Thought creates feeling, and feeling creates action.
Imagine this scenario: I wake up in the morning and immediately think of all I have to do today, it's a long list, and the thought comes "How will I ever get all this done?", quickly followed by "X always looks so in control, and she's busier than me, why am I such a failure, when will I ever get it together?" In response to this thought, my heart sinks, my shoulders slump, my head feels heavy. I feel tired already, so I turn over and go for a snooze. When I wake, it's late and I think "sure half the day is gone, what's the point??".
This is the power of thought.
Now imagine an alternate scenario: I wake up in the morning and immediately think of all I have to do today, it's a long list, and the thought comes "How will I ever get all this done?" --I immediately step in and ask myself "Where will this thinking take me?". I decide instead to remind myself that I am a person who can get things done, that even if it all isn't done by evening, that doesn't make me a bad person, and, that I am worth the effort to do the work of choosing to think and act differently. (It does take effort, especially in the beginning when all evidence points to the futility of even trying, but persist, and it will get easier.
Are you worth it?
"Your thoughts are a catalyst for self-perpetuating cycles. What you think directly influences how you feel and how you behave. So if you think you’re a failure, you’ll feel like a failure. Then, you’ll act like a failure, which reinforces your belief that you must be a failure." - Amy Morin
If you knew that your body doesn't know the difference between a thought and reality, would it change how you think?
When we worry - when we run scenarios of what can go wrong, or bad things that might happen, the body actually produces stress hormones in response to the worry thoughts, and we enter stress responses such as the fight/flight/freeze responses. If we do this often enough it can lead to inflammation in the body, and while we sit home safe on our sofas, our own thoughts are making us stressed and ill.
Check in regularly with your mind, and when you find it wandering off to worry, or into fearful places, come back to the present.
Ask yourself - is there actually any danger right now?
In this moment, is there actually anything to worry about? - If there is, then what action can you take?
If there's no action you can take right now, can you let those thoughts go?
"The body cannot tell the difference between events that are actual threats to survival and events that are present in thought alone." - Joan Borysenko
“When a person has a reaction to something in their environment, there’s a 90 second chemical process that happens in the body; after that, any remaining emotional response is just the person choosing to stay in that emotional loop.
Something happens in the external world and chemicals are flushed through your body which puts it on full alert. For those chemicals to totally flush out of the body it takes less than 90 seconds.
This means that for 90 seconds you can watch the process happening, you can feel it happening, and then you can watch it go away.
After that, if you continue to feel fear, anger, and so on, you need to look at the thoughts that you’re thinking that are re-stimulating the circuitry that is resulting in you having this physiological response over and over again.” - Jill Bolte-Taylor, My Stroke of Insight: A Brain Sceintist’s Personal Journey
This quote reflects what Mindfulness training is all about.
As long as we are alive, as long as we love and care for people and things, there will be joy and pain. We can't avoid our emotions, and efforts to do so usually wind up causing more pain. Better to learn to form a healthier relationship with our emotions, so we can live and love fully and fearlessly.
If you would like to learn more about mindfulness, and how to apply it in your life, click here.
"Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom." - Viktor E. Frankl, Man's Search for Meaning
One of the trickiest things with depression and anxiety is that they can steal your motivation to do the things that will take you to a better place mentally.
Any of us who experience depression or low mood will know how it is to have the internal battle of knowing that a walk for example will make us feel better, but struggling to find the energy to get up and go do it.
Those of us with anxiety may relate to feeling wound up, having the thought that doing a mindfulness meditation will help us, but feeling that we'll be too anxious to make it through to the end of the recording.
It's a catch 22 that we need to stop in it's tracks. If we wait til we feel like doing the thing that will help us, we'll never do it. Anxiety and depression will see to that. However, if we can do our best to ignore the feeling and do it anyway, over time, the depression will lift, and the anxiety will soothe.
If you're not feeling great today, do something. Take a walk or do some yoga, do a meditation, phone a friend, something. It's a step in the right direction. Do the same tomorrow and you've taken another step, same the next day, and the next. Before you know it, you'll be in a better place.
Fact: The Weather is Bad (For everyone but the ducks)
Thoughts about the fact: Oh my God if I see one more day of rain I'll go crazy. I'm sick of the cold, the wet, the weekend storms, the grey. I can't go anywhere, I can't do anything, this has gone on so long I can't remember summer, no wonder I'm so porky I can't get out to do any exercise. I was supposed to have the garden prepared by now and it'll be too late by the time this stops, it'll be ruined for the year now.............
