How to Eliminate Automatic Negative Thoughts

How the Body Reacts

by Sherry Myers

This month we are looking at Step #4 in the series on step-by-step thinking principles used by Daniel G. Amen, MD in his article on ANT THERAPY (eradicating Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS)).

Step# 4: Your body reacts to every thought you have.

Polygraphs show us this.  When the administrator of a lie detector test asks a person questions, the subject’s body reacts differently to guilt and innocence.  If the person has done the thing they’re being asked about, their heart rate increases and their palms become sweaty.  If the person did not commit the act they’re being questioned about, their heart rate and breathing slow as their hands become warmer.  Stress increases health risk, but peace and relaxation reduce health risk.

Learning to recognize your stress triggers can be beneficial.  Knowing your triggers can help you to reduce their frequency or make a plan to avoid or lessen the impact that they have on you.  For example: A working mother who feels overwhelmed with the responsibilities of working, raising a child, and managing her household may find it beneficial to ask a friend or relatives for help.  Planning “me time” while a trustworthy friend babysits can give you peace of mind while you rest, shop, go for a run, or have dinner with friends.  It’s important to give yourself an hour or an afternoon to remember who you are – without the other titles in your life, such as boss/employee, wife, and mother.

A man working to provide for his growing family may stress about the financial responsibility coupled with all of the things he needs to do around the house or with the landscaping.  Making budget cuts can allow the family to live within their means, or hiring a lawn care service can help to alleviate his stress.

Having a positive attitude can also help to combat stress.  Incorporating more time into your schedule for enjoyable activities and surrounding yourself with positive people are both ways to capture and sustain personal positivity.  Eat well, make sure you get enough rest, spend time with friends (or alone, if that recharges you), “date” your spouse…  And don’t forget to exercise which helps the brain to function and releases endorphins – making you feel like you can do anything!

You have more control over your body and health then you realize.  When you take control of your environment and activities, you are actually taking control of your thoughts and your body’s reaction to them.