Woman holding head dark abstract background negative thoughts

Negative Thoughts: Catching ANTs

Free yourself from the ANTs - Automatic Negative Thoughts.

Oh The ANTs!

The integrated therapies of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Hypnotherapy and Mindfulness, are a powerful combination that can help free you from the chains of Automatic Negative Thoughts.

It is surprising how many people are plagued by the constant interruption of negative thoughts, known within the world of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) as Automatic Negative Thoughts, or pop-up thoughts. Our brains get stuck in these cycles of negativity, leading to anxiety and very much obstructing  our well-being. CBT helps identify these ANTs. These are mostly unrealistic or distorted beliefs that hold us back. We can often push them aside temporarily but they just keep on ‘popping upʼ.

Challenging and Replacing ANTs

This is a fundamental aspect of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT). It involves a 3-step process of identifying, challenging and replacing negative pattens of thinking with more realistic and positive ones. While this sounds quite simple, it takes time and careful practise to reframe the old, unhelpful thoughts with new ones that are empowering.

Initially you will become aware of the negative thoughts as they arise. These are often repetitive, automatic thoughts. In general, they are not based in reality but on misconceptions or ‘cognitive distortions.ʼ

    1. Identify: Notice your ANTs as they arise.
    2. Challenge: Question the evidence behind them. Are they based on facts or fears?
    3. Replace: Develop more realistic and empowering thoughts.

Example: “I’m too old to start a new career” can be challenged with evidence of your skills and replaced with “I can explore new opportunities that leverage my experience.”

Example: I failed this exam twice, Iʼm no good at anything.”

It is important to examine and question the evidence here, in part because it’s become generalised to include ‘everything’.

Question the evidence “Have I failed at everything I’ve ever attempted?

The likelihood is that you will answer, no! You know that you’ve have succeeded in many things. So, itʼs important to explore other ways of viewing the thought or situation. After all a thought is just a thought, until you ascribe meaning to it.

The Process

Could there be other explanations. Are you assuming the worst without really considering other possibilities and/or outcomes? What impact does this thought have? Time to reflect – how does this affect me? Does it help or hinder me? What are the consequences likely to be if I continue to believe it? These are questions you will need to answer.

So, staying with the exam example, we might reframe it as such:

“I didn’t do too well on the exam, but it doesn’t mean Iʼm not good at anything. I can review anything I missed and prepare better next time…this doesn’t define my entire life.”

Doing the groundwork enables you to find new evidence and replace the negative with a more balanced pattern of thinking.

A Tool Box Of Techniques

  • The Power of Mindfulness: Mindfulness practices help you become aware of your thoughts and emotions without judgment. This allows you to detach from negativity and focus on the present moment.
  • Hypnotherapy for Positive Change: Hypnotherapy can help you deeply embed the positive thoughts and actions you want in your life.
  • Benefits of Integrated Therapy: Combining these therapies empowers you to manage your thoughts and emotions effectively. You’ll build emotional resilience, find renewed purpose, and navigate your post-career future with greater confidence.

You can learn how to use these many tools with confidence to manage your thoughts and emotions effectively. With time and consistent application, you will find your emotional resilience will definitely begin to improve.


You don’t have to face these challenges alone. By learning to manage negative thoughts and embracing a growth mindset, you really can unlock exciting possibilities in your next chapter.

If you’re interested in exploring these techniques further then please do get in touch with us. We offer a 30-minute Complimentary Session for you to discuss your situation.

While these CBT techniques are usually practised with the guidance of a qualified therapist, they can also be learned and applied independently.

Below are some articles that provide insights and practical exercises in this area.

Links for you:

The Beck Institute: https://beckinstitute.org/

Winston, Sally M., and Martin N. Seif. Overcoming Unwanted Intrusive Thoughts: A CBT-Based Guide to Getting Over Frightening, Obsessive, or Disturbing Thoughts. 1st edition. New Harbinger Publications, 2017

https://www.groovnow.com/blog/how-to-handle-intrusive- pop-up-thoughts


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