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Squashing Ants-Automatic Negative Thoughts

Updated on February 18, 2013

Must We Live With ANTS?

Negative thoughts are toxic to the body, mind and spirit. They build up and become the birthplace of poor health, fear, depression, loneliness, despair and many other illnesses. They zap energy and focus, drawing one into an anxious environment of instability and chaos. Automatic negative thoughts cause the mind to create a reality before it actually exists.

A person with a strong negative thought pattern might walk into a room and automatically think, “Oh there is Sharon. She does not like me. She never talks to me.” In reality Sharon may be shy, introvert or perhaps just is waiting for an opportunity to meet Miss Negative Thoughts. ANTS cause a person to always think the worst; I am not good enough, I can never do anything right, my work performance is inferior or any number of self deprecating statements.

Negative thoughts processes are habitual and can be changed, broken and retrained just like any other habit. Some people promote the “flee” or “ignore” mode. These do not work because to flee means one of afraid and trying to escape a powerful foe. Ignoring negative thoughts are impossible. Remember that old exercise where one is told not to think of a pink elephant? Of course it is impossible to think of anything else!

How do we squash ANTS and form a positive thought process? This can be accomplished through mental discipline and constant self encouragement. This is not to promote the idea that people should escape from all unpleasant thoughts and mental pictures. Indeed we must accept responsibility for our actions and the resulting consequences. These exercises restructure the automatic negative thought and replace it with a realistic picture of what is happening to us.

Do Not Allow or Accept Negative Thoughts

Remember the old adage to treat other people the way we want to be treated. Apply the same philosophy to yourself. Do not talk to yourself in a manner you would not allow anyone else to speak to you. Emotional abuse is not okay, even when you do it to yourself.

When negative words appear in your mind, escort them to the door and slam it behind them. Pretend it is an awful person being told to leave your home. “Goodbye Negative Nelly. You are not welcome here due to your bad behavior!”

Negative thought suddenly pop up front and center, ones such as “I cannot do this. I am an idiot compared to the others working on this project.”

Visualize yourself walking up to the person saying these things and putting up your hand, palm out. Say “Stop! That is not true. I have experience in this matter and can contribute a lot to this project.”

Let the negative thoughts come and write them down. Do not accept them; just allow them space on the paper and not in your mind. When they stop coming, crumple up the paper and throw it away, shred it or even burn it. The act of discarding them physically removes them mentally as well.

Replace ANTS With Positive Affirmations

Write a list of affirmations and plaster copies throughout your environment. Tape them to the mirror, beside the computer, on your desk at work, in the break room and any place you spend a lot of time. Here are some suggestions to get you started.

I am a strong and capable person who has a lot to offer.

My mistakes are not world changing and can be rectified.

Millions of other people achieve their goals and I can too.

I have come so far and achieved many successes.

When repeating affirmations it is important to believe what you are saying. The brain and heart gets used to hearing meaningless talk so why should they believe you now? For that moment in time, trust in those positive words and phrases.

Why does a person even become a negative thinker in the first place? Usually it is a lack of self confidence or even self loathing that goes back to childhood. If a child is told he or she will never do anything right, he/she eventually begins to believe it. These are groundless lies that disguise themselves as truths in one’s mind. The darkness of lies can always be overturned by the light of truth once they are recognized as imposters.

When a negative thought enter and tries to plant a seed, ask questions to ascertain the real facts about the issue. Some retraining questions might be:

Is that really the truth? Do I have any evidence of this fact or is this negative idea just an old habit?

How does this make me feel? Are the resulting emotions pleasant? Write down every sensation, physical or emotional. Divide the positive and negative feelings like a Pro and Con list. The results will be clearly defined.

Now reverse those thoughts to be positive. Make a list of these also. Read them aloud and believe every word of it. You will find that every time the ANT was just a habitual way of thinking and contained no grounding facts.

Every negative thought is focused on the failures or insecurities in the past or fear of repeating the same in the future. The future will be consequences of today’s choices so there is no fear of it when decisions are intentional and made to form a future of our own choosing.

The past is over and done, can never be changed. Do not allow it to be a ball and chain that is dragged along every step of the way. If the ANTS try to pull the past into the present, refuse to allow them manifestation.

A simple but effective exercise is to imagine yourself on a boat, let’s say a Lake Tahoe cruise. Once in the middle of that cold, deep lake lift the past up and over the railing and toss it overboard. Then anytime it tries to return, simple say aloud, “The burden of my past was cast overboard and is buried under tons of water. Therefore it cannot come back. I am not that man/woman anymore.”

