What if I lose my job? What would we do if a tornado hits the house? Why did I say that? What if I lose my clients? What if I fail this test? I’ll never be as good at… I hope I don’t fail at… If all that chatter sounds familiar, blame it on your noisy mind and the negative thoughts that bubble up through out your day and especially your night. And holy smokes, can those thoughts make us freak out, worry, and impact our lives. What in the world is going on, and why do those usually baseless thoughts wander into our consciousness? And more importantly, is there a way to get rid of them?
The Buddha said,
“We are shaped by our thoughts; we become what we think. When the mind is pure, joy follows like a shadow that never leaves.”
So when these negative thoughts enter our consciousness, you have to wonder – what is the purpose? They seem to sometimes have a life of their own. Are we at some base level adrenalin junkies, or is this part of biological make-up? Well…according to many sources we are hard wired for these thoughts. They helped us thousands of years ago to react to situations and survive.
Dr. Barbara Markway, PhD, in “Stop Fighting Your Negative Thoughts” from Psychology Today says,
“The difficulty isn’t that we have negative thoughts. The problem comes when we believe our thoughts are true.”
The stories we tell ourselves, Markway says,
“…become “fused” with these stories–fused as in joined together as a whole. We don’t step back to get a better perspective. We don’t ask ourselves necessary questions about our thoughts such as:
Is this thought true?
Is this thought important?
Is this thought helpful?”
When we are able to take a step back and analyze the negative thoughts, to clear our minds, and realize that what our minds are telling us, may not be true or useful. If our mind asks us “What if we fail the test?’, and we embrace the thought and hold onto it, the thought sets us up for self-doubt which leads us down the path toward a self fulfilling prophecy.
So what if instead of embracing our minds scare tactic, we take a step back and realize:
- I’ve studied long and hard for this test.
- This thought doesn’t play a part in whether I pass or fail, my studying does. The thought is not important.
- The thought only makes me panic, so it is not at all helpful.
To paraphrase what the Buddha and Dr. Markway have said,we are what we believe. But is there anyway to get a grip on the negative thoughts when they find their way into our conscious?
Melanie Greenberg, Phd, writes in “Become the CEO of Your Own Brain in 6 Easy Steps,” you need to:
- “Listen and acknowledge the thoughts.”
- “Make peace with your mind.” Realize that you are stuck with this brain and sometimes it will do what it wants to do.
- “Realize your thoughts are just thoughts.” Thoughts are not necessarily reality.
- “Observe your mind.” Take note of what it does when it wanders.
- “Retrain your mind to rewire your brain.” Our thought patterns become etched into our brains and go into an auto-pilot mode in regard to negative thoughts.
- “Practice Self Compassion.” Change how we respond to the feelings that come up when our minds go down the negative track. And don’t judge your feelings. Respond to the feeling, not the thought.
If we are to strive for some semblance of peace of mind, so “joy follows like a shadow that never leaves,” we need to stop, peruse the thoughts, determine the validity of those thoughts, and RESPOND to the FEELINGS that those thoughts evoke. Once we respond to the feelings, and not the thought itself, we are free to let the thought go.
We are what we create, and sometimes our minds are the best fiction writers around, but we need to find peace within ourselves. What type of negative thoughts do YOU have? Do you believe what your mind is telling you? Are you striving to calm your negative thoughts to lead a happier life?