How to Eliminate Automatic Negative Thoughts

Write Down a Response

By Sherry Myers

This month we are looking at Step #8 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 8: Negative thoughts are mostly automatic or they "just happen." That is why I call these thoughts "Automatic Negative Thoughts" or ANTs. Think of these negative thoughts that invade your mind like ants that bother a couple at a picnic. One negative thought, like one ant at a picnic, is not a big problem. Two or three negative thoughts, like two or three ants at a picnic, becomes more irritating. Ten or twenty negative thoughts, like ten or twenty ants at a picnic, may cause the couple to pick up and leave the picnic. Whenever you notice these automatic negative thoughts or ANTs you need to crush them or they'll ruin your relationships, your self-esteem and your personal power. One way to crush these ANTs is to write them down and talk back to them. For example, if you think, "My husband never listens to me," write it down. Then write down a rational response; something like "He's not listening to me now, maybe he's distracted by something else. He often listens to me." When you write down negative thoughts and talk back to them, you take away their power and help yourself feel better. Some people tell me they have trouble talking back to these negative thoughts because they feel that they are lying to themselves. Initially, they believe that the thoughts that go through their mind are the truth. Remember, thoughts sometimes lie to you. It's important to check them out before you just believe them!
The same way that a person will cut back on calories or up their workout routine when they’ve put on a few pounds, knowing that those extra pounds add up quickly when not addressed, negative thoughts also have the ability to compound with negative results if not put into check. Writing down a negative thought gives us the chance to really inspect it and to evaluate its worth. Remember, each negative thought you disregard or turn around into a positive thought is one less ANT at the picnic!