Break free from self-sabotaging ANTs — automatic negative thoughts
The first step to disarming ANTs is to take a mental step back and view your thoughts as understandable but ultimately unhelpful. Beyond that, Samson offers this advice to escape from ANTs:
- Catch the thought. Notice how you frame what happens to you. “Anytime you use a word that’s absolute, thinking something is ‘totally’ this or that, remind yourself that it can’t be,” she says.
- Write it down. Sometimes seeing your thoughts on paper — which engages a different part of your brain — can spur you to evaluate them more effectively, she says.
- Examine the evidence for and against your thoughts. If you’ve been laid off, are you really an idiot who can’t hold a job? The facts might state differently: you have a college degree and have held several jobs long-term. “Realizing this, it’s still disappointing to be laid off, but without the same downward cascade that ‘it’s over’ and things will never change,” Samson says.
It can take time to reverse long-held ANTs, Samson says. Be patient. “It depends on how pervasive they are and how often you catch your thoughts and restructure them,” she adds. “Many would say it’s a matter of practice, and if you’re diligent, you’ll pick up on it quicker. You get to a point where you notice when you’re falling into those traps.”