As per a recent analysis, an average human being thinks approximately 60,000 thoughts a day. Ironically 98% of these are the same thoughts that we have been habitually thinking. These could be positive / negative, right / wrong, pure / impure, good / bad. 

Our thoughts help us to interpret the world around us, describing what is happening, and trying to make sense of it. Without even realizing it, we assign meanings to everything happening around us. We might decide that something is pleasant or nasty, good or bad, dangerous or safe.

Negative self-talk is something we have all probably engaged in at some time or the other. When it starts to rear its ugly head regularly, it can lead to self-sabotage and can stop us from achieving our goals and dreams.

What goes on in your mind all day long can determine whether your behavior is self –promoting or self-defeating.

‘I am too stupid’, ‘nobody likes me’, ‘I’ll never get anything done’, ‘I won’t make it’ – such thoughts are negative guiding phrases.

When negative thoughts occur in a stressful situation, they may spontaneously start to develop about a wide variety of issues unrelated to the triggering event. At that point, negative thoughts may seem to take on a life of their own. It does not take any effort for them to occur. They seem to pop up automatically. They are called, ‘popcorn thoughts’ because of the way they seem to just ‘pop up’. These are the automatic negative thoughts. Notice that the acronym of Automatic Negative Thoughts is ANTs which is very apt as these thoughts swarm like ants at a picnic. Getting stung by one ant may be tolerable, but the combination of many stings is very painful. In the same way, one negative thought may be tolerable, but the combined effect of many negative thoughts can be very distressing.

So, ANTs are cynical, gloomy, and complaining thoughts that just march in all by themselves.

Characteristics of ANTs are: 

Automatic: They pop into your head without any effort on your part.

Distorted: They do not fit the facts.

Unhelpful: They keep you depressed, make it difficult to change, and stop you from getting what you want out of life.

Plausible: You accept them as facts, and it does not occur to you to question them.

Some of the ANT Species are: 

Always/Never Thinking: Thinking in words like always, never, no one, every time.

Focusing on the Negative: Seeing only the bad in a situation.

Fortune Telling: Predicting the worst possible outcome for a situation.

Mind Reading: Believing that you know what others are thinking, even though they have not told you.

Critical Self: Putting yourself down, self-criticism, blaming yourself for events or situations.  

Labeling: Attaching a negative label to yourself or someone else.

Blaming: Blaming someone else for your problems.

Black and White Thinking: Believing that something or someone can be only good or bad, right or wrong, rather than anything in-between.

Which of the above ANT drives your behavior?

Which thought is automatic?

Which is unhelpful?

Which is making you feel like a victim?

ANT is an easy pattern to fall into and a difficult one to break out of. But by being aware of these ANTs, you can ward off the effects of self-sabotage before it wears away your self-esteem. Start today, by identifying your sabotaging messages and behaviors, and put yourself on a path towards greater satisfaction and fulfillment.