The Number One Habit To Develop In Order To Feel More Positive

The Number One Habit To Develop In Order To Feel More Positive

Would you like to reverse depression, anxiety, or negativity in your life? Would you like to experience peace of mind and joy?

Then you need to become an expert about “ANTs.”

Dr. Daniel Amen coined this term in the early 1990’s after a hard day at the office, during which he had several very difficult sessions with suicidal patients, teenagers in turmoil, and a married couple who hated each other.

When he got home that evening he found thousands of ants in his kitchen. As he started to clean them up, an acronym developed in his mind. He thought of his patients from that day – just like the infested kitchen, his patients’ brains were also infested by Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) that were robbing them of their joy and stealing their happiness.

He started teaching patients how to eliminate all of the ANTs because they are what drive depression, what stoke anxiety, and what fuel negativity.

Every single time you have a thought, your brain releases chemicals.

Every time you have a sad, hopeless, mad, cranky, unkind, judgmental, or helpless thought, your brain immediately releases chemicals that make your body feel awful. Your hands get cold and wet, your muscles get tense, your heart beats faster, and your breathing becomes shallower. Additionally, the activity in your frontal and temporal lobes decreases which negatively affects your judgment, learning, memory.

The opposite is also true – whenever you have a happy, hopeful, loving, kind, or positive thought, your brain releases a completely different set of chemicals. Your hands get warmer and dryer, your breathing becomes deeper and more regular, your muscles relax, your blood pressure decreases, and your brain works better.

So, if you want to eradicate depression, anxiety, and negativity from your life, you need to work on disciplining your mind to get rid of the ANTs and developing an ANTeater to patrol the streets of your mind.

Just as there are a many species of ants in the world, there are different kinds of negative thought patterns (ANTs).

Here are a few you need to learn to identify:

Fortune Telling

This is the ANT of almost anyone who has a panic disorder. They are masterful at predicting the worst, even though they don’t have any evidence.

Mind Reading

Where you arbitrarily believe that you know what someone else is thinking, even though they didn’t tell you. Many people do this, and more often than not it gets them into trouble. It’s a major reason why people have trouble in relationships.

Guilt Beatings

Thinking with words like should, must, ought and have to. The words we use to talk to ourselves are very important. Guilt is not a very good motivator for change. Telling yourself “I should go see my grandmother” rather than “I want to spend time with my grandmother” only serves to make you feel negative.


Whenever you blame someone else for the problems in your life, you are a victim and you can’t do anything to change it. Many of us play the blame game, but it rarely helps us. Stay away from blaming thoughts and take personal responsibility for changing the problems you have.


Calling yourself or someone else a derogatory name. This diminishes your ability to see situations clearly and labels are very harmful.

So now that you have met some of the ANTs that rob you of your happiness and peace of mind, what do you do about them?

Whenever you find yourself feeling mad, sad, nervous, or out-of-control, write down what you are thinking. Then identify which ANT species is infesting your mind and talk back to it.

Challenging negative thoughts (killing the ANTs) takes away their power and gives YOU control over your thoughts, moods, and behaviors.

Learning how to kill the ANTs and develop an internal ANTeater has been shown in scientific studies to be as effective as antidepressant medications to treat anxiety and depression!

Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) can make it difficult to make decisions; lower your self-esteem; strain relationships; and can lead to depression, anxiety, and even anger.

To kill the ANTs for good and start on a journey to positivity and healing, contact us today at 899-288-9834 or visit our website.


  1. Wonderful article. Totally agree.

    Comment by Heléna Kurçab — August 17, 2016 @ 12:57 PM

  2. Every one, whether a parent teaching your child, a business person stressed out and feeling overwhelmed, students, whoever can incorporate this great tool as a CBT!

