become more frequent and a habit, they nurture more thoughts like this.
ANTs can change brain function and create more negative neural pathways. They can decrease the feel-good hormones and neurotransmitters and accelerate the brain’s aging process.
All this affects our energy level, motivation, confidence and ability to advance at work, with our business, or sports and our ability to live a joyful life.
When Thoughts Become Habits
Most recent studies using fMRI brain scans found that the average human has 6,200 “thought worms” per day (Cognitive Neuroscience, Queens University, Kingston, Canada).
Various research conducted over the years has shown that our thoughts are 90-95% repetitive. We have almost the same thoughts today that we had yesterday and will have tomorrow.
If we do something often enough we create neural pathways. This is also true for our thoughts. The more we think or do something, the stronger the connections in the brain become.
Our negative thoughts create new negative thoughts and pathways.
Negative thoughts create habits that are not aligned with our goals and dreams.
How to Tackle the ANTs
As you can see ANTs can run our life. It is important to take charge of our thoughts. There are a variety of techniques that help to intercept the ANTs. For example:
- Increase your Awareness through regular Check-ins with yourself. Ask yourself, “What am I thinking?” Write down every negative thought on a running list. You will be surprised to find the same thoughts repeatedly.
- Start to embed “APTs” – create positive thoughts through positive self-talk and affirmations.
- Nurture your Mind and Body through meditation, a walk in nature, dancing, singing, yoga and/or regular exercise.
- Practice Gratitude – this alone can change your life. If you would like to learn more in-depth techniques on how to transform your ANTs into APTs so you can live a joyful life and realize much success, contact me.