It’s easy to get trapped in the idea that we are our thoughts and feelings. I mean your thoughts are in your head… they’re often spoken in your voice… no-one else can hear them… so it’s pretty compelling to believe that those thoughts are you. We naturally begin to define ourselves as our thoughts and feelings. “I’m a loser”, “I’m depressed”, “I’m not good enough” But the truth is – they are just thoughts and in no way define us.
Just like the heart beating, or the lungs breathing, the mind is doing what it is designed to do: think. Churning out thoughts that we can choose to listen to or ignore.
On an average day we have about 50,000-70,000 thoughts a day. But is not the thoughts themselves that cause us anxiety or unhappiness. It is the way in which we identify with our negative thoughts and try to determine what they mean and why we thought it. Just because I have an anxious thought, does not mean that I am anxiety. Or when I think I’m not good enough, it does not mean I am hopeless or a failure. Simply that in this moment, I am having anxious or hopeless thoughts.
Thoughts come and go, they change like the wind and pass like clouds. But YOU are always you.
Through Mindfulness and Presence you can learn to be the witness of your thoughts. Once you observe and notice what you are experiencing you are no longer identifying with them. Instead you view them as separate from you. You can choose which thoughts to pay attention to and which thoughts to not take so seriously.
Identify your Thoughts and Feelings
What is the thought? What is the emotion that comes with it? Where do you feel it? What does it feel like? What colour and shape would you give to it?
When you start to analyse thoughts and feelings they tend to lose their power and veracity. You will eventually start to find yourself beginning to watch your thoughts come and go without attaching onto them.
It’s important to remember though, that not all our thoughts are negative; many we have are positive or even neutral. When watching your thoughts, take note of all that come your way. It isn’t about trying to hold on to the positive thoughts and rejecting the negative, it’s simply about being aware and present.
Learn to See the Shades of Grey
It’s easy to look at the world in black and white, as good and bad.
I am a failure. I am no good. I am a terrible person.
But ask yourself, are you 100% a terrible person 100% of the time. I guarantee that the answer is no. So if you’re not a terrible person 100% of the time, how can you be a terrible person. Chances are you have made mistakes, been angry or unloving a few times before, but they are simply learning steps with which you can improve.
So expand your perspective, consider all options and remove that rigid all or nothing way of thinking.
Be Specific with Your Thoughts
Our thoughts can be deceptive and delusional, limiting our perception of the self. We do this through broad, sweeping statements based on little real or relevant experience. This process is known as overgeneralisation. If we repeatedly have these thoughts, we begin to believe them as truth and rely upon these conclusions to influence our decisions and choices in life. Essentially, we make barriers for ourselves resulting in making us feel insecure, fearful and weak.
Once you understand this concept you will start to notice when you have thoughts such as ‘I fail at everything I do’.
Take a pause and question the validity of this statement. Is it really true? Now make it a specific thought. ‘I failed my driving test today, but I passed my theory last week. Therefore I do not fail at everything I do’.
Once you begin to challenge your thoughts, you will see that what were once previously limits will become new opportunities.
Engage in Meditation or Yoga
Practices such as yoga and meditation require focus and help reduce the number of thoughts we have going through our mind at one time. This time allows for the mind to rest and experience a sense of calm. It also gives you the space and opportunity to really connect with your inner self, your true essence. The more times we can connect with this part of ourselves, the stronger your identity grows. You will begin to learn who you really are and what your core values mean to you. When you then have thoughts later, it will become easy to dispel them as mindless chatter, rather than attaching significance and meaning to each one.
With love as ever
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