Many of us go through our day with thoughts zipping around our brains like pinballs in a pinball machine. Some of these thoughts are helpful and productive, and some are simply reactive, familiar thoughts that keep us stuck and unhappy. The first step in creating any change in our thinking is to become aware of what thoughts we are thinking. We can do this by engaging in mindfulness practices such as meditation, yoga, qigong, or tai chi which put an emphasis on begin in the present moment. As you become more aware of your thoughts, you can redirect them to ones that are more helpful.
What is an unhelpful thought?
An unhelpful thought is one that triggers a negative feeling inside of you and often keeps us feeling stuck or helpless in our lives.
- A thought about something in the future you have no control over
- A thought judging or criticizing someone else or yourself
- A thought comparing yourself to other people
- Frustration or stress about a situation you can’t control
- Thinking about the past in any vein that isn’t learning from it
- Cursing (events, situations, people)
- Wishing things were different
In contrast, helpful thoughts look more like this:
- Planning for future actions based on desired outcomes
- Reflecting on the past to prevent ourselves from making future mistakes.
- Self-reflection: “Why did I do this? What are my true motives?”
- Getting to know yourself: “What do I want? What makes me happy?”
- Thoughts that generate positive states.
- Understanding your own strengths, and weaknesses.
- Well wishing
- Asking for help
Helpful tips to remember:
- Focus on the feeling state and outcome that you DO want rather than what you DON’T want. Start from the finish line, and then trace your steps backward. What thoughts would you need to think to have the desired outcome?
- Thoughts and emotions are all energy. Unhelpful thoughts are not our enemy. They are full of energy which just want to move. Think of them as a child who doesn’t know better. Find a solution or redirect the energy into something more productive.
- Energy follows thoughts and attention. Energy will nourish that which it is directed towards, so be careful where you direct your energy.
- We often use thoughts as a buffer between ourselves and the present moment, and between ourselves and physical or emotional discomfort. Emotions will show up in the body as aches, pains, or tension. However, chronically avoiding the present moment and the body often creates a great deal more chronic suffering.
Our thoughts can be like a wild horse at times. However, when we consciously choose the thoughts we think and where we put our energy, it will ripple out to the rest of our lives. This is the most simple yet life-changing practice you can start doing today.
By Jessica Glahn