We cannot go seconds without thinking. It is what makes humans so amazing. It is also what causes us to suffer so much, or it can help us thrive.
We cannot control our thoughts completely. If I say flamingo, what comes to mind? You probably think of a pink bird standing on its tall legs. If I say ocean, you probably picture a vast blue water, or something associated with it. So, our thoughts are responses to the world around us. We will always have responsive thoughts.
We also will have good thoughts and bad thoughts. Maybe the ocean brings wonderful memories for you. Maybe you experienced something awful at the ocean. We have good or bad responsive thoughts based on our experiences.
I am going to be fully transparent.
Right now, I am having some unwanted thoughts. I feel a bit discouraged. I work hard to share as much as I can about mental health, and I feel like I am not doing good enough. Then, my lack of confