Hopefully you've had a chance to read the first ANTS post. If not, go check it out before continuing!
A quick review of Daniel Amen's steps before moving on:
How to Get Rid of ANTS
- Realize your thoughts are real.
- Notice how negative thoughts impact your body.
- Notice how positive thoughts impact your body.
- Notice how every single thought impacts your body.
Now that we've taken some time to be mindful of how our bodies feel when we think certain things, it's time to move on to the game-changers.
- Consider all those negative thoughts to be pollution- literally poison to your wellbeing. That changes things, right? Instead of not paying much attention to your thoughts, you've decided to regard those negative thoughts as the enemy. They are doing nothing to serve you.
- Being to realize that your ANTS aren't to be trusted- they are not objective! As Amen notes, "you don't have to believe every thought that goes through your head" (p. 59). Yes, your thoughts are real. But that doesn't mean they are true.
- Good news! You have the power to talk back to the ANTS. If they are taking over your mind, you can choose to answer them with positive thoughts, or at least more realistic thoughts. A lot of ANTS are catastrophic- worse case scenario. So, if the ANT is telling you "You will never get into the right graduate school. You don't have what it takes," you can choose to respond to the ANT by saying "I do have what it takes to get into graduate school- even if I'm not admitted to my #1 school, I'm applying to several other schools. Plus, I am so much more than where I go to school."
- The finals step is extermination! This is where you can really go to town by attacking those ANTS. You realize the ANTS are lying to you, and you answer them back. Every time, until the process becomes automatic. Of course, there are many different kinds of ANTS, so you can practice different ways of responding, depending on what the ANT is saying to you.
Give these steps a try, and let me know how it goes! Oftentimes it is helpful to have a therapist walk with you through these steps. Negative thought patterns are a big deal- I would be honored to help you exterminate those ANTS.
Source: Amen, D.G. (1998). Change your brain, change your life: The breakthrough program for conquering anxiety, depression, obsessiveness, anger, and impulsiveness. New York: Three Rivers Press.