I was feeling a little bit stuck thinking what was the best way to connect today’s post with my blog on “being aware of our thoughts”. So I decided to go on twitter for a break (haha, yes crazy woman) and the first tweet that I read says something like: fight your negative thoughts, they are your demons “only your mind can harm you, nothing else”.
Thank you universe! That was exactly what I needed to read.
See, I completely agree with the idea that only our minds can harm us. The part that doesn’t resonate with me is the “fight your negative thoughts”. We can’t really fight our thoughts. It is not like we can go and exterminate them like we are killing enemies on a video game. By the time we realize that we have had a negative thought, the thoughts been had. Do you know what I mean?
Trying to fight or get rid of your thoughts could end up being a very exhausting, but mostly frustrating task.
What I propose instead is becoming aware that your thoughts are not your reality. To better explain this I’m going to give an example of how it works in my mind, and how I’ve learned to deal with it.
I have a crazy mind. I understand that probably not everyone is like this, but I’m sure all of you have experienced this type of thinking at least once in your life. We both know this is not fun at all.
Today is a good example:
I get up in the morning thinking I need to start working on the next post for the JHW be well blog. I sit in front of my computer and after writing and deleting 5 paragraphs because I don’t like what is coming out, my mind starts thinking like this :
“Gosh I can’t write today, actually I say this all the time, the reality is that I can’t write at all. Period. I can’t believe I’ve been here for an hour and nothing has come out yet, what a waste of time. I guess this whole Juno Health and Wellness thing is a waste of time. What was I thinking when I started this? What was I thinking when I even thought I could write blog posts? Even worse, what the hell was I thinking when I thought I could write something readable in English? Go back to Colombia woman. And by the way, who cares about my blog posts? Who cares about what I think? Nobody. This is another proof that I need to do something else, that I better just go and find a different job. Maybe I can’t even be a good coach. God, why is it that I never have a clear mind? I’m never going to be able to to this”. And so on……..
Imagine me trying to fight these thoughts. I can’t even picture what that looks like or what that really means.
What I’ve been doing instead, is becoming more and more mindful of when these thinking patterns start, so I can redirect my attention. But even more importantly, I’ve learned that I need to realize that these thoughts are not my reality. This is important- very important. The problem is not that I had a couple of very uncomfortable minutes or seconds of negative thinking, the problem is that I gave so much credence to these thoughts that they went as far as giving me physiological responses. Yes, my heart started beating faster, my hands started sweating and I also started feeling a hole in my stomach. Who wouldn’t have all these responses when you are thinking that your whole career is a failure? Anyone right?
When I was not aware of the difference between my thoughts and my reality, I would also end up depressed.
Guys, I started writing blogs about emotional wellness and related stuff a long time ago. But never posted them because I was believing what my mind was telling me. I even have pictures of my notebook saying “my first blog to be launched” with dates from 3 years ago. Can you believe that? I was so sure that my mind chatter was correct that I decided never to share what I was writing.
Today, with the help of inspiring books and therapy I’ve learned that my thoughts are crazy. Haha! not all of them, but the hurtful ones for sure. So what do I do? I stop, take a second to breathe very deeply and reconnect with the present. I do this by observing what my reality is. So for example I go into JHW website and I see posts there, this means I do know how to write (yes I need proof reading from my husband, but that is ok).
Many times our negative thoughts are focused on all the possible things that could go wrong in the future. This is why getting grounded back in the present is a great way to putting into perspective these thoughts. Yes, they are being manufactured in your brain, but not because of that they are the objects of reality. Just like I need to remind Juno that her thoughts on chocolate as her most suitable lunch are definitely not going to be her reality ;).
This practice of reconnecting with the present and observing our thoughts as products of our minds but not dictations of our reality is called Mindfullness.
There is a quote that I find quite useful from a workbook on mindfulness and cognitive behavioral therapy that I worked on.
“Mindfulness asks that you view physical sensations just as you see thoughts and feelings. They are experiences. Pain is pain, and we can all agree that it feels bad. But if you let it feel bad and leave it at that, you maintain clarity. Clarity is what enables you to see the difference between a headache and a brain tumor”. 1
This talks about physical sensations, but the same goes for thoughts. If we understand that our thoughts are just our thoughts, and we leave it at that, then we can also gain clarity and know, that our present reality is probably more warm and friendly than what our minds made us think for a moment.
Hope this brought more clarity on my previous post about “being aware of our thoughts”
and I also hope you find this helpful.
Would love to hear back from you and know what are your ideas and experiences with this.
1. Jon Hershfield, MFT. Tom Corboy, MFT. (2013). The Mindfulness Workbook for OCD. Oakland, CA. New Harbinger Publications.