Your thoughts have tremendous power. They can inspire fear and prevent you from taking action. They can ruin your day. They can even harm relationships. Thoughts can make you self destructive. They can also help you achieve your goals, make new friends and enjoy a rewarding day. Yes, your thoughts have this much power – if you give it to them.
One of the most pervasive types of thoughts is called ANTS. It’s a lovely acronym for Automatic Negative Thoughts. They’re those negative thoughts that seem to pop up and ruin a perfectly good day. Here are some examples of ANTS.
You turn in a project. The feedback is 99% positive. However, instead of focusing on the positive comments you dwell on the one negative comment.
Your friend/spouse/co-worker is in a bad mood. You personalize it and feel as if you must have done something to cause that bad mood.
You leave the house and wonder if you remembered to lock the back door. All day long you can’t help but feel like when you get home all of your belongings will have been stolen and your home destroyed.
Your pants feel tight when you get dressed in the morning. You thus think thoughts like, “I’m so fat,” or “I’ll never lose weight, I’m a failure.”
These are all examples of ANTS. You didn’t intentionally invite them into your mind and yet there they are. They’re also examples of types of ANTS: personalizing, catastrophe, emotional reasoning and so on.
So how do you stop these unwanted and unhelpful thoughts?
#1 The first step is to recognize them. Becoming aware of your thoughts is tricky. Practice and patience are required. Consider setting your watch alarm to notify you every hour or two throughout your day. When the alarm beeps, stop and pay attention to your thoughts. Practice this for a day or two. Learn to become aware of your thoughts.
#2 With awareness comes power. Once you learn to become aware of your thoughts you can then change them. There are many ways to accomplish this.
Replace a negative thought with a positive one or an affirmation.
For example, you think you’ve left the back door open and your stuff is going to be stolen. Replace that thought with, “I take good care of my home. I trust that I remembered to lock the door. Everything will be just fine.”
Analyze the reason why you’re having a negative thought. Ask yourself if the thought is true. If so, why do you believe it to be true?
Accept the thought and let it go. Accept that negative thoughts come into our mind. Take mental note of the thought and then let it go. You might create a visualization to let go of the ANT. An easy visualization is to imagine the thought actually is an ant and stomp on it. Then you can walk away and leave the ant behind. A more peaceful visualization, if you’re opposed to killing bugs, might be to place the negative thought in a balloon. Imagine releasing the balloon up into the sky.
Above all else, don’t judge yourself for having negative thoughts. Simply learn to become aware of them, realize their falsehood and let them go.