How to Avoid Automatic Negative Thoughts in the Workplace
How ANTs Infest the Workplace
On average, it’s estimated that we have 50,000 to 80,000 thoughts per day. Depending on how you look at it, that’s 50,000-80,000 opportunities to think positively about yourself or to doubt yourself. There’s only one issue – most of these thoughts are automatic, regardless of if they’re positive or negative. While automatic positive thoughts are good, automatic negative thoughts tend to be a bad influence on people’s lives, and they can be hard to get rid of.
So how do ANTs transpire, and how do they affect people’s lives? Automatic Negative Thoughts operate just like ants do. They creep into your mind, slowly but surely building a nest that will be hard to uproot. If enough people in your workplace have ANTs piling up in their mental processes, the infestation will be hard to wipe out.
Dr. Amen suggests asking these 4 questions to help reduce negative thinking:
- Is it [the negative thought] true?
- Can I absolutely know that it is true?
- How do I react when I think that thought?
- How would I feel if I didn’t have that thought?
1. "Always Thinking"
2. Focusing On The Negative
3. Fortune Telling
4. Mind Reading
5. Thinking With Your Feelings
6. Guilt Beatings
Dr. Amen suggests doing two things to identify your personal ANTs. First, write down the ANTs that pop up into your head throughout the workday. Second, write out the event that happened when your ANT appeared in your mind. Then, you can begin to find the proper “ANTeaters” to fight back. Here are a few examples:
The boss doesn’t like me.
I don’t know that he/she doesn’t like me. Bosses are people too, and they have their own problems.
I’m not smart enough for this job.
I make mistakes sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I’m stupid. I’m human.
My co-workers never listen to me.
It’s frustrating feeling ignored, but they’re busy with they’re busy too. They’ve listened to me in the past.
The key to defeating the ANTs in both your mind and the minds of your team members is acknowledging the automatic negative thought – don’t force it away every time one pops up. Once a person has identified what their ANTs are and where they stem from, they can begin to train their brain to not think in this way. Of course, stopping ANTs is much easier said than done, but there are some “ANTeater” tactics to retrain your thinking.
Here’s how the 5 R’s work: after recognizing the ANT, refuse to let it grow into more ANTs. Stop, relax, and take a few deep breaths; begin to reframe the ANT into something positive. For example, if you’re about to present in a meeting, don’t let yourself think I’m going to mess this up and embarrass myself in front of my boss.
Reframe that thought into a self-suggestion like I know what xx metrics are, I know what I’ve done to prepare for this meeting, just take it slide by slide. Once you’ve reframed your thought, it’s time to take action and resume the task at hand.
The 5 R’s can help break this pattern of pessimistic thinking:
Working with an Employee Assistance Program (EAP) can help keep your employees from experiencing ANTs. Keep in mind, some situations need professional advice and assistance.