Road Trip and ANTs

Spec 2015 challenged and encouraged us to Let Go and allow the divine to fill in the newly emptied space.

Since Spec, I have been challenging myself to improve my self-talk. Basically, self-talk is the voice inside your head.

At Spec 2015, Kevin Pearce ( briefly talked about ANTs—Automatic Negative Thoughts—while sharing a story about dropping his cell phone in the toilet. Today’s devotion provides some additional insight into ANTs and I’ll share my story about how ANTs impact our mind, body, and actions.

Road Trip

My 89 year-old grandfather spends the winter months in Tucson, Arizona. Every fall we drive from Kansas City, Missouri (Go Royals!!!) to Tucson. It’s roughly 19 hours of drive time that spans 2 days. Grandpa loves to drive the 2-lane highways that cut across the United States. We drive across Kansas, the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles, New Mexico and through southern Arizona. We see small towns, abandoned barns, towering grain silos, mile-long trains (this year’s longest train was 1.5 miles), beautiful sunrises and sunsets over the desert, and miles and miles of fields. I’ve done this trip 12, maybe 15 times, with Grandpa.

For one reason or another I get frustrated during this trip. Usually it’s because my routine gets out of whack. I’m not eating my normal foods, sleeping my normal times, it’s difficult to find time to exercise, and on and on.

19 hours is a long time in a car with someone.

19 hours in a car also provides an opportunity for ANTs.

At one of the gas stations we visited on this year’s drive to Tucson I had a good cell signal and called my wife. During the call she mentioned that I seemed “happier”.

This confirmed what I had been feeling that day. Taking on the ANTs was working. As I mentioned above, this summer at SPEC I made a decision to improve my self-talk and being aware and intentional about the thoughts I allow in my head.

Prior to driving my Grandpa this fall I decided to do the following on my trip:

  • Let go of my agenda about driving my grandpa to Arizona.
  • Let go of control of the route, which roads, when we stopped, etc.
  • Take charge of my eating on the trip.
  • Exercise on the trip.
  • To stop and see some of the sights (we stopped in Hatch, New Mexico, the chile capital of the world and bought a string of chiles)
  • Meditate when I noticed myself feeling annoyed.

I recognized the connection between what I was thinking and how I was feeling. My body reacted to my thoughts. When I had an angry or unkind thought on my trip I began to feel my heart beat faster, my hands would get sweaty, and my breathing became faster. When I had a happy or kind thought my muscles would relax, my breathing would slow down, and my hands became dry again. I was also intentional about keeping myself in a positive frame of mind.


Automatic Negative Thoughts (ANTs) are sad and depressing thoughts that creep into our mindset. Simply stated, ANTs cause us to feel sadness, despair, and cause us to isolate ourselves. A basic ANT equation looks like this:

Sad, angry, unkind thoughts = feeling bad.

Happy, hopeful, kind thoughts = feeling good.

Our thoughts can make our mind and body feel bad or good. Most thoughts are automatic and happen without us thinking about them. (Think about that. We don’t think about our thoughts.) Also, our thoughts are not always true.

It’s important for us to be able to decide which thoughts are helpful and which thoughts are hurtful. Learning how to adapt our thinking can be a useful tool.

Moment of Reflection

What is one ANT in your life? Name one. Write it down. Examine the thought. Respond to it. (Is the thought true?) Replace the negative thought with a positive thought.

If you heard a friend say an ANT about themselves, what would your response be?

Spiritual Practice – Meditation

The technique I use is quite simple. I like it because it can be used in a variety of places (including a car). It goes like this.

  • Deep breath in and say/think, fill me (Positive word, like love).
  • Deep breath out and say/think, let go (negative word, like anger).

When you breathe in think of a good, positive word such as, hope, joy, love, peace, compassion, grace, calm, etc.

When you breathe out let go of the bad and negative word such as, despair, hate, sorrow, anger, judgment, frustration, fear, etc.

Our thoughts have real and tangible impact on the way we feel and the way we behave. The connection between our mental and physical well-being impacts us constantly. Take some time this week and pay attention to your ANTs, then replace them with positive ones.



Some information in this devotion is paraphrased from the following article:

For more information on ANTs feel free to check out that link.

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