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Are ANTs Messing with Your Happy Vibes?

Thoughts are not facts.

Photo by Oskar Kadaksoo on Unsplash

It was a beautiful summer day, perfect for a stroll in the forest. The fresh musty forest smell, the delicate play of light and the shadows, the kind of warmth only an ending summer knows to create.

A few friends and I were strolling around, carefree and happy. Suddenly, there it was — a giant pyramid-shaped hill built by wood ants. And wow, those ants were huge! The nest was an intricate structure, bustling with activity. We kept sticking peeled wooden sticks into the pile to taste the acid… the perks of childhood adventures in nature. We were thrilled. We were really happy.

While this kinds of ants can make one really happy, there are the other kinds that can profoundly mess up your happiness.

I am speaking about ANTs — your automatic negative thoughts.

What Are Automatic Negative Thoughts?

In 2020 our hospitality business took a big hit. We had closed a lot of sales for the coming high season, many of which with prepaid rate policies (typical revenue management tool in the industry). When all collapsed due to Covid, I felt so guilty. I felt it was my fault. I felt as if the track record of 11 years of business meant nothing. I questioned my management skills, my choice of strategy, my failed capacity to predict future.. I felt unfit for the job.

Here I was, overwhelmed and dominated by my intrusive automatic negative thoughts (ANTs). Personalisation — a classic negative thought pattern — had taken hold. In case of personalisation, you see yourself as the cause of some negative external event for which you are not responsible. I blamed myself for the impact of COVID-19, discounting all my successful years in business, shouldering the blame. It took me a long time to break that pattern and convince myself that no one saw this coming. How could I have prepared better for something so unforeseeable?

Photo by Abigail Keenan on Unsplash

Automatic negative thoughts tend to show up when we are anxious or stressed. “Thoughts like these compel people to interpret distressing situations in unbalanced ways without examining the actual evidence at hand. (1)” And this can really impact your wellbeing, mental health and happiness, unless you learn to identify and “disarm these cognitive distortions”(1).

Types of Common Automatic Negative Thoughts

There are many types of automatic negative thoughts, some of them overlapping. Harvard University Stress & Development Lab (2) lists 10 different types of Automatic Negative Thoughts:

“ALL-OR-NOTHING THINKING: You see things in black-and-white categories. If your performance falls short of perfect, you see yourself as a total failure.
OVERGENERALIZATION: You see a single negative event as a never-ending pattern of defeat.
MENTAL FILTER: You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened, like the drop of ink that discolors the entire beaker of water.
DISQUALIFYING THE POSITIVE: You reject positive experiences by insisting they “don’t count” for some reason or other. In this way you can maintain a negative belief that is contradicted by your everyday experiences.
JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS: You make a negative interpretation even though there are no definite facts that convincingly support your conclusion.
MIND READING: You arbitrarily conclude that someone is reacting negatively to you, and you don’t bother to check this out.
FORTUNE TELLING: You anticipate that things will turn out badly, and you feel convinced that your prediction is an already-established fact.
MAGNIFICATION (CATASTROPHIZING) OR MINIMIZATION: You exaggerate the importance of things (such as your goof-up or someone else’s achievement), or you inappropriately shrink things until they appear tiny (your own desirable qualities or other fellow’s imperfections). This is also called the “binocular trick.
EMOTIONAL REASONING: You assume that your negative emotions necessarily reflect the way things really are: “I feel it, therefore it must be true.
SHOULD STATEMENTS: You try to motivate yourself with should and shouldn’t, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders. The emotional consequences are guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.
LABELING AND MISLABELING: This is an extreme form of overgeneralization. Instead of describing your error, you attach a negative label to yourself. “I’m a loser.” When someone else’s behavior rubs you the wrong way, you attach a negative label to him” “He’s a damn louse.” Mislabeling involves describing an event with language that is highly colored and emotionally loaded.
PERSONALIZATION: You see yourself as the cause of some negative external event, which in fact you were not primarily responsible for.”(2)

“I feel it, therefore it must be true”, mind reading, mental filter, and personalisation are my personal favourite go-to negative thought patterns.

What about you?

What rings true to you?

Silencing Your Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs)

Everyone has experienced automatic negative thoughts. These intrusive thoughts can overwhelm us and shadow our perception of reality. Such thoughts attack us unexpected, they have a delicate way of infiltrating our mind and they are very powerful and convincing. They make us believe them. And certainly, they mess up our happiness.

Sometimes we simply get stuck interpreting a stressful situation in our head in such unrealistic way, without considering the objectivity of our interpretation.

The key to silencing our ANTs is about firstly becoming aware of their existence and secondly countering them with more rational and affirmative thoughts.

Knowledge and awareness hold true power. Once you know what types of negative thought patterns can show up for us humans, the more equipped you will become to identify and challenge them in your own life. You will be able to question and reframe your negative thoughts before they are in charge.

And sometime such thought patterns are long-lasting, sometimes you have been thinking such negative unrealistic thoughts for long time. The good news is, regardless how old is your thought pattern, it is never too late to question it and reverse it.

A great way to discover some of your limiting beliefs and thought patterns is to write down a list of reasons why you cannot live a life true to yourself following your deepest dreams and desires..

Once that list is on the paper, analyse it, question it, rewrite it! Reprogram your brain for better thoughts and stories.


Sometimes we end up interpreting stressful situations in our life in an unbalanced way. Our mind jumps into using absolutes, extremes and false narrative and we might not even realize it until our wellbeing is shadowed.

The best way to protect our mental wellbeing is to gain awareness of such thoughts and to learn to question our thoughts. Simply not all our thougths and beliefs are true. Check the facts and evidence, create a better story for yourself! Practice!


In case you want to challenge your thoughts and beliefs stopping you from living your life to the fullest, go download my free “DREAM MAPPING BLUEPRINT” (eBook with worksheets) and start transforming your life!



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