My own personal way to bury my past is to leave it at the foot of the Cross. I am a Christian and know how my faith changed everything. So if ANTS try to make me pick up the mistakes in my past, I simply say, “My past is the burden I left at the cross.” Each person is different and will need to devise an individual way to leave the past behind. That baggage called “My Past” is toxic so this is a crucial step in the recovery process.

Moods play a big part in how thoughts are processed. When a person spends too much time indoors, alone, watching depressing movies or television shows, he or she has fewer automatic positive thoughts. Get outside, take a walk, spend time with other people and refuse to talk about anything but good things. It all makes a difference in retraining the mind to see the bright, positive light.

Go squash some ants!

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Are You Constantly Plagued With Automatic Negative Thoughts?

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  • Hyphenbird profile imageAUTHOR

    Brenda Barnes 

    2 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Well hello Paula. It really is a pleasure to be seeing movement on HubPages again. Now I miss being here even more. Thank yu for the wonderful comment ad input.Congratulations on your retirement. Being in that atmosphere would be very streeeful. It is encouraging to hear that many women were able to make the change to a better, safer and more positive life.

    Enjoy your retirememnt. I will see you around here. I am working on a new article.

  • fpherj48 profile image


    2 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

    Brenda....So glad this article is making the rounds again. You tell it like it is and do it so well! This brought me back to the last year before I retired from the clinic.

    I ran the Tuesday evening Think Tank Group, for women coming out of abusive and otherwise ugly relationships. The one hour sessions wore me down to a frazzle (How's THAT for negative!), seriously, what I mean to say is that teaching grown women who have had their self-esteem beaten down to the ground, learn to turn it all around, is.....well, I'll bet I don't need to tell you what a herculean task it is.

    Negativity, self-doubt, fear, name it. However, the good news is that the majority were able to have a light bulb moment and begin to see the light they needed to find their way to a better and more secure life. Those were the moments I would absolutely love my job & would be re-energized for the next group.

    To this day, I will still hear from a few of these young women, which can make my day to know they're doing so well and feeling so "Positive."

    Wonderful article Brenda! Have a great week-end. Paula

  • Hyphenbird profile imageAUTHOR

    Brenda Barnes 

    2 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Hello dear Audrey. Being around anyone with dementia can be stressful. When the illness manifests in constant negativity, it can be overwhelming. I am so sorry about your sister and pleased you found my ANTS Hub helpful. I still remember when I learned about Automatic Negative Thoughts and how to squash them. I pray you are exposed to enough positive coversations that you have help overcoming the ANTS. Bless you Audrey.

  • vocalcoach profile image

    Audrey Hunt 

    2 years ago from Idyllwild Ca.

    I am by nature a positive person. But lately I've been dealing with a person living with dementia - my sister. Most of the time her world is filled with repeated drama surrounded by negativity. It's beginning to affect me. I so dislike negative conversations and thoughts.

    I needed your helpful hub. And with all you've been through just look at you - so courageous and beautiful!

    Thanks Brenda.


  • Hyphenbird profile imageAUTHOR

    Brenda Barnes 

    6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Thank you MsDora. These thoughts just pop up. We don't need to allow them root though. I am pleased this was interesting and useful for you.

  • Hyphenbird profile imageAUTHOR

    Brenda Barnes 

    6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Hello mollymeadows. Thank you for your encouragement. You are right. We all struggle sometimes. The ones who use faith emerge victorious. I wish everyone did. It is always good to see you at my Hubs.

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 

    6 years ago from The Caribbean

    Great hub! Referring to the negative thoughts as automatic, puts a whole new spin on things, and makes it a whole new challenge. Thanks for this presentation.

  • mollymeadows profile image

    Mary Strain 

    6 years ago from The Shire

    I enjoyed this, Hyph. I think everyone wrestles with doubt and fear at one time or another. Thank you for the encouragement to replace those negative thoughts with faith. And I second your experience: leaving them with God is the best way to get rid of them. Good advice!

  • suzettenaples profile image

    Suzette Walker 

    6 years ago from Taos, NM

    Hyph: I can't even imagine the woman I know you as having a negative thought. You always are so positive in your comments and you have a great outlook on life. I'm glad you conquered any negativity you felt you had. So, sad about mckbirdbks, but I understand completely - I will miss his story series - it was always wonderful to look forward to. So far I'm enjoying the substituting and you take care also.

  • Hyphenbird profile imageAUTHOR

    Brenda Barnes 

    6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Hello suzetnaples. I loved writing this Hub. As a person who has recovered from the habit of negative thoughts, I realize the importance. I am so pleased you like it. That makes my day.

