One of the ideas in the book that really grabbed me is about thinking.
The author says that thinking is like breathing: sometimes we pay attention to our breath and are aware of it, but most of the time it’s just going in on the background, without us questioning it or thinking about it.
It happens all the time without us noticing it, and we can’t switch it off.
Our thoughts are like this too.
This was really helpful for me, hearing that our thoughts are constant. New ideas and thoughts are always coming into our heads, without us asking for them or planning them.
This was a revelation for me – because I have being trying (unsuccessfully) to stop my thoughts.
I’m trying to be more positive (and I can feel it kicking in and having an effect), but I thought the way to do that was to switch off my thoughts altogether. When I’m lying on the beach or watching a beautiful sunset, sometimes my thoughts run wild, and I end up feeling bad. I think things like:
You should be enjoying this – why don’t you feel happy?!
This is beautiful – why are you feeling shit?
You have so much to do – you shouldn’t be lying on the beach when you have things to do.
(Incidentally, I wrote a post about should thoughts here!)
Maybe it would be great if we could switch off all our thoughts – but the author (Richard Carlson) says that this is not going to happen.
You can’t just stop thoughts popping up. (Unless you’re doing an activity where you switch off, or you’re meditating etc.)
I guess this is what makes us so amazing as humans.
In the day to day of life, thoughts are going to come, and it’s pretty much out of your control. This was a powerful lesson for me.
However. It’s not all doom and gloom 🙂 We don’t have to leave it there!
You can’t control the thoughts that pop into your head – but you can control what you do with them, or how you react to them.
You can shoo your thoughts away. Question them. Or tell them to piss off, if you need to be more forceful 🙂
It takes practice, but it can be done! It’s like any kind of training – like learning to walk, ski, rollerblade, swim… whatever you relate to. You don’t just get in the pool and start swimming butterfly. You do doggy paddle, you swim widths, and then you progress to lengths.
It’s the same with thinking. Yes, we get hundreds of positive and negative thoughts in our head every day.
But you are in control of what happens next.
So practice saying in your head/to your thoughts:
I don’t want to think about that just yet.
That’s not going to help me.
That’s not true, now bugger off 🙂
That kind of negative thinking will make me feel shit!
It’s not easy, and I’m working on it day by day. But isn’t it worth a try? Who is more in charge – you, or your thoughts?!
Even more importantly, it’s our thoughts that create our feelings – not the other way round. If you have a negative thought and dwell on it, you end up feeling crap.
Don’t believe me?
- Start to feel stressed. Can you do it without thinking? Now think about something stressful – and this gives you the feeling of stress.
- Make yourself feel sad without thinking. Now think about something sad – did this help to create the feeling of sadness?
I swear it’s true!
- Now think about something happy and awesome. Picture it in your mind. You should start to get a prickle of happiness, or positivity. Or maybe even a smile 🙂
I know it’s not easy. I really struggle with this. You can’t stop negative thoughts – but you can challenge them.
So what I’m trying now is to challenge, or add on to my negative thoughts:
Negative thought: You don’t have a job.
Challenging thought: So what? Do I need a job at this exact moment? Getting back to full health is more important to me. So you can stop those thoughts right now!
Or a follow-on thought: No, I don’t have a job… yet. But who knows what’s around the corner, hmm?
One final note: you are not your thoughts. I want to make this really clear. Don’t be worried by your thoughts. They are not you. Have a negative thought? It doesn’t mean you are a negative person.
What you do with it next, determines you as a person. Do you fight it? Agree with it? Do you do something about it – i.e. moan, complain, or any other negative action?
Our thoughts flit about all over the place like little pixies, but we can try to calm them and tame them, or we can let them run wild in our heads, creating mischief and upset.
What would you prefer?!
Let me know if you notice any changes as you start to talk back to, or brush away, your negative thoughts. I’d love to hear.