Five Tools to Transform Your Thoughts
“It’s not life that causes suffering, it’s our story ABOUT life- our interpretation- that causes so much distress. When we practice interrupting the story we’re telling ourselves, and learn to ride the wave of emotions that inevitably come up in life, we can find a new freedom and flexibility in the face of uncertainty and change.” – Pema Chodron
1.) Learn The Pattern Of Your Negative Thinking
In Psychology this is called Cognitive Distortions. My good friend Kris calls it, "Getting on the train to Crazy Town". Either way, here are 10 different ways in which your thinking can become faulty and cause you to react:
- ALL OR NOTHING (black & white, thinking in absolutes)
- OVER-GENERALIZATIONS (always or never, thinking broad generalizations based on a few things that happen)
- MENTAL FILTER (glass half empty, hear the negative, filter the positive)
- DISCOUNTING THE POSITIVE (disregarding personal achievements, attributing it to something or someone else)
- JUMPING TO CONCLUSIONS (expecting the worse, making negative assumptions without any facts)
- MAGNIFICATION/ MINIMIZATION (magnifying mistakes and imperfections, minimizing gifts and accomplishments)
- EMOTIONAL REASONING (interpreting situations through feelings, 0-60 reactions)
- "SHOULD" STATEMENTS (judging oneself from the beginning)
- LABELING (Using a weakness to describe/dictate oneself, ex: "I didn't do this right, I am so stupid.")
- BLAME (cop-out, a way to avoid facing problems, diverting focus from oneself)
When you can recognize the negative pattern in your own thinking (and you might have identified a few here), you become less affected by it. After all, CLARITY IS POWER!
2.) Purge on Paper
Anytime you are start feeling those negative thoughts frequent your head space, write them down on a piece of paper. Energetically this purges that toxic back-up out of your body, helping you to feel lighter, and preventing you from dumping it onto someone else. Take this exercise one step further by ripping up this paper and tossing it in the trash. In this way, you convey to your subconscious that you do not want to carry those thoughts with you. Conversely, when using positive affirmations, write them down where you will see them often, or carry them in your pocket, wallet, or purse. The frequency in which you see them will reinforce these positive messages to your subconscious.
3. ) Source your Beliefs
When a negative thought comes up, stop and ask yourself, “Do I really believe that?” A lot of your negative thoughts were already programmed by age 7 from what you observed and heard growing up. (Check out BRUCE LIPTON for more on this subject). A belief is simply a thought in repetition. The more you can detach from it by saying "this does not apply to me", the easier it will be to let it go. If it’s something somebody said to you, or about you, that you have internalized and accepted as true, you also have the choice to NOT accept it. LOOK AT THE SOURCE. Who is this person that said this? How credible are they? What do they know about you or your life that makes what they say true? Trusting someone else’s opinion of you, especially one made in judgement, does not serve you. Whether their comments are shared with love or hate, true peace comes when you no longer rely, need, or feed off of what anyone says about who you are.
4.) Meditate Your Own Way
I've heard so many rules about "the right way to meditate" and all I can say is... this is a personal practice. It's a personal journey. There are different techniques and methods to enhance your practice, but the road you take to connect to Source, God, Stillness, Divine Mind, etc. is yours and yours alone. Creating a consistent practice to "plug-in" to peace will calm the monkey mind and allow a higher perspective of thought to switch up those old tapes. So if, for you, meditation is free-writing, listening to a guide, stretching with music, hiking in nature, or sitting in complete silence, GIVE YOURSELF THAT TIME! It's self-care for the Soul, and creates space for more loving thoughts.
5.) Focus on Feeling Good
Let's be honest. It's really hard to think positively when you feel like shit! If you find your emotions tend to spiral out of control before you can catch up with them, change up the process. Focus on how you WANT to feel first. (Example: If you desire to feel FREEDOM, connect to a moment, maybe on your favorite Vacation, that sparked the feeling of freedom). Imagine yourself with no limitations. Breathe into that image and let it expand in your mind. The feelings we most desire can always be accessed. It's a matter of CHOOSING to feel them. Once you're in that feeling state, think the thoughts that continue to affirm this feeling for you. (Ex. "I am free to create the life I truly desire. The Universe works according to what I believe. I choose to believe I am limitless.") Breathe. Repeat. And smile into the possibility!