A Flexibile Mind
You can watch the video or keep reading.
Sometimes we feel so wound up that we will do anything to distract ourselves from our thoughts.
Many people will say “I don’t want to think about my illness” … “this makes me feel bad! I don’t like it! I don’t want these thoughts/feelings/memories.” You would be right also! Who does want negative or unhelpful thoughts?!
What is important to know is that trying not to think about something usually results in us thinking a whole lot more about that thought or worry.
If I ask you not to think about your troubles, what is the first thing that pops into your mind? I bet it was something related to your troubles!
Our brain registers thoughts more prominently when you react more strongly, and particularly if you have deep beliefs about what those thoughts mean to you – for instance, if your parents used to tell you that you were not clever, then it will feel a lot worse if your friend said the same thing too.
Sometimes we can’t help how we react either (think about a fear of spiders) but … we can take control and learn how to respond in different ways.
From our last lesson, you will recall that if our brain registers fear, it will respond with getting our bodies ready for action (‘Fight or Flight’), so we will automatically become more uptight – emotionally and physically.
What we need to understand is that our brain will constantly send us thoughts and feelings throughout the day (and even when we wake up during the night), including physical sensations also.
When we notice thoughts coming in that we don’t particularly like, and especially if there is little we can do about them – then we need to learn to respond in different ways.
We don’t always have to listen to our thoughts.
So we ask you to practice ‘turning down the volume’.
One way we can do this is by putting a label on the things that are unhelpful to us and out of our control.
When we do this, it helps our brain to affirm and recognize the fact that this thought is not something we can do a lot with; that we don’t need to worry about it as much as we are.
We can just recognize it as a minor worry or inconvenience, not necessarily something that needs to be believed or to take action on.
In essence, we don’t need to get busy or distract ourselves when our mind sends unhelpful, uncomfortable messages, we just need to respond gently and decide how much it is worth paying attention to.
While you practice a little ‘low and slow’ breathing, think about the ‘stories’ and ‘records’ that you repeat to yourself each day.
What are the unhelpful things you say to yourself?
Maybe you only have one or two … are they uncomfortable?
What does it say or mean about you if you play these ‘records’ all the time?
See the picture boxes and see if you can identify with any of the typical things that people tell themselves, which are generally unhelpful to your life.
Then notice what they do with their thoughts and feelings, simply without judgment. They are just noticing, and nothing more.
We know the thoughts and feelings will move more freely through you when you don’t give them so much attention – just like cars driving down the road.
This will free up your mind to focus on what IS important to you each day.
Feel free to write down some of the unhelpful things your mind tells you, and then write down how you are going to practice responding to them in your mind from now on.