On ANTS and Your Mental Health
Mental health has become a big issue because of our social isolation. It is like having ants
in your home! How many are there? Where are they coming from? Where have they been? How can I get rid of them? There are ANTS that affect our mental health. These are Automatic Negative Thoughts (an acronym coined by Daniel Amen). What can we do about it?
1. Be preventive. Take care of them ahead of time. Usually, we wait until the ANTS become an obvious problem. Then, we have to clean up the mess. Decide now…that this will become a problem unless you address it.
2. Avoid negativity from outside you. Limit daily news intake about COVID-19 (to 10 minutes or less). Limit the relentless message from the news: “This situation will keep getting worse. There is no end in sight. There is nothing you can do about it.” A steady diet of this message will paralyze you.
3. Recognize negativity from inside you. These ANTS might show up as:
- Always/Never thinking: “She always disappoints me. No one ever calls.”
- Focusing on the negative: Nine good things occur, but you only notice and fixate on one bad thing.
- Fortune-telling: Predicting a negative outcome and behaving accordingly. For example, assuming someone will be unfriendly, looking for it, and picking a fight.
4. Challenge the ANTS. You can choose to challenge the ANTS by:
- Asking better questions. Is this always true? What if I focused on the positive? Would my response be different if I did not predict a bad outcome?
- Do not believe every thought. The devil “is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8:44).
- Meditate on Phil. 4:8, “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable, if anything is excellent or praiseworthy, think about such things.” (By the way, Paul was in prison when he wrote Phil. 4:8).
So, get out the bug spray. Kill the ANTS. Move on.
Rev. Mike Winters is pastor of Wise Baptist Church, Wise, VA. He has served other churches in Kentucky and Virginia prior to coming to Wise. Mike is the longest-attending participant in the Leadership in Ministry workshops, having missed only one session since the workshops began.