Practising Mindfulness

Being off-balance can indicate that you’re caught up in automatic, often distorted, thinking, which can really bring you down. You know when this is happening because quite simply you don’t feel great and your mood changes. You might feel low, anxious, sad or depressed or some other limiting emotion.

It is important to understand though that any difficult emotion, like this, does not just materialise out of thin air. Often we can feel overwhelmed by our emotions and think they just appear but the truth is something always precedes our emotions…Something we often overlook… OUR THOUGHTS…

As soon as you start becoming more aware of what you say to yourself you might be surprised by your tendency to think negatively whenever a particular situation arises.

It’s easy when we are feeling a little lost and vulnerable to start unconsciously accepting all the thoughts our mind presents us with as the absolute truth. However, it’s important to realise that the left cerebral hemisphere in the brain is actually prone to fabricating verbal narratives. So, just because we repeatedly say something to ourselves does not mean it is correct – especially if the thought is critical or fearful.

The basis of our thinking is often a product of our combined history, experiences, social interaction and even genetic make-up. This is why that critical inner voice might sound a lot like an old teacher, a parent or an old toxic relationship.

The good news is, with a little time, practice, and direction, you can get out of this mindset and become more mindful. Here are some practical steps to help you on your way…

 

Practical Steps to Mindfulness…

 

  1. Notice mood shifts

If you find it difficult to catch your thoughts at first, pay close attention to shifts in your mood. If you are feeling bad then chances are you have slipped into negative thinking habits. As soon as you notice a change in your mood, ask yourself, ‘What just went through my mind?’ ‘What did I just say to myself?’

  1. Adopt the role of quiet observer

Become aware (or mindful) of what you are saying to yourself by simply taking a step back and taking the role of the quiet observer on your own thinking. From this neutral, non-judgmental perspective, on your own shoulder, just gently notice how often you are feeding yourself negative suggestions. You might be surprised by just how often that occurs.

  1. Don’t give yourself a hard time

 It’s imperative at this stage that you don’t give yourself a hard time. This is not meant as another opportunity to be critical of your critical thoughts! The idea behind mindfulness is to become an impartial, compassionate onlooker who is genuinely curious about your thoughts and feelings but isn’t locked into them or controlled by them.

  1. Understand it’s not about eliminating all negativity

 We all have thousands of thoughts everyday and it would be unrealistic to expect every one of them to be positive. Even enlightened masters have negative thoughts. The aim, therefore, is not to eliminate all negative thoughts entirely but to become aware of them and gently release them more quickly allowing you to come back to a place of balance.

  1. Gently notice your thoughts

Thoughts are quick and fleeting and we are typically not even aware they are happening. They can spiral in the deepest levels of the unconscious. However, when you take a step back and realise that you are not the sum part of your thinking brain but the observer too – it immediately allows you to start detaching from your thoughts, which can then help you begin changing them.

  1. The observer effect

This is the known as the observer effect – whatever you observe you change at a subatomic level just by your observation. At the early stages of mindfulness simply allowing yourself to become the observer and not just the thinker is the first crucial first step in the journey…

 

Next steps…

How to mindfully detach from unwanted thoughts

Once we have adopted the role of the observer and become aware that unwanted negative thoughts are troubling our peace of mind – the next step is allowing ourselves to try and change them.

  1. Ask yourself is that really true?

It’s really important to understand that we often tend to accept our thoughts and feelings as the absolute truth and tell ourselves. “If I feel this way, or if I’m having these thoughts, they must be valid representations of what’s going on, and they should be listened to and reacted to.” But this is not necessarily the case at all. Just because we repeatedly say something to ourselves does not mean it is true – especially if the thought is negative.

  1. Questions to ask yourself

If in doubt, take a step back from your inner critic’s negative commentary and ask yourself “Is what I’m saying really correct?” Instead of assuming absolute truth, why not gather evidence to assess its validity and then approach your thoughts like an impartial jury would evaluate evidence. If you still think the thought is true ask yourself “How do I respond when I believe that thought?” and “What am I concerned would happen if I didn’t believe that?” Finally a good question to ask is “Who would I be without the thought?”

  1. Try ‘possible thinking’ rather than ‘positive thinking’ 

Sometimes when you are feeling low and force yourself to say positive things, you can end up feeling worse because your internal lie detector goes off. So if positive thinking just seems a step too far – why not try “possible thinking” instead? This involves reaching for neutral, non-judgmental thoughts about the situation based on facts. So “I’m no good at this” becomes “I may have to work a little at this but I am making steady progress already.” Notice how much better this feels.

  1. Ask yourself are you living in the past, in the future or in the present?

Most negative thoughts stem from fears we have about an event which has happened in the past or something we are worried about in the future. However, the only thing that is really real is the here and now. You can stop at any point and breathe and say “Right here and right now all is well and all my needs are met” and allow yourself to come back to the present. Becoming mindful of your current situation will always allow you to restore balance and instantly feel better.

Remember your true core is very peaceful, loving and wise. Listen to this wisdom in the moments of still.