Activity To Reduce Anxiety: Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS)

Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTS)

Automatic negative thoughts (ANTS) are the thoughts that pop into our heads without invitation. Once the first one comes in it immediately calls all of its friends and by the time you know it your brain is infested with them. That’s why they are called ANTS. These thoughts can feel unavoidable and can cause both children and adults to come to me saying” I’m going crazy. I’m losing all control.” My reminder is that the only thing we really can fully control is our thoughts and reactions and with a little help we can squash those ANTS and replace them with Positive Affirmative Thoughts (PATS).

  1. I find that illustrations are a great way to retrain our brains so begin by drawing a picnic table with all types of goodies on it. The picture can be elaborate or just a rough sketch. That’s up to the time you have allotted and the talent and interest level of the participants
  2. Then draw a single ant crawling towards the table and think about or discuss what usually happens when you see one ant near your picnic table
  3. Now draw the ant invasion that occurs once the first ant gets in and talk or think about how automatic negative thoughts are the same. You let the first one in and the rest come in like a storm.
  4. Now talk or think about how to shoo away the first ANT by swatting it away. Learn to picture in your mind what you can use to swat away the first ANT before the rest come storming in
  5. Now work on creating PATS or Positive Affirmative Thoughts to replace the ANTS. If we don’t replace a negative behavior with a positive behavior it always comes back.
  6. For example the ANT might be nobody likes me. The PAT would be I am a good friend and I am loved by……………………

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