    Mckbirdbks has left HubPages. Like many of us, it did not provide the wished for income and while we love the HP members and followers, it is difficult to find time to write just for pleasure. You can find him on Facebook though he seldom is on there either.

    Take care and enjoy the substitute teaching. Hyph

  • suzettenaples profile image

    Suzette Walker 

    6 years ago from Taos, NM

    Hyphen: I just tried to go to mckbirdbks and there his no content. What has happened?

  • suzettenaples profile image

    Suzette Walker 

    6 years ago from Taos, NM

    Great hub, Hyphen! I so enjoyed reading this. Your suggestions and advice are right on target. I try to think positive thoughts daily. Voted up and shared. It is so good to read a Hyphenbird hub again. I have been busy substitute teaching and I haven't been on HP as much. I hope all is well with you and 2013 is a great year for you.

  • Hyphenbird profile imageAUTHOR

    Brenda Barnes 

    6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Hello teaches. Thank yo very much. Without my Savior, I literally would be dead now. He has given me so many ways to walk through this life and be happy while I am here. Bless you.

  • teaches12345 profile image

    Dianna Mendez 

    6 years ago

    Thanks for the advice and I love your personal reflection on how your faith has helped you to form positive thinking. It is the best practice.

  • Hyphenbird profile imageAUTHOR

    Brenda Barnes 

    6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Hello macteacher. I was the same way. It truly is an effort to retrain the mind to think and accept positive thoughts. Prayer definitely helps. Thank you for stopping by and leaving such great comments.

  • macteacher profile image

    Wendy Golden 

    6 years ago from New York

    Great Hub and very uplifting. I used to get carried away with negative thoughts, now I have to mentally remind myself: "Do not give that thought any energy." Once I realize what I'm doing - it becomes easier to think of other things. I think a lot of negative thinking is automatic. In Buddhism they talk of mindfulness and awareness. Whatever your religion, faith and prayer definitely help. Thanks for a thoughtful hub. :-)

  • Hyphenbird profile imageAUTHOR

    Brenda Barnes 

    6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Thank you friends. I am so pleased this Hub is touching people and helping us all to let go of toxic, negative thoughts. I really appreciate your encouragement and support.

  • Fossillady profile image


    6 years ago from Saugatuck Michigan

    Wonderfully helpful Bird, negative thoughts manifest reality and we have the power to change that. It's very exciting, really. I like the methods you suggested and just the subject itself needs to be dealt with in us all. Hugs and blessings, Kathi :O)

  • aviannovice profile image

    Deb Hirt 

    6 years ago from Stillwater, OK

    This makes a lot of sense on how to quell negative thoughts. Great job on this piece.

  • Movie Master profile image

    Movie Master 

    6 years ago from United Kingdom

    What a positive and helpful hub - thank you.

    I love the way you presented this, voted up.

    Best wishes Lesley

  • Alastar Packer profile image

    Alastar Packer 

    6 years ago from North Carolina

    What a fine, and to be frank about it, timely article on negative thinking, Hyph. People with a negative mind against themselves or others will never succeed because their thoughts and feelings influence their environment. All achievements will be negative. You've offered excellent ways as Marie says above to repair one's self-esteem and bring forth the positive that is inherent in one to begin with. And yes, Mike's illustrations are very cool!

  • Hyphenbird profile imageAUTHOR

    Brenda Barnes 

    6 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

    Thank you all. I appreciate each and every one so much. This subject has been dear to my heart for a while now. I never had time to write the Hub and finally decided to just make time. Those ANTS were making me mad. lol Thanks for all the wonderful comments and support. May your picnics forever be ant free!

  • marcoujor profile image

    Maria Jordan 

    6 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

    Dear Hyph,

    This is an uplifting piece that describes in a very meaningful way the core concepts of cognitive behavioral therapy. You have offered explanations and strategies for maintaining... repairing our self esteem, showing that we have the inner strength and power to be our own best therapist.

    The illustrations by mckbirdbks are wonderful.

    Voted UP and UABI. Hugs, Maria

  • always exploring profile image

    Ruby Jean Richert 

    6 years ago from Southern Illinois

    Your advice is always so uplifting. I will remember the cruise and tossing any negative thoughts overboard. I was plagued with doubt when i first started writing and still have self-doubt at times. Thank you for a very positive hub..Hugs..

