3 Ways to get Rid of Negative Thoughts – ANTs in Your Brain Will Shock You!

Not too long ago I was on the phone with my friend and life coach, Laurie Gerber. I was sharing some of my doubts about an upcoming book project I am planning with my literary agent. Actually, I was somewhere between sharing and spilling my anxiety out all over the place – with a little whining in there, I’m sure.

Laurie, who happens to be pregnant and loves hypnobirthing, in her matter of fact and loving way, called me out on my roll of self-doubt and said, “Girl, you need a hypnobirthing class!” I laughed at the thought of me, at 48, with 4 grown kids and 2 grandkids, being pregnant and actually needing a hypnobirthing class. But then my mind quickly shifted to the idea of hypnobirthing ourselves through times of overwhelming challenges, new and scary transitions, self-doubt, and really any other obstacles we have to overcome.

You see, hypnobirthing is about making mindset shift. We reframe the internalized notions we have about birth as unbearably painful, dangerous, and impossible to do naturally, into a positive way of looking at ourselves in relationship to birth – as skilled, capable, and able to ride the intensity of the waves (i.e., contractions) to the other shore. And we gain skills and tools for doing so, in the form of learning to recognize our inner fear dialogues and replacing them with new messages of power and strength and ability.

Laurie then went on to remind me that as a midwife and physician (I attended births for three decades!) I would never say the discouraging, doubt-filled things to a mom in labor that I was now saying to myself. I’d be telling a mom in labor that she could do, she’s got the power, and she’s capable. So why was I telling myself I was completely inadequate and incapable?

Time for a reframe!

ANTs in Your Brain? 

Birth is a powerful and relevant metaphor for being overwhelmed by new challenges, situations that feel bigger than our capabilities, that bring us to our knees with fear, and that make us want to quit and run the other way. But often, as with birth, these very situations are ones of breakthrough – once through the hurdle we’re in a powerful new phase of our lives – be that motherhood, a new career path that we’ve always wanted but were afraid to take the leap, a relationship, or in my case, having the confidence to ride out my voices of inner doubt to create the next bestselling natural health book for women – one of my dreams.

Thoughts are powerful. They shape our choices. They also shape our neurobiology – the inner circuitry that influences our weight, immunity, adrenal function, energy, food cravings, sleep, mood, mental focus, and numerous other influences on your health. How do they do this? Each time you have a negative thought your body releases various stress hormones and immunologic chemicals that impact your well-being. On the other hand, pleasant, confident, empowered, and joyous thoughts put us into a good place hormonally and immunologically.

Most of have ANTs in our brains – that is, automatic negative thoughts. Ok, an ANT here or there never ruined a picnic. Like my self-doubt about my book, an ant or two can be flicked away (or carefully moved if you are averse to flicking away bugs) with a quick reminder and some empowering thoughts. But in the extreme, think about putting your apple pie near an anthill! ANT colonies are actually a condition many of us are familiar with – ANXIETY! They are like a mental vice grip around our creativity. ANTs can keep us from taking leaps, trying new things, and can prevent us from enjoying and trusting in the goodness of the things that are happening in our lives. One of my common ANTs for example, is that after I’ve had a really good business year, I will chalk it off as a fluke, and think, “Well maybe next year won’t be as good and it will be back to the financial drawing board.” My ANTs like to tell me that I am never quite good enough and that success can be gone at anytime.

Replacing the ANTs

You might not be planning to have a baby any time soon – or ever – so hypnobirthing might not be the thing for you! But you may be hoping to take some exciting personal or career risks that you’ve been putting off because of self-doubt that feel as big as having a baby. There may be mighty leaps and changes in your future but ANTs are keeping you from jumping in! You may be hoping to birth your dreams, start an effective weight loss program, or you may be hoping to conquer anxious thoughts that drive you to make choices that don’t bring you health, wealth, or happiness. That's where hypnobirthing your life comes in…

There are 3 keys to successfully reframing your inhibiting, fear-based thought patterns – or Replacing the ANTs with APTs – Automatic Positive Thoughts. If you start to practice these, I promise your life will change for the better! Here they are:

1. Recognize the ANTs

This requires getting mindful and recognizing those thoughts – negative, unhelpful, buzz-killing, doubt inspiring thoughts – for just what they are, annoying, picnic ruining ANTs. And realizing that they are ideas that aren’t even true! To do this, start paying attention to the ANTs. That’s right – pay attention to how many times each day you have some negative thought about yourself. They look like this:

  • I’m too fat
  • I’m not smart enough
  • I couldn’t ever do that
  • She’s so much more accomplished than I am (and wow, 10 years younger, too!)

Or how about these:

  • There’s something wrong with me and that’s why I didn’t get that job
  • That job I got was a fluke or maybe they meant to pick someone else
  • S/he doesn’t really like my company and that’s why s/he hasn’t called back since our date…

Get what these look like? Oh, and don’t miss these:

  •  It’s not my fault
  •   I would have if you hadn’t…
  •   If only s/he would have… then I would be happy

Wait, what? Blaming others is a sneaky ANT pattern that keeps you from taking responsibility and let’s you wrongly believe you have no power over your situation! So you've gotta shift those patterns too!

2. Have Tools

We all need tools that let us decompress from and let go of the anxious feelings that typically accompany those ANTS (tight chest or throat, feeling weak or nauseated, rapid heart rate, can’t concentrate, have to poop one too many times). I personally find that taking a few deep breaths gets rid of the fleeting, low-level ANT or two that crawls in now and then. For those ANTs that want to bite on and stick, I need RAID! That’s when it’s time to do a deep breathing exercise, a mini-meditation, take a walk, have some face-time with a punching bag – or pull out my journal and write down those thoughts – and answer them back!