    Comment by Eileen Labrecque — August 17, 2016 @ 2:19 PM

  3. Good one, thank you!

    Comment by Aamir Shah — August 17, 2016 @ 9:52 PM

  4. Nice reminder. Battle is in the mind. All to brain health. Thank you 🙂

    Comment by Denee — August 18, 2016 @ 11:57 AM

  5. A good ANTidote

    Comment by Steven Online — August 18, 2016 @ 2:10 PM

  6. Thank you, Dr Amen, for your wise article. However, I’m still not quite sure how to approach things, killing ANTS, when reliving past extreme trauma.

    Comment by Geneveive — August 24, 2016 @ 9:31 AM

  7. What does any of this have to do with severed heads rolling down the street?

    Comment by Roy — June 5, 2017 @ 12:31 PM

  8. Love the acronym!! CBT is helpful in many areas….but it is a process to let the concepts sink in! It’s usually after the fact that I remember that I have ANTS!! 😀 Lol

    Comment by Elizabeth Dupray — November 29, 2017 @ 2:03 PM

  9. Write down your negative thoughts?? Really? Is that your solution to get rid of negative thoughts. Great, now i have them in front of me reminding me all day. Is that all you got? We write things we want to remember. It seems like counterproductive BAD advise to me.

    Comment by Buck Mahon — May 11, 2018 @ 5:14 AM

  10. All these negative people are the ones you are talking to…just like me….little fortune telling going on…ha…dr amen…you’re the greatest…

    Comment by Pam — May 11, 2018 @ 8:36 AM

  11. Could you please email me the information about Lyme disease again. I seem to have accidentally deleted it.

    Comment by Diana goodrich — May 12, 2018 @ 11:47 AM

  12. Your ideas are worth their weight in gold.

    Comment by David Mann — May 14, 2018 @ 8:11 AM

  13. I have used this method in the past, but I found it very tiring, as I get racing thoughts and it is exhausting to capture them even the “hot thoughts”, I have trauma and I get the same ANTS over and over again. Also, please email me as the information on Lyme disease.

    Thank you;


    Comment by Sonia — May 14, 2018 @ 9:14 AM

  14. Of course Diana, we will send that information on over to you via email. Have a great day!

    Comment by Amen Clinics — May 14, 2018 @ 9:44 AM

  15. Of course Sonia, we will send the information on Lyme disease to you via email. Thank you for reaching out.

    Comment by Amen Clinics — May 14, 2018 @ 9:45 AM

  16. I try to counteract 1 negative thought with 2 positive thoughts. While not perfect at it, I have progressed.

    Comment by Camile — May 15, 2018 @ 3:07 AM

  17. One challenge for me is the news. Many people simply avoid it. I don’t see that as a wise option for myself. I do want to understand current events but not feel defeated or angered by them. I am trying to read instead of watch the news, limit my time, & be mindful that some things are going right, especially, in my own life. Any good tips on how to not be ignorant about the current world and yet remain glad about one’s life?

    Comment by Camile — May 15, 2018 @ 4:04 AM

  18. Please add me in your mailing list.
    Very useful atricles.

    Comment by Dr Prakash Murawala — May 24, 2018 @ 3:39 AM

  19. The ANT Eater is the cornerstone of my Formula For Success handout ( But, I use perhaps an earlier version that I can’t find now, the one that asks “What if the opposite is true or truer than the original?” Negativity is a problem but so is the narrowness of our thoughts even when positive. When the opposite of a thought is considered as an option, then everything in between can also be evaluated. Its the most powerful tool I’ve seen to broaden our thinking and break out of our boxed in thoughts. Then we can test a wide range of thoughts, choose the best, and turn it into a routine or habit. I tell people this way you may end up doing what everyone thinks is impossible, and do it without even thinking about it.
    Do you have a link to the the version that takes the opposite? The link on my handout is broken.

    Comment by David Smith — July 14, 2018 @ 10:31 AM

  20. Please send me more information about how can I calm down when this Panic ANTs come up. I had this diesase experience on many different situation and so hard to know what to do. When talking with people when writing and even relaxing on my bed , I had this panic shock. Visited to the emergency room over 9 times!!!

