Our mind never stops, it chatters all day and all night, often in automatic. We can give our mind a break from the constant chatter by practising mindfulness: by becoming present, experiencing the here and now, being aware, using our senses, breathing, accepting, appreciating what is around us. And in those moments of self-awareness, we have the opportunity to re-wire our brain, to choose to think differently, to change our brain, to change our mind.
The way we talk to ourselves determine how we feel in the moment. Instead of being at the mercy of our Automatic Negative Thinking Bias with unhelpful, critical thoughts, we can get out of our head, observe and direct our thinking consciously in a skilful manner to feel better. By developing the ability to differentiate between thoughts, feelings and facts, we can increase our well-being and decision-making ability.
Thoughts are not facts, thoughts are not feelings, and we are more than our thoughts. Thoughts come and go. We have a brain that keeps on producing thoughts. Some thoughts are better than others. We can discriminate, we can choose to think in a way that is accurate and helpful. Here, is how practising mindfulness and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT) can work together to gain more balance and clarity.
We can make a different experience worst by the way we think about it. We don’t always have control over events, but we can gain control over the way we think and react to them. When we experience a difficult emotion/feeling (e.g., depression, guilt, shame, anger or anxiety), it is usually preceded by a number of automatic thoughts and stories we tell ourselves. Often, these self-talks may be along certain themes and they are repeated in our mind over and over again, well wired in. We blame ourselves, tell ourselves we are inadequate, defective(causing depression), we worry about the future(causing fear, anxiety), we brood over our wrong doing(causing guilt or shame), we obsessed over someone else’s wrong doing(causing anger) or we ruminate, re-run over past difficult experiences(causing distress, pain, depression). We unduly dwelling on the problematic aspects and not focusing on the possible solutions. We can’t choose our feelings as soon, they come like the weather, but with awareness, we can choose how we think about something which in turn will regulate our feelings. Here is one technique on how you can develop skilful thinking.
When you are feeling difficult emotions take the following steps:
If the answer is “no” to one of those questions, then modify your thinking and explore other perceptions of the events which are more helpful, kind, truthful and pointing to a solution. Unhelpful thinking follows patterns, which often are automatic, even unconscious until we start paying attention to them; we then become “aware”. We can wake up to our automatic thinking in the moment and think differently. In the moment when we are aware and choose to think in a skilful way, we are re-wiring our brain little by little. As we become more aware, we can change our thinking style over time which in turn can change our emotional state for the better…
Remember also to be kind and supportive to yourself; to talk to yourself the way a good friend would. You will feel more supported and in control this way. The more we practice this, the better we get at changing our thoughts, to change our mind…to change our brain…to feel better!
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