Often times in our daily lives, we find ourselves plagued with negative thoughts. "So and so doesn't like me", "I'm not good enough"... these thoughts become the mantras we repeat in our heads day after day. The automatic thinking of these negative thoughts are called ANTs. According to Daniel G. Amen, M.D., award-winning physician and psychiatrist, there are seven types of Automatic Negative Thinking: Always or Never Thinking, Focusing on the Negative, Fortune Telling, Mind Reading, Thinking with your Feelings, Guilt Beatings, Labeling, Personalization, and Blame. A few of these - Focusing on the Negative, Fortune Telling, Mind Reading, and the worst one, Blame - are labeled as 'Red ANTs' because they’re the worst and most harmful to the human mind.
Over time, this automatic negative thinking can have a significant impact on our lives. These thoughts make it drastically more difficult to enjoy every day activities and can even change the way we feel as a whole. This can lead to mood disorders such as clinical or manic depression. This drastic change in mood can also cause us to alienate ourselves from people, thus causing our social lives to suffer as well. On the other hand, positive and optimistic thoughts have the opposite effect. Instead of having a detrimental effect on one's quality of life, thinking positively can cause increases in self-esteem, social skills, and general functioning.
It is entirely possible to heal our deep limbic systems and rid ourselves of these automatic negative thoughts. Dr. Amen created a seven step system of realization that teaches one how to overcome these thoughts.
The first step is becoming aware of the fact that thoughts are very much real, and can control our actions and behaviors. The second and third steps deal with recognizing that angry thoughts and good thoughts cause negative and positive chemical reactions in the body, respectively. These chemicals can cause us to feel bad and depressed or uplifted and happy. The fourth step is realizing that our body has reactions to every thought that courses through our minds. The evidence of this shows up in multiple forms, whether it be our blood pressure, heart rate, or our body temperature. Step five is realizing that thoughts hold power, and thus have the ability to inspire emotion or action, such as shouts of anger or tears of sorrow. Steps six and seven deal with realizing that thoughts are typically automatic and are things that just occur, unless we condition them. This is why it is important for us to challenge our own thinking and shift it towards a positive light. The final step explains that our most common automatic thoughts are often negative thoughts, and can often be the most invasive.
Dr. Amen's lessons teach us that, using his steps of realization, it is entirely possible to begin feeding our 'ANTeaters' with positive thoughts, and thus, begin to improve our lives and ways of thinking.