    Comment by Erdem — November 27, 2018 @ 8:03 AM

  21. Good article, it is helpful, negative thoughts are like a bad habit, I have been trying to replace it with positive for years, i still find myself going back sometimes, reminders are good to stay in check

    Comment by Gita — January 9, 2019 @ 4:59 AM

  22. Yes! More specific strategies would be awesome! Thank you Amen clinics!!

    Comment by Caroline — January 9, 2019 @ 5:42 AM

  23. Dr. Amen has a great book for kids about this subject. I have purchased it for use with my students. It is called Captain Snout and the Super Power Questions. If you have kids or work with them, I encourage you to check it out!

    Comment by Jill Curry — January 9, 2019 @ 6:29 AM

  24. Love the easy to remember term for negative thoughts and the different names for the type of ANTS to watch for…very useful.

    I would also like the information on Lyme Disease please.


    Comment by Jacqueline Eddy — January 9, 2019 @ 8:08 AM

  25. Love that idea too Camille! Thanks

    Comment by Mary — January 9, 2019 @ 10:46 AM

  26. I noticed a few people asking for info about Lyme Disease and would very much like to receive this also. I just got your newest book and it is helping me. Thank you so much!

    Comment by Susan — January 9, 2019 @ 1:44 PM

  27. Phenomenal article! i 100% agree. From both my personal experience and the journeys i’ve walked with others through, this MATTERS. It’s awesome! Letting those thoughts not have a home in our mind makes room for the best thoughts!

    Comment by David — March 18, 2019 @ 7:40 AM

  28. Francis Bacon [1561-1626] said, “Reading maketh a full man, conference [conversation] a ready man, and writing an exact man.” Over the years this has been a guide in various ways. Surely reading makes one full of thoughts. Conversation sharpens ability to contribute a thought at a right opening. And writing refines and solidifies thoughts. In the ANT effort, writing down thought behavior helps greatly to bring to the fore and to identify a given destructive habit. Otherwise, the ANT probably will remain vague and cloudy. Having established an “enemy profile”, I have made it my training activity to rebuke any unwelcome ANT every time it tries to take over. I’m 85 and fight the enemy when he seeks to invade my thought. This is healthy. This is biblical.

    Comment by Hugh Waddy — March 18, 2019 @ 4:49 PM

  29. Thank you so much for your comment! Love your perspective and insight! It’s a wonderful reminder that we are fighting the enemy, and we need to do so with the truth of God’s word. Thank you and God bless you.

    Comment by Trisha — March 23, 2019 @ 12:32 PM

  30. The way we think is a huge component that contributes to the way we feel, behave and react to situations. People develop habits in thinking. Sometimes those habits are healthy, but often people can develop erroneous patterns of thought that affect the way they perceive the world and their place in it.

    Comment by Kimberly — April 4, 2019 @ 3:55 PM

  31. I am definitely a fan of Dr. Amen. I purchased a set of CD’s and listened to them on my way to work and home and was so excited about them, I gave them to someone close to me and now am not sure who that was since it was well over a year ago. I know one person I gave them to but she swears she gave them back.
    I believe focusing on Gratitude is very, very helpful and should be done when we wake every morning but I realize that some may feel that they have a lot to be grateful for but then feel guilty because they still at times may have this feeling of not being “enough” and withdraw when they realize consciously that they are really have so much to be thankful for. Is it the syndrome of “I don’t deserve this so when will the other shoe drop so to speak?”

    Comment by Sandra Franzen — December 5, 2019 @ 7:08 PM

  32. life is useless too man things and restrictions how to not have ANTs??????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Comment by iwantodie — May 20, 2020 @ 10:17 PM

  33. Dr. Amen,

    Thank you for this article. My question is , how does one talk back to an ANT? May I have one or two examples please?

