top of page

NEGATIVE—The N in ANT


Remember ANTs are your AUTOMATIC NEGATIVE THOUGHTS. Does this chair seem colorful and inviting or cold and lonely?


NEGATIVE—Expressing or implying denial, disagreement, or refusal. An indication that a certain substance or condition is not present or does not exist. Negative thoughts are perceptions about yourself, others, or the world in general. These thoughts are characterized by negative expectations, and attributions, and are associated with unpleasant emotions and adverse behavioral, physiological and health outcomes.


NEGATIVE thoughts are like broken records. They repeat over and over in our head unless we challenge those thoughts.

NEGATIVE thoughts can happen for many different reasons. They usually stem from past experiences, anxiety of the present, or fear of the future.


Are you too NEGATIVE? Do you see the glass as half empty rather than half full? You may be surprised to learn that negativity is the brains default mode, that was based on survival. With our brains being hard wired for negativity it may be the reason why it’s so hard to stop being so negative.


As we watch the news it’s all hype or negative. Our minds are in survival mode. Will I survive the hurricane? Will my kids be bullied at school or approached with drugs. Will I get in a 10 car pile up on the highway, will the interest rates go so high I won’t be able to afford a house, will my stocks plummet and I become destitute? Will I be mugged or my house broke into? Indications point to these possibilities if you watch the news.

The brain has 2 sides to it. The right side is more involved with feelings, imagination, and intuition. The left side of the brain is more responsible for language, math and logic.

When it comes to negativity the two sides differ. The left side tends to be more positive, it is more involved with social connections and exploration. While the right side has a more negative orientation and is associated with isolation and self-preservation. It is more tied to your brain’s emotional center or limbic system. When your limbic systems is overactive it is associated with depression, which may be another reason why negativity is so common.


Interesting enough, the right side of our brain develops before the left side of our brains, another reason we can be hard wired for negativity. As a child the right side is telling them, you are hungry, hurt, or uncomfortable—CRY! So, the child cries as a response to survival mode, or negative input. When the left side starts to develop children learn new tools, such as language and logic to cope with the negative emotions. When I feel hungry, I don’t have to cry, I know that someone will feed me soon. I can use my words to tell someone I am hungry. However, abuse, neglect or other trauma can cloud a child’s emotions and overall outlook on life.


Our memories can also be slanted toward the negative. Have you ever wondered why two children can grow up in the same household, same conditions, and no matter if it was abusive, or loving the two siblings can have two different perspectives on life.

We have two types of memories; one is the subconscious or implicit memory. This is when you don’t have to think to remember how to do something. Button your shirt, ride a bike, or drive a car. This is also connected to you brain called the Amygdala. This plays a role in forming your emotional memories, such as those stemming from dangerous or threatening situations. These memories remain fixed.


When I was about 10 years old, I loved to climb trees. I loved to see how high I could climb and even in the tip top of the tree swaying, I didn’t have any fear. I was on top of the world! It was my escape. One afternoon, I went deep into our farm looking for my next tree climbing challenge. I found the perfect tree. I climbed higher and higher, there was one branch just above me I could barely reach. If I could just stretch up a little higher I could be pretty close to the top. I slide my foot into another branch at it’s base, and tried pushing myself up. My foot felt like it would slip so I wedged it in tighter. I had to use all my strength to come close to standing. When my fingertips were on the branch I thought I could just jump and grab the branch. Remember, no fear! What happened was my foot was wedged so tight I couldn’t budge it. I worked and worked to try to get my foot out of my shoe. My foot being at an awkward angle and wedged must have swelled. I was stuck. That’s when fear set in. It was late afternoon, no cell phones back then. My parents had no idea where I was, I could be anywhere as far as they knew. I even tried to hang a little from my foot but suddenly I had a fear of falling. It was several hours before my family did a search for me. No one else was a climber, so when they found me, I still had to wait for help to arrive. It was dark before they finally got me down. That memory was embedded into me. To this day, I have a fear of heights that I have been fighting. It wasn’t until a few years ago, when I was asked to examine my fear of heights that I even remembered what had happened to me, more than 50 years prior.

The second type of memory is called the explicit memory system. That’s when you consciously try to memorize something. Scripture, your times table, we used to know everyone’s phone number by heart. This type of memory is dependent on the hippocampus. Unlike the amygdala which tends to be ridged and fixed, the hippocampus is more changeable. People are able to acquire new knowledge and forget whatever is unimportant. That’s why my fear of heights grew from not being able to go into tall buildings, to elevators or balconies. I would even get sick watching someone else at the edge of a tall wall or cliff. Once my left side or explicit side caught up, the memory was already seared and until I challenged it, it was forged into my being. Only then could I over-ride my implicit side and change those fear-based memories.


What are some steps to manage NEGATIVITY?


1. Distance yourself from your thoughts—Remember our thoughts are automatic. You are not your thoughts, once you realize this you can put the negative noise in your head into perspective. One way is to give your mind a name. If your mind has a different name than yours, it helps differentiate it from you. “NOT TODAY LINDA!”


2. Divert your Attention—when your negative thoughts are looping through your head, distract yourself by engaging in something you love to do, try a crossword puzzle, suduko, listen to a podcast, play catch with a friend.


3. Practice Gratitude—Get in touch with what you’re thankful for. Keep a pad of paper nearby, whenever you are feeling down, write three things for which you are grateful. I do this every evening in my journal anyway. Keeps me focused, looking for and anticipating those gratitude’s.


4. Stop “shoulding” yourself—If you get caught up in the looping thoughts of I should do this, or I should have or could have scenarios break the habit! Kill that ANT. It serves no purpose. What did you learn? What did you miss? Those are the questions to ask. You have to notice and listen when you should yourself.


5. Anchor happy memories into your daily life—write down 10-20 of the best memories of your life and then anchor them to specific places in your home. Use all your senses. When you think of this happy time, what was it that you saw? What things could you hear? Are there certain smells you remember, what did you feel? What could you taste? Be specific. Whenever you feel upset, imagine walking through your home, reliving your happiest memories. My anchor could be my couch, when I picture or see my couch, I remember a specific happy memory. With a little practice you can train your brain to feel great, almost in an instant. I also have clients go to their happy place: imagine sitting in their most comfortable chair, breathing in their favorite sense, visualizing their favorite place and seeing themselves there, listening to their favorite sounds, and drinking or eating their favorite thing. Once you can picture yourself here, let your thoughts take you to your happy place.


With practice you can create a new response to negative thoughts so you can achieve a brighter more positive outlook.

5 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Comments


bottom of page