ANTs are those Automatic Negative Thoughts that we so often allow to run in the background of our minds. ANTs are the output of our internal critic, the chatter of what Buddha called the monkey mind.

ANTs are

– Judging thoughts we have of others and ourselves

– A tendency to only see the threat or bad in a situation

– Catastrophizing: fearing and predicting the worst possible outcome

– Defensive mind reading: believing that you know others’ intent without bothering to ask; frequently we give ourselves the benefit of our best intentions whether actualized or not and yet judge others by the most threatening interpretation of their actions and inactions

– Guilt whipping: mentally using words such as should, must, ought, or have to

– Over-personalizing: investing innocuous events with personal meaning; most of us would stop worrying about what others thought of us if we knew how infrequently their thoughts are focused on us!

– Blaming thoughts: shifting responsibility to others for our problems, frustrations, and failures.

Realize that in one sense your thoughts are authentic. Thoughts generate both emotions and actions and both have consequences in the real world outside your head. The best way to train your thoughts is to shift your paradigm, change your world view, modify your life story. The way you look at the world impacts your world profoundly. It is hard to come across as a warm, open, kind, helpful, friendly person (the person others enjoy being around, like to help) if you see yourself constantly as the helpless victim of a mean and hostile universe.

Personally, I find monkey mind chatter a daily challenge. The person in front of me at Starbucks who doesn’t know her order, the individual who doesn’t have his change ready at the supermarket, Alan Greenspan for not knowing an economy-wrecking bubble when it was all around him. The list of potential irritants is infinite, the ability to destroy my peace of mind is boundless, if I agree to play along.

My thoughts are the one thing I can control. Not saying it is easy, just that it can be done. Catch yourself thinking an ANT, substitute a positive affirmation or think a grateful thought from your list of blessings. “I see the best in everyone and every situation.” “I am a good finder.” “I am a radiant optimist; I carry the sun in my pocket.” Or “I have my health, my friends, my family, my freedom. What else matters? All is well, life is good.”

One of my favorite ways to chase away an ANT directed at another human being is to remind myself that “I’ve been there myself,” or “There but for the grace of God go I.” Achieving peace of mind and gentle, helpful, constructive thoughts is a life-long process. Just as physical fitness requires ongoing exercise, so do mental muscles need to be refreshed and continually reinforced. Accept and expect it as part of the process. Journal faithfully, read inspirational literature frequently, seek out the company of positive people continuously.

Closing quote:

“From forgiving thoughts a forgiving world emerges.” — “A Course in Miracles”