  • PegCole17 profile image

    Peg Cole 

    6 years ago from Northeast of Dallas, Texas

    Perfect day to find this uplifting and thought provoking hub, Hyphen. I am often plagued by the negativity of those with whom I interact and I struggle every day to overcome it. It does rob you of your joy and that is just not acceptable. I love your solution, to lay down the burden at the foot of the Cross. Nightly I pray to be surrounded by the Holy Spirit to protect me from these negative influences. Absolutely great illustration and positive reinforcement that we need a reminder to follow this philosophy every day. Mckbirdbks is a great artist and you are a wonderful positive influence. Love your way. Peg

  • lilyfly profile image

    Lillian K. Staats 

    6 years ago from Wasilla, Alaska

    Well, this was much needed, and I was in the percentile of 9% that is worn out by negative thoughts. This, I think is similar to the Tony Robbins tapes I listened to for years. So, I'll read this again, and get out my Tony tapes, because I've got some work to do!!!! Great hub, gal! Love yaz, lily

  • MartieCoetser profile image

    Martie Coetser 

    6 years ago from South Africa

    Excellent hub about negative thoughts and how to end it. It it hard work to turn a negative thought pattern to positive again, but every effort brings one nearer to home.

  • Bumpsysmum profile image


    6 years ago from Cambridgeshire

    Well, I am going to read this again later, more slowly and take it all in. I am plagued with ANTs at the moment and need to haul myself out of it. It's all a result of 2 bad years of poor health and other issues, but all in all I don't really have much to complain about. This will help I have no doubt. Thanks for this my friend, voted up, useful, interesting and awesome. Great Hub.

  • Eiddwen profile image


    6 years ago from Wales

    A wonderful hub Brenda and I voted 'never' even though there may be the occasional negative one very now and then. Thanks for sharing this great read. Enjoy your day.


  • Pamela99 profile image

    Pamela Oglesby 

    6 years ago from Sunny Florida

    I really like this hub as I agree with you 100%. Negative thoughts are something I try to avoid, but they do crop up now and then. I also leave the past at the foot of the cross. I love your suggestions and will incorporate some of them in my daily life. Thanks.

  • Mhatter99 profile image

    Martin Kloess 

    6 years ago from San Francisco

    Thank you for this. We didn't call it ANTS, but at my oil company we were trained not to give any energy to negatives. It was impossible to bring this home. Ironically the goal was to get your money. It worked extremely well

  • peachpurple profile image


    6 years ago from Home Sweet Home

    wonderful hubs. I love the ants border though.... I am more prone to have negative thoughts.. Thanks for the hubs. Voted interesting

  • lambservant profile image

    Lori Colbo 

    6 years ago from Pacific Northwest

    Wonderful. A + HB. I love the cruise ship although like you I go to the cross. Recently someone said that friend told her to leave it at the cross, and she told them because she has a tendency go back and retrieve it that she now mentally goes the cross with Superglue.

    Someone once told me, "Don't believe everything you think!" Good advice. I have struggled with this all my life and am finally at a place where I can see the truth from a lie most of the time. I also heard a term the other day that really spoke to me about when we fail at something. The term was "The dignity of failure." When I fail I ask God, what can I learn from this? Sometimes I learn what not to do. Sometimes I learn I need more practice or more tools or to ask for help. Sometimes I need to learn perseverance. Sometimes its "Well I didn't get this right, but that doesn't mean I have lessened in God's eyes. What else can I try?"

    When my thoughts start taking a negative turn about myself I read Psalm 139, a psalm about how God knit us together in our mothers womb and how carefully and lovingly he created us and how he never leaves us. He doesn't leave us because we are of great value to him. We are worth (not worthy) what he did on the cross, which was to take the punishment for our nasty sins.

    I also love to meditate on Philiipians 4:8 when my thoughts about life get dark:

    Finally, brothers, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of fair sounding, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy - meditate on these things.

  • Rosemay50 profile image

    Rosemary Sadler 

    6 years ago from Hawkes Bay - NewZealand

    What a wonderfully positive hub. I liked how you presented this concept. I think I'll book myself a lake cruise.

    Great advice Hyphen that would be helpful to many.

  • Becky Katz profile image

    Becky Katz 

    6 years ago from Hereford, AZ

    I get my negative thoughts down and then my husband does his thing. I have renamed him Mr. Negative. I try to retrain him but he has a problem that does not allow that. Wonderful hub about important information.

  • billybuc profile image

    Bill Holland 

    6 years ago from Olympia, WA

    Well, I voted "never" on the poll, but only because I had no other option. I am a positive person 90% of the time, but like everyone else I do have my moments when negativity overrides my nature.

    Great suggestions. I'll hang with you any old day. :)

  • mckbirdbks profile image


    6 years ago from Emerald Wells, Just off the crossroads,Texas

    Hello Hyphen, this is such a hub rich in positive information. This isformation needs to be read by so many people. What a wonderful idea in how you presented this. Now I am off to look for a can of ant spray, a shoe is just not going to do it.


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