Thoughts about the fact: Wow the queues into Tesco this morning, everyone is out buying up stuff, should I be out buying up stuff? Where would I put it, this house is so small, imagine being quarantined in here I'll climb the walls! What if we all get it, will we turn on each other for supplies? I hear they're shunning people who recovered from it in China, what if that happened to me? What would I do if all my friends and family shunned me?.........
The mind can run wild (and often does) when we are faced with adversity. There's the fact of the thing, and then the thousand thoughts we have about the fact.
We are programmed as humans to problem-solve, and this part of our brain kicks into action when a problem arises, this is generally a good thing. However, when we are faced with a problem we don't have much control over, many of the thoughts we have about it are pointless.
We can only do what we can do (remember your umbrella in the rain, wash your hands properly to avoid Coronavirus etc.), then, we should try as much as we can to let other thoughts go. Worrying increases our vulnerability to stress, and can have an impact on the body. To be at your best so you can effectively face life's challenges, let worry go, that means, choosing to disengage from worry thoughts.
"The greatest weapon against stress is our ability to choose one thought over another" - William James
In the movies change is often depicted as happening in a big transformative event, where someone has a revelation that changes their life forever, and they live happily ever after.
The reality is quite different. Change is more likely to be a collection of small decisions, made over and over again.
What change will you make today?
“A year from now you will wish you had started today.” - Karen Lamb
Today is the third Monday of the New Year, and some say it's the most depressing day of the year. Most of us are still skint from Christmas until the paycheck comes in, lamenting the death of our New Year's resolutions, and dreaming of sunshine and warmth to take away the winter chill.
Some say there's no such thing as Blue Monday, and I don't want to debate it's reality today, instead, I wanted to share what I like about the idea.
“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates
This week in The Weekly Minute, two guided grounding practices, so the winds of life (and outside!!) don't blow us away.
It's important to have a grounding practice so we feel stable and rooted within ourselves. As we know, life can be full of surprises, and change is inevitable, but if you feel grounded, you'll be more able to face challenges without falling.
Think of a tree, they grow so tall and sturdy because they have strong roots under the earth.
Practice these a few times this week, so you get familiar with them, and they are in your toolbox, ready for when you reach for them.
“Flying starts from the ground. The more grounded you are, the higher you fly.”
Have you ever noticed how much thought can go into something, and the thing itself might never get done?
Maybe you had great plans for the exercise you were going to start in 2020 but the running shoes haven't hit the road yet?
Maybe there's a work project you've been mulling over and over in your mind but you haven't started yet because you're unsure how to start it, or afraid won't work out?
Maybe you have the January blues and you're mind is full of negative thoughts?
If any of these sound like you, see if you can bring your attention to the amount of mental energy you are giving to something, without actually doing anything about it. If your thinking is constructive, such as making solid plans and acting on them, or troubleshooting an issue, all good. But, if the thinking is sounding more like a broken record, and bringing feelings of negativity, then do something. Anything.
Take a walk.
Chat to a friend.
Get yourself out to a yoga or meditation class.
Take some action around the work issue, even if you're not sure it's the right action.
Do something to break the cycle of thinking, and get unstuck. Where there's movement, there's change.
"Any action is often better than no action, especially if you have been stuck in an unhappy situation for a long time. If it is a mistake, at least you learn something, in which case it's no longer a mistake. If you remain stuck, you learn nothing." - Eckhart Tolle
One of the things that really stuck with me from my training to become a therapist was also one of the most annoying things I heard. A tutor told us that we should encourage gradual change as opposed to radical change, as we humans handle change better when it is in smaller increments. He told us 10% was a good rule, "Only take the client 10% from where they are right now."
I remember being so disappointed when I heard this! I had notions of great eureka moments in which the client would dramatically drop old mindsets and begin new lives immediately! Over time, I saw the wisdom in what he told us. Sure, there are people who make bigger changes, and some who make smaller, but as a general rule, humans aren't fond of change and need to take bitesize pieces.
Why am I bringing this up? Well, New Years resolutions are often times when we try to make radical change, and then we get annoyed with ourselves when it doesn't work out. How about this year, try taking change slow. Set your resolution, and then break it into smaller goals of 10% chunks.
Slow and steady wins the race.... ;)
“Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”
The Weekly Minute is a blog I write each week with the aim of providing legitimate tools to help promote positive mental health.
The collection of short, practical mindfulness and therapy tools for self-reflection and self-improvement, can equip people to take their mental well-being into their own hands, and improve their quality of life.
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