Squashing your ANTs (Automatic Negative Thoughts)

In the words of many a Bachelorette or Bachelor, I am “in my head” WAY too much.

If seven positive comments are voiced  – sandwiching in a single halfway negative comment – guess where my brain will go?

The Bible says, “As a man thinketh in his heart, so is he.”  Proverbs 23:7.

Well I am fed up with thinketh-ing Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs)!  It’s time to squash these longstanding companions.

Dr. Timothy Sharp of the Happiness Institute tells us that this is indeed possible.  The first step, he says, is to identify our ANTs.   He provides the following examples.

  • Overgeneralization –  The interview did not go well…. I’ll never get a job.
  • Filtering – My boss gave positive feedback; but she also said I have to work on ___…..she thinks I’m hopeless.
  • Black and White Thinking – There’s nothing good about this job.  I am a terrible parent, friend, wife.
  • Personalizing – She didn’t smile at me…..I made her mad.
  • Catastrophising – My daughter didn’t return my text….she is home alone.
  • Mind Reading – He thinks I am an idiot, a failure.
  • Fortune Telling –  I will bomb the presentation.
  • Should’s – I should be happy all the time.  I shouldn’t feel sad.


The Georgetown Center for Child and Human Development suggests that after identifying our ANTs, we talk back.  (Click here for their tip sheet, the content of which is paraphrased below.)

So, here goes.

Hey Black and White Thoughts!   Start thinking in shades of gray.  Evaluate situations on a scale of 0-10 and think about partial success and areas of improvement.

Hey, Filterer and Should’s!   Be kind to yourself – as to a friend.  Review the day’s events and focus on all of the positive things that went right. For every negative thing — focus on one positive thing.

Look here, Overgeneralizer and Catastrophiser!  A single negative event doesn’t mean it will last forever. Take the event for what it is and don’t let your mind go astray.

Come back here, Mind Readers and Fortune Tellers!  Evaluate the situation to figure out if you really have responsibility for the results. Identify outside factors that may be impacting the outcome.  Question your assessment and acknowledge what you are responsible for.


The Bible also advocates talking back.  David in the Psalms questioned,  “Why are you so downcast, Oh my soul?”  Then he gives his soul a lecture, “Put your hope in God!”

“For I will yet praise him my Savior and my God!  God is the health of my countenance.”

“THIS is the day that the Lord hath made; I WILL rejoice and be glad in it!”


Did you hear that, ANTs?


What thinketh you, now?




King James Bible
Why art thou cast down, O my soul? and why art thou disquieted within me? hope in God: for I shall yet praise him, who is the health of my countenance, and my God.






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