How to squash ants…
September 15, 2012, 5:30 pm
Filed under: Behavior, Brain, Mind, Writing

We all have them from time to time, but for people who suffer with debilitating mental illness the onslaught of “ANTs” – automatic negative thoughts – can seem like an impossibility to surmount without appropriate clinical treatment, therapy or medication to restore balance.

People who suffer from depression, anxiety or other mood disorders experience one ANT after another, forming a gray veil in their perceptions, which make bonding, relationships and work greater challenges.

According to Dr. Daniel G. Amen, a neuropsychiatrist and author of Change Your Brain, Change Your Life, there are nine types of ANTs, some being “red ants” that are more harmful to one’s mental health and relationships.

1. Always/Never thinking – Thinking in words like always, never, no one, everyone, every time, everything

2. Focusing on the NEGATIVE (red ant) – seeing only the bad in a situation.

3. Fortune Telling (red ant) – Predicting the worst possible outcome to a situation.

4. Mind Reading (red ant) – Believing you know what others are thinking, even though they haven’t told you.

5. Thinking with your feelings – Believing negative feelings without ever questioning them.

6. Guilt Beating – Thinking in words like should, must, ought or have to.

7. Labeling – Attaching a negative label to yourself or to someone else.

8. Personalizing – Investing innocuous events with personal meaning.

9. Blaming (the most poisonous red ant) – Blaming someone else for your own problems.

How to avoid ANTs:

Whenever you notice an ANT, write it down so you can respond appropriately.

Surround yourself with people who provide positive bonding and encouragement. These people should be supportive and work in building you up and promoting your strengths.

Build people skills to enhance limbic bonds.

Recognize the importance of physical contact.

Surround yourself with great smells.

Build a library of wonderful memories. By calling up pleasant memories, people can tune in to healthy mental states. The brain takes on the same chemical patterns that were inputted at the time the healthy events occurred.

Try physical exercise. The deep limbic system has many endorphin receptors and exercise increases blood flow throughout the brain.

The deep limbic system of the brain needs fat in order to operate properly, so feed it omega-3 fatty acids like those found in fish. Protein is also essential. Snack on cheese, beans and nuts, too. Avoiding simple carbs like bread, pasta, cakes and candy will also help.


Functions of the deep limbic system

– sets emotional tone of mind

– filters external events through internal states (creates emotional coloring)

– tags events as internally important

– stores highly charged emotional memories

– modulates motivation

– controls appetite/sleep

– promotes bonding

– directly processes sense of smell

– modulates libido

Problems in system:

– moodiness, irratability, depression

– increased negative thinking

– negative perceptions of events

– decreased motivation

– flood of negative emotions

– appetite and sleep problems

– decreased/increased sexual responsiveness

– social isolation


4 Comments so far
Leave a comment

This blog was so informative. Knowing is half the battle. Thanks for posting.

Comment by Daidree Westbrook

First off I would like to say awesome blog! I had a quick
question which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind.

I was curious to know how you center yourself and
clear your mind prior to writing. I have had difficulty clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out.
I do enjoy writing but it just seems like the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually lost simply just trying to figure out how
to begin. Any recommendations or tips? Many thanks!

Comment by

Hey, thanks for stopping by and reading. Maybe you can do some free writes. Spend one to three minutes writing whatever pops into your mind – don’t hold back. Just let your thoughts flow onto the paper and don’t edit yourself. When your time is over you can go back to review and revise and figure out if there is any idea or concept worth retaining and expanding upon. This is a good practice to take when you’re trying to figure out what to write about or how to begin. You can use soothing music or a picture to inspire you.

Comment by simplyenjoy

[…] read a great post the other day “how to squash ants”, where ants are “automatic negative thoughts”.  Today Life hacker had something […]

Pingback by Changing – ThatDragon

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