We are not our thoughts!
We think we are because our feelings often reflect our thoughts, and those feelings simultaneously direct how we experience the world, but it’s our actions that spring from these thoughts that really matter. Our minds think about all kinds of crazy things, but we don’t have to act on them.
The negative thought snow ball effect.
When we have negative thoughts, we trigger negative feelings; and when we have negative feelings, we create more negative thoughts. If we don’t stop this pattern before it gets out of control, we are setting ourselves up for a shitty day, week or month. The reverse is also true. When we feel good and have positive thoughts, those thoughts trigger more positive feelings.
This doesn’t mean that feeling sad, frustrated, mad or anxious isn’t ok.
It just means we let feelings be feelings, without judging them, trying to make then go away or reacting carelessly. If you’re feeling sad, frustrated or anxious, let yourself experience the feeling without letting your thoughts make it worse. The trick is to be aware and get in front of our negative thinking before it spirals out of control.
This is where Pattern Interrupts come into play.
Below are 3 basic tricks to stopping negative thinking in its tracks.
Self-talk refers to the audio part of our mind. I’m not talking about walking down the street talking to yourself out loud or to some imaginary person. I’m talking about the words you tell yourself in your mind. Many times people speak horribly to themselves, saying things like, "you’re stupid", "you’re unworthy", "you're ugly”. The first step to changing this is to become aware of this negative self-talk as quickly as possible. Seriously, be aware of what you say to yourself! Would you talk to your loving mom like that? Just this one thing, creating more awareness, can change your life!
If you’re a visual person, you will experience a negative thought as a picture. Perhaps when you get anxious it feels like you’re standing on a cliff; or when things get out of control you visualize a snow ball turning into an avalanche. Next time, you catch yourself in a negative thought imagine you’re the movie director and can stop and freeze the scene in your mind. Then, go ahead and add some positive resources. For example, if you’re on the edge of the cliff, visualize yourself with wings or a big bouncy castle to catch you. Since you’re making up your negative thoughts anyway, you might as well make up something more fun and exciting. You can even make it silly, because why not? They're called pattern interrupts for a reason.
Take a deep breath and notice your body. Stand straight, relax your shoulders and your face. Give yourself a fake smile to remind your brain of what it’s like to be happy.
In a study in a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, psychological scientists Tara Kraft and Sarah Pressman of the University of Kansas investigate the potential benefits of smiling by looking at how different types of smiling, and the awareness of smiling, affects individuals’ ability to recover from episodes of stress. The results of the study suggest that smiling may actually influence our physical state and that smiling during brief stressors can help to reduce the intensity of the body’s stress response, regardless of whether a person actually feels happy.
Practice, Practice, Practice.
Our brains are habit machines. To make any kind of change in our lives, we need to practice. First, we become aware of our negative thoughts. Second, we practice our pattern interrupts. Third, we substitute our usual, reactive negative behaviors for more positive, intentional ones. Like any other muscle in our body, we need to keep exercising our brain in this way to make the new behaviors stick.
You can make use of these techniques I’ve shared with you above to help you feel better and act smarter. However, for those of you who’d like to go deeper and want to take the fast track to reprogramming your mind, I’d be happy to work with you. In my specialized, private sessions, I help guide my client to move from where they are currently stuck, to where they want to go. To learn more about hypnosis and for more information about how to take the next step, please visit me at www.inspiredlivinghypnosis.com.