THE MAIN THING …
Automatic Negative Thoughts. ANT for short.
We all have them.
Some of our ANTs have been with us since high school — a perfect breeding ground for ANTs if I may say so.
Thank goodness we’ve been able to rid ourselves of some pesky ones over the years just by getting old enough to know better.
Not all though. And frustratingly, we seem to gather new ANTs as we go through life. Ugh.
In the Interestingly segment below, I link to several articles to help us understand and manage our particular breed of ANTs. Maybe even exterminate the really troublesome ones.
But first, I wanted to share something with you.
I accidentally discovered something that works for me, and I figured something similar may work for you as well.
Lou’s Unintentional Way of Dealing With Her ANTs
For the last year and a half, I’ve been appropriating a process I learned in a creative writing class eons ago.
The objective is to encourage observation and increase our ability to notice things that can inspire or inform our writing.
The exercise: Jot down 10 things you notice every day, without any need to explain or say anything else about the thing you observed. Examples: A bright yellow car parked across the street; It’s 10:30 am and I’m hungry; Three birds have gathered outside my window and they’re making a ruckus.
As I said, I’ve been appropriating this exercise to jot down the thoughts that pass through my mind — without evaluating or making any judgment call about the thought whatsoever.
To facilitate this, I use an app called Day One. I’ve got this ‘10-things template’, basically a blank numbered list, and one of the first things I do every morning is start off a new list for the day.
I don’t only write down ANTs. I try and capture all manners of thought.
Upon reflection, I realized this practice has helped me deal with the negative chatter. This is what I’ve noticed after over a year of sustained practice:
- I’ve been able to get past negative thoughts faster. What’s working here, I think, is that the process of jotting it down removes the thought from my head. Basically, I’ve prevented it from taking up space and festering.
- Self-correcting the negative chatter is a bit easier. Even though I’m not evaluating the thought as I’m capturing it, just seeing the words allows me to spot the faulty thinking. Often, I would jot down a thought, and as soon as I finish, I’d hear myself say “That’s not true, Lou.”
- I have evidence of my recurring thought patterns. Seeing those patterns has been a gift. “Oh, wow. I always go there. Hmmm.”
- You know that saying, “You are not your thoughts.” Yep. This exercise-turned-habit has helped me make that a reality.
- We often worry about things that won’t ever happen. This daily habit certainly proved that point to me.
No matter what process you end up with, what’s important is that you find a way to manage those ANTs. The beauty of getting to midlife is that we’ve gotten to know ourselves really well by now! We know what trips us up and what gets us into spirals. It’s high time we develop just the right system that works for us so we’re not spending too much of our time in the muck of our negative thoughts.
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- Dr. Daniel Amen coined the phrase “Automatic Negative Thoughts” and outlined the 9 types of ANTs. Before we can stop these ANTs though, we have to first recognize what they are.
- 5 ways to stop automatic negative thoughts from taking control. Automatic means no pre-thinking was involved. So, stopping these will require thought-ful and deliberate mental shifts, one gradual step at a time.
- Licensed Professional Counsellor, Nancy Jane Smith, says we have these three ‘characters’ in our heads: the Monger, the BFF, and the Biggest Fan. The Biggest Fan is the one we all want! But it’s often the softest voice of the trio. Here’s how we can hear that voice better.
- Toxic positivity is real, and this is the antidote. “Raise your hand if you have ever heard, ‘Well at least . . .;’ ‘It could be worse;’ ‘Look on the bright side;’ or other expressions that are offered in response to real negative emotions. While it is well-intentioned, toxic positivity suppresses emotions which can lead to stronger negative emotions, such as anxiety and depression.”
- Video: The Person You Really Need to Marry | Terry McMillan | TEDx Talk. All I will say is that you ought to watch this. 😉 Whether you’re married or not. So worth the 14 minutes.
MULL IT OVER
“Only allow yourself to think negative thoughts and/or complain about anything for three minutes, three times a day.” — Karen Salmansohn
What’s your peskiest ANT? How have you successfully dealt with your ANTs?
I’d 🧡 love to hear from you!
BOOK NOTES ▿
The Happier Approach is a book for people who are tired of being a slave to their Monger, who want to break free of survival mode, and who want to start living, a more productive genuine life.
Psst: This is the book where you get to meet the three characters in your head: Monger, BFF, and your Biggest Fan!
REMEMBER THE TIME…
The top 5 shows twenty-five years ago, in order of popularity, are:
X Files (Mulder and Scully)
ER (Greene, Ross, Hathaway)
Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Sisko, Odo, Dax)
Frasier (Crane, Crane, and Crane)
Everybody Loves Raymond (Barone and fam).
I watched a lot of Ross and Greene, Mulder and Scully, and a few Cranes.
What were you watching?
Changing Our Lifestyle Thru Our Diets
We all know this. Sticking to a new diet is H.A.R.D. (I have tales to tell of personal failures!) But I think that when our desire to change diets is rooted in something other than to lose weight… something that’s more meaningful or important to us… there’s a better chance of the diet change sticking.
Former teacher, Shara Haberman is a great example of this. She was initially looking for a way to help her husband gain control of his diabetes. The more she researched, the more she realized she wanted to change her own diet. And today, she has fully transitioned to a plant-based diet. Her husband? Not quite 😊
Her transition story is the topic of the latest episode (Ep. 156). Listen or read the highlights here.
powered by coffee… and YOU
Briefing Notes is researched, written, and edited by me alone. I love doing this work and your support would mean the world to me. If you like reading or find value in the newsletter, I’d so much appreciate you subsidizing my coffee habit 😊 It helps with the research and the writing!
Florida lowered the age requirement for the vaccine and I got in!
First dose, ✔︎ I didn’t feel any major side effects. My arm just felt very heavy the following day.
Have you had your vaccine yet?
Here’s to a fantastic week ahead. Stay safe. Stay sane!
P.S. It’s the start of the 2nd quarter of 2021 already!?!? This year is flying by.