How frequently do you tune into your thoughts and observe the constant chatter of the mind? Is it hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, annually, in times of stress or major change, or, not at all?
Becoming aware of my thoughts the content, tone and theme of them has been a game changer for me.
In high school I started to notice I felt sad or focused on the negative aspects and risks of situations – many times overcome by fear. At the time I didn’t know much about processing them so I left them alone and focused on doing well in school and at dance.
I wanted to please everyone.
In university I noticed my mind felt like a dark vortex at times. The things I said about myself were so destructive and judgmental. I felt I didn’t know the person who was saying them or how to turn it off. My insecurity was high, I was constantly comparing myself to people around me and I felt I had to be someone else to be successful or liked by everyone.
Issues of self-doubt, self-worth and self-trust started to really surface – again fear was at my core. Looking back, I wonder what was I so afraid of – and why I felt I had to be something more or that whatever I did was never “enough”.
After university I noticed my thoughts remained dark and my emotions felt heavy. I worried that I’d made the wrong choice to live in Whistler, BC and that I was wasting time not working a corporate job in a city… climbing the corporate latter… or not getting a masters to further my knowledge of my undergraduate degree.
Comparison kept me so stuck and my negative fear ridden thoughts controlled my life.
I was a bystander to my own life, watching experiences pass me by. Wondering how some friends were so joyful and content with themselves – wanting those feelings for myself.
After friends and family flagged the way I spoke about myself or my depressive behaviour as a concern, I finally sought help. That’s when everything I’d been ignoring came bubbling to the surface… and I realized that I was allowing my thoughts to overrun me.
Learning tools to shift my thinking (to challenge this very familiar and engrained negative thought pattern), to take my power back, became essential to me and my wellbeing.
Being an observer of my thoughts was hard (and can still be challenging) but also liberating. I felt relieved being less stuck in the stories. As judgements and doubts arose, I imagined a tree by a river. I put the words on the leaves and watched as they fell from the tree and drifted away in the river. Or I’d write them down on separate pieces of paper and then let them go (in the recycling bin) at the end of the day or week. Having a visual and physical exercise of release helped me to separate from them and the stories I’d attached.
Journaling also became extremely helpful and important, as did speaking kindly to myself in the mirror. For those of you who’ve tried “mirror work” it can feel bizarre at first – though overtime it can become natural and enjoyable.
Looking in the mirror clothes on or not, and listing all the things I loved about myself – was difficult at first. However, overtime it helped me to see myself fully vs in pieces to be fixed.
Reciting positive affirmations out loud in front of the mirror and silently to myself throughout the day, made another positive impact on my overall wellbeing.
Putting positive quotes and affirmations up around my room, also helped me to reshape my thoughts and thought patterns.
Learning to detach from stories and negative thoughts in general has greatly improved my quality of life. Now, in many cases, I’m able to witness negative thoughts as they arise, to acknowledge their presence and the fears they may carry, and to watch them continue to pass on by. Doing this has cleared space in my mind so I can create more positive experiences and more beneficial thought patterns.
Shawn Achor’s book, “Happiness Advantage”, became a great tool for me. It has actionable steps like daily gratitude checks, ways to prioritize tasks to make the end result more attainable and suggestions about how to schedule your day so you can work and get to the gym – physical activity is massively important to mental health… and happiness.
Brene Brown’s book, “Daring Greatly” and “Gifts of Imperfection”, are other awesome reads. She gets to the root of our negative thoughts and fears and presents her findings in a very accessible way. She also provides exercises throughout the books to help us connect more with our truth and dismantle false beliefs. I’ve since read 3 more of her books and highly recommend them.
Louise Hay’s book, “You Can Heal Your Life”, is another helpful book. For me the title sounded a bit intense – but the content in each chapter is easy to read and actionable. She offers numerous exercises in various ways – verbal, visual and written.
We are all different but we do share core concerns around love and belonging. Our thoughts can get the best of us when we don’t challenge the fears behind them – and process the pain (that is often associated) that allows us to let the stories go.
Our thought patterns can be changed at any moment – realizing this power has changed my life for the better.
As the saying goes “our thoughts create our reality”. What does your reality look and feel like?
**There are many people who’ve written about mind / body health and positive thinking. I encourage to check out the authors I’ve listed and see if any of them resonate with you. If there are others you prefer, I’d love to hear from you in the comments.