The art of mindfulness is not just a frivolous statement that I use, it is a skill set you acquire, that you work on, on a daily basis, it is the development of self-awareness so that we can recognise what serves our well-being and what does not, and for all there are other, equally and in some cases, more important areas to focus on other than the brain, that contributes to our over-all well being and effects our quality of life, our thoughts both now coined as ‘negative’ and ‘positive’ is a great place to start. Here is your guide on how to stop unwanted, negative thoughts from consuming your mind and how to develop a more positive mindset.
Firstly, we need to understand that everything, whether it be deemed positive or negative, is vitally important in creating balance in our lives. Without one another, positive and negative would not exist, just like the terms good and bad so the goal should not be to rid ourselves of negative thoughts but to challenge those thoughts so we can understand why we have them and then decide whether they serve our well-being or not. Recently, I have noticed a surge in people trying so hard to block out every bad thought they have, that they end up spiralling into a need for control which causes them more stress and more anxiety and a sense of failure and whether you have what is deemed as a ‘mental illness’ or not, that is not a habit you want to develop.
It is important to understand how the brain works which I go into detail here in my other post, with that being said, in its basic form, it is a creature of habit and how I like to define it to make the concept of our thoughts easier to understand, is a cows stomach; what we feed it, it regurgitates. In other words, every conversation, every word we have used, learned and overheard, we have absorbed subconsciously throughout our lives and is stored in our brains, which in turn, shape our opinions, heavily contribute to the form our inherent beliefs and of course, cloud the difference between our past thoughts and current need for thinking for ourselves.
On average, we have over 60,000 thoughts running through our minds on a daily basis, and it is not possible nor is it providing anyone with any value, by trying to control every single one of those 60,000 thoughts.
The easiest path I have found throughout my own experience of living mindfully is through self-acceptance; we are spiritual beings having a human experience and not vice versa, on the basis of this, we can begin to separate our bodies from our spirit and understand why that is important. Why is creating a mind-body connection relevant? Because once we feel that difference, achieved through the practice of meditation, we can begin to experience the freedom of choice rather than the current status of living in our mental prison.
What is the difference between living in the mind and living in the body?
It is important that we become aware, what the brain is used for and when it is appropriate to turn it off, metaphorically speaking, and when we chose to learn and develop that ability, our thoughts however positive or negative will no longer interfere or dictate our current state.
I recently came across the perfect story that makes this concept easier for us all to understand;
‘There was a Buddhist monk who decided to get all of the monks in training together in order to test their meditative abilities. After a few hours spent watching the students sit in stillness, the Buddhist monk decided to test whether they were really putting into practice what they had been taught, or not and so he surprised one of his students; if the student got a fright, it would mean he was lost in thought and if the student remained calm, he was truly meditating. ‘
When we live out with our minds, we gain access to our intuition which would alert us to any sudden changes in our environment; we would be pre-warned of any surprises. If we are continuously living in our minds, we are consumed by thoughts, noise and distractions that act as a block against our other, equally as important abilities, such as our intuition, to serve us which is why so many of us find it difficult to trust ourselves and our instincts.
How To Stop Negative Thoughts:
You do not try to stop negative thinking or negative thoughts popping into your head at any given moment; instead, whenever you have a negative thought, you replace it with a positive spin. Remember, what you feed your mind, will be regurgitated, both negative and positive thoughts are generated by habit.
‘Nothing is going right, this is going to end in disaster just like everything else’
Positive Replacement: ‘Ok that is not entirely true, this thought stems from past experiences, and anything that has not worked out for me in the past, has obviously not been of service to my life, therefore, there is just as much a chance that this situation will turn out well for me and if it doesn’t, then at least I chose not to suffer during the process. After all, I found myself in past situations that didn’t work out in my favour because of this negative thought process, to begin with!’
‘This isn’t working, I’m just going to stay in auto-pilot mode… it can’t be done, I give up.’
Positive Replacement: ‘I’m right, it can’t be done if I give up, however this time, I am now aware that I have the ultimate choice on whether to put in the time and effort to correct myself and break this cycle of negative thoughts which only produces a negative life and prevents me from succeeding, or I persist and start looking after myself by choosing to let go of any negative thought and emotion that no longer serves me. I control my brain, I will use it for logic, for learning, to communicate, to get creative and then, it will learn to go into ‘sleep mode’ until I say so.’
‘I am so stressed, and tired and just need to stop trying to do anything and get away from it all.’
Positive Replacement: ‘I am thankfully aware now that I am feeling stressed because my brain is used to this thought process in times gone by where I felt I was under too much pressure to solve, complete and achieve everything on time and it lead to failure and emotional exhaustion. This time, I choose to take a moment, focus on my breath because I understand that my mind cannot think and focus on the breath at the same time, and take better care of myself which will aid my efforts to complete whatever I am facing in a way that serves my well-being and health.’
‘I hate her/him. Look at that person, they disgust me, how could they think like that? It isn’t normal, who do they think they are?’
Positive Replacement: ‘I am creating self-awareness, and in my journey I will face oportunities to return to my former judgemental, and negative self but I now choose to take this as an opportunity, to find something positive about that person, because judgement is based on Ego, and not my true nature, therefore what I chose to say about someone else, is literally feeding a negative thought pattern that only hurts me and my life and I now understand that my own well-being should not be compromised by the negative thoughts my brain choses to regurgitate, just because I am faced with someone who is bringing up these negative emotions.’
The best and most effective practice, as demonstrated in the above examples, is what I call, ‘Positive Replacement Techniques’; it allows us time to develop the healthy habit of correcting and helping ourselves rather than exhausting and letting ourselves down, by trying to fight every battle. The goal is to check ourselves, to regain a connection between the mind and body so we can create a better life for ourselves, and not to be consumed and distracted by controlling one specific part of our selves, that ultimately could keep us warring for years.
Most of us are in the process of undoing decades of living on auto-pilot mode, my term for those unaware of the control we have, and allow their minds to dictate to them, so it is your choice whether you want to use that power, to be kind to yourself, or whether you continue down the path of allowing your mind to force an emotional reaction to something or someone rather than a response to something or someone which is dictated by you consciously.
It is not a race, it takes the average brain 26 days to develop a new habit, it is a life-long practice that has many parts to it that will contribute to a better life and that is worth the effort and the price of a notepad!
You are worth it and you can do this and this will benefit your life as a whole, I can certainly vouch for that.
Sending you all love and light