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Posted by Daniel Amen, MD

It’s possible to think positively if you KILL YOUR ANTS!

We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with fear and bad news that triggers our automatic negative thinking—ANTS! Need proof? Just turn on the TV or cruise through the net. Doom and gloom stories dominate the headlines—because fear makes us pay attention.

In fact, our brains are wired to focus on the negative in order to avoid things that might hurt us. Fear definitely serves a purpose, but what happens when all we seem to focus on are negative thoughts? Bad things. Take a look at these compelling facts:

  • Every thought you have releases chemicals in the brain.
  • Hopeful thoughts release chemicals that help you feel happy and calm.
  • Negative thoughts release chemicals that make you feel stressed and sad.

If what you bring your attention to determines how you feel and act, focusing too much on negative thoughts can lead to destructive behaviors—behaviors that can ruin your important relationships and ruin your mind. Enough of the bad news. There is good news! You can learn how to kill your automatic negative thoughts (ANTs) and focus on the positive.

3 steps to kill those ANTs:

1. Write it down. When those automatic negative thoughts start tumbling around in your mind, write them down to clearly identify them.

2. Investigate. Ask yourself, are these thoughts even true? Uninvestigated thoughts can lead us to act in harmful ways.

3. Talk back. If you discover that these negative thoughts are false, talk back to them! Tell these thoughts you know they aren’t true!

Practice these steps each time you feel automatic thoughts entering your brain. By labeling, investigating, and then talking back to your automatic negative thoughts, you’ll turn your mind into "an ANT ghost town."

Dr. Daniel Amen is a co-founder of The Daniel Plan, physician, double-board certified psychiatrist, and a Distinguished Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, neuroscientist, and nine-time New York Times best selling author.  He is the founder and medical director of Amen Clinics in Newport Beach and San Francisco, CA; Bellevue, WA; Reston, VA; Atlanta, GA; and New York City, NY.  Dr. Amen’s extensive research and innovative approach to optimizing the brain has helped missions of people worldwide.

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