Have you ever noticed that there’s always something to sort out or worry about?
We each face a lifetime of challenges and transitions and there is always some problem to be solved or issue weighing us down.
In part the residue from our ancestral heritage is responsible for some of the stress and fear we encounter. Many of us have become so acquainted with these high states of alert that we consider them to be normal.
“Stuff happening” is inevitable, but remaining in a relentless state of high alert is not. In fact chronic stress causes a great deal of wear and tear on the mind and body.
Stress, anxiety, anger, hate and fear will of course come and go in our lives as these emotions are a part of the spectrum of feeling states that we experience as human beings.
Similarly we also possess the capacity to feel and express kindness, gratitude, connection, compassion and love. We are complicated and get to access a wide range of emotional states.
Therefore it’s a good idea to understand how to respond most skillfully to difficult circumstances when they arise; how to grow the feelings that best support us and minimize the ones that wreak havoc with our inner lives and relationships.
Whatever we focus on grows stronger.
Just like anything practiced or done repeatedly, whatever we continue to focus on will become stronger in our minds. Therefore it behooves us to choose well the thoughts we choose to entertain.
It is often said that neurons that fire together wire together. This means that we create more enduring connections by focusing on certain thoughts and emotions, be they positive or negative.
The question is what do you wish to focus on?
Out of habit many of us inadvertently feel self-loathing, stress, guilt, shame, worry, fear, or engage in judging and blaming others.
We shape our minds and the way we perceive these events accordingly. This makes us more vulnerable to experiencing these same feelings going forward.
On the other hand, if you focus on positive thoughts and feelings and frame situations with a positive perspective, eventually the brain reflects this orientation.
It is entirely possible to strengthen connections that deepen your capacity to be more resilient, optimistic, grateful, self-loving, positive and connected with others.
Raising your level of awareness
- The first key to shifting the way your mind interprets experiences and life events is to raise your level of consciousness.
- This can be done by simply noticing the way you are thinking of someone or something. Becoming an observer of your behaviors and inner dialogue is critical to understanding how you engage with your inner world.
- Don’t try to change anything about your behavior until you have truly noticed how you interact with yourself and others. This will give you great data about how your mind operates.
- You can stay with this part of the process for as long as it takes to “get it” about how you look at the world, perhaps especially with regard to yourself.
- Once you have this part down, practice capturing critical and judgmental thoughts and emotions as soon as they arise.Then pause by taking a couple of deep breaths and reframe whatever you just said or thought to yourself with kind and compassionate words. For example, rather than telling yourself that you said or did something stupid you might say, “I meant well and next time I’ll do better.” or “I am a good and decent person.”
- In another scenario if you find yourself putting another person down or judging them—do the same. Catch the thought as swiftly as possible and then reframe it in a more kind and loving way.
The idea is to develop the capacity to think and respond with more compassion towards yourself and others.
And the person that stands to benefit the most is YOU.
The negative voice that lives within holds you back from living in greater joy and love.
Consider how different your inner world might feel by incorporating this practice into your life today.
What are some ways that you can reframe that inner critic when she/he bursts forth?