3. Develop APTs – Automatic Positive Thoughts

It’s not enough to just get rid of the ANTs if you've got big goals you want to accomplish – you’ve to got bring in some positive reinforcements – or APTs, Automatic Positive Thoughts. Ok, maybe they aren’t automatic at first, but with practice, you’ll find that they become easy to call into action, that your overall confidence and sense of well-being will grow, and that you’ll really only     experience the occasional ANT, which is naturally when you’re facing a big new challenge! Here are a few APT’s you can take from me – or make up your own.

  • I am amazing.
  • I can do anything.
  • I am totally prepared to do this.
  • I’ve got this.
  • I am strong, fit, wise, and beautiful.
  • I love who I am.
  • I am the author of my life.
  • I can succeed at this (diet, exercise plan, self-love plan, grad school application, fill-in-the-blank) because I know what I need to do; I listen to my inner wisdom, and follow through on my plans.

If You Still Have ANTs, Get an Exterminator – Or a Life Coach!

Sometimes we have so many ANTs, and they’ve been there for so long, that we don't know where to start. Sometimes they are so much a part of our way of thinking that we don't even recognize them. And sometimes our past history comes back to nip us in the bottom – old patterns, habits, beliefs, and family traits are so powerful that we need help getting out from their death grip. When you have so many ANTs you don’t know what to do, or when those ANTs are especially toxic, then it’s time to call an ANT exterminator – aka, a Life Coach. Just like Laurie reminded me to hypnobirth myself as an author of a New York Times best-seller by shaking off my doubts, a life coach can help you to identify and replace your ANTs with empowering and effective ways of thinking that let you take your mind – and your life – into your own hands.

A life coach can take the 30,000 foot view on YOU – see you for all of your strength and power and ability and wonderfulness, and start to help you separate the wheat from the chaff by helping you to figure out how to take ownership of your one precious life – starting with the thoughts that are getting in the way of you living and enjoying it to the max! So if you feel that your ANTs are too big to handle alone, seek out some additional support to get the job done.

You deserve all good things! And yes, that’s another APTs – try that one in the mirror each morning and evening!








Leave a comment

Read or leave comments 17 Comment

Generic placeholder image

This is exactly what I was telling friends last night, that I hadn't been aware until recently of how consistently down on myself I'd become! A great antidote to ANTs is mindful meditation; it helps develop a better awareness of our thoughts and feelings. Thank you for pointing out the power of our self-talk, and how important it is to master our minds!

Generic placeholder image
suzanne mccullough

perfect timing! and i must say the ANTS were trying to get me to stop reading almost every sentence... i pushed on with gnawing doubt. i just came from my very draining relationship with my neighbor who i long to help but my energy for self is being swallowed. can i please share this with HIM? i'll wait for your reply as i know this is directed toward us girls. if you have advice for our brothers please do share where they may go. like i said perfect timing for my doubting self and universally thinking it's meant for him too! thank you

    Generic placeholder image

    Feel free to share it with anyone!

Generic placeholder image

Great article! I am having recent issues with ANTS, and wondering: Is it possible that coming off from bio-identical hormones can cause some sort of chemical reaction affecting my thoughts? I ran out around a two weeks ago and it seems like my thinking is very different; I have noticed a really acute clarity, anger and double-minded news in major decision making. This might be off topic, but recognizing whether I need a life coach or a physician is half the battle, right?

Generic placeholder image
Lupa Irie

Thank you, just what I needed to read. Dr Armen also talks about ANTs in the brain- anxious negative thoughts. it has been a few years since I listen to his tapes. I need to get a book out to support my growing business, and just can't seen to find the time to do it . This article is a good reminder that I can . Thank you again for keeping it positive ! I saw the pictures of your new grandchild, God is good, and children are his blessing. If you ever get down this way please come visit. Love to all you growing family.

Generic placeholder image
yoga peach Keli

Thank you for sharing!

Generic placeholder image

This is what I needed today!! Thank you so very much. The analogy is perfect for me to use with my kiddos. And I always need a little encouragement from the outside world too. I have used one of your books for raising my children for 12 years. I never knew you had a website! I am sooooo thrilled to find it. You are a blessing :)

Generic placeholder image

Thank you very much Dr Romm! for this very needed topic in your recent blog: "ANTS IN YOUR BRAIN" It was presicely what I needed to read, as I'm going through a period of career shifting/transition for the last 3-4 years, and I'm finally accepting that I need a career change. I will apply your "TOOLS" for developing "APTS" :) Looking forward to reading your new book!!

Generic placeholder image
Lisette Savoie

Aviva ! I am very happy to read your article today. It is an answer to some relationship problem I had for a while now. I now understand better my mind patttern. FEAR is very subtle and like to play games with you. Your experience is precious. Thanks for sharing it and PLEASE WRITE YOUR BOOK. Cuz I'm a fan !

Generic placeholder image
Elizabeth Heck

Aviva, this is just what I needed to hear right now. Thank you. So well said! And I'm looking forward to your new book. You have so much important wisdom to share. It WILL be a great one!

    Generic placeholder image

    <3 thank you!!!

Generic placeholder image
tina nebergall

thanks... I really needed to read this today.

Generic placeholder image

This is so me all my life!! I am tired of my negative attitude . It gets in the way of enjoying life. I'm 70 years old and I really want to change my negative thoughts. Where do I start??

    Generic placeholder image
    Megan Liebmann

    Hi Linda, Thank you for reaching out and I am so glad that you enjoyed the article. Following the three steps in this article are truly helpful and incredibly life changing. When working with shifting thoughts, always remember that you are worth it and go easy on yourself, it takes time. Warmly, Megan- Aviva Romm’s Executive Assistant and Online Nutrition Expert

Generic placeholder image
Victoria Wiliams

Very informative and insightful!