    Thank you again,


    Comment by Darya — February 3, 2022 @ 5:58 PM

  34. I am not a negative person but I do like to put straight the facts so here we go: ANTs or Automatic Negative Thought(s), If it is a child thats has it they do not know the difference between how they are and how there supposed to be so look at it this way: There are 9 types of ANT(s) lets look at the list shall we?
    1.) All or nothing – These are the ANTs that infest your brain when you think everything is good or all bad. It is the same as black or white thinking. If you stick to your exercise plan for a month, you think you think you are the most disciplined person on the planet. If you miss a day at the gym, you think you have no discipline and give up and go back to being a coach potato. A better approach is to acknowledge that you didn’t do your daily workout and then get back on track the following day. One slip up doesn’t mean you should give up entirely.
    2.) Always thinking – This is when you think in words that over generalise, such as always, never, every time or everyone. Consider some of the thoughts such as “I will never lose weight,” “I have always had a sweet tooth – I will never be able to stop eating chocolate,” This kind of thinking makes you feel like you are doomed to fail at eating right and staying healthy. It is as if you have no control over your actions or behaviours.
    3.) Focusing on the negative – This ANT makes you see only the negative aspects of situations even when there are plenty of positives. “I know I lost 10 pounds, but I wanted to lose 15, so I’m a failure” is an example of this type of thinking. Focusing on the negative makes you more inclined to give up on your efforts. Putting a positive spin on this same thought – “wow!” I lost 10 pounds. I’m on my way to my goal of 15 pounds” – encourages you to keep up the good work and makes you feel pretty good about yourself.
    4.) Thinking with your feelings – “I feel like my skin is never going to clear up.” Thoughts like this occur when you have a feeling about something and you assume it is correct, so you never question it. Feelings can lie too. Look for evidence. In this example, schedule an appointment with a dermatologist to find out if there’s anything you can do to improve your skin.
    5.) Guilt beating – Thinking in words like “should”, “must”, “ought to”, and “have to” are typical with this type of ANT, which involves using excessive guilt to control behaviour. When we feel pushed to do things, our natural tendency is to push back. That doesn’t mean that guilt is all bad. There are certainly things in life that we should and shouldn’t do if we want to have the best body possible: “I want to eat the chips and guacamole at the party, but I should have the raw carrots instead” or “I feel like staying in bed, but I should do my workout.” Don’t mistake these for guilt beating ANTs.
    ( you have mentioned this next one before)
    6.) Labelling – When you call yourself or someone else names or use negative terms to describe them, you have a labelling ANT in your brain. A lot of us do this on a regular basis. You may have said one of the following at some point in your life; “I’m a loser”; “I’m a failure”; or “I’m lazy.” The problem with calling yourself names is that it takes away your actions and behaviours. If you are a loser, a failure, or lazy, then why bother trying to change your behaviour? It is as if you have given up before you have even tried. This defeatist attitude can be ruinous for your body.

    Beware of the red ANTs
    These last three ANTs are the worst of the bunch. I call them the red ANTs because they can really sting.

    7.) Fortune-telling – Predicting the worst even though you don’t know what will happen is the hallmark of the fortune telling ANT. Examples include: “I just had a biopsy I am sure it is cancer”. Nobody is safe from fortune telling ANTs .
    8.) Mind reading – When you think that you know what somebody else is thinking even though they have not told you, and you have not asked them, it is called mind-reading. Listen carefully to the other person before trying to predict what they have to say.

    and the last one:
    9.) Blame – Of all the ANTs, this one is the worst. Blaming others for your problems and taking no responsibility for your own successes and failures is toxic thinking. For example: “It is your fault I’m out of shape because you will not go with me to exercise.” Whenever you begin a sentence with “it is your fault…” it ruins your life. These ANTs make you a victim. When you are a victim, you are powerless to change your behaviour. Quit blaming others and take responsibility for your actions.

    with all of these types of ANT(s) you can do one thing or another to cure one type or another but what if you have all of them? there is nothing to help cure all of them at the same time

    -Happy reading! Zola Meade
    P.S please email me Back Dr.Ammen, I would like to discuss this matter on ANT(s) thank you!

    Comment by Zola — May 16, 2022 @ 6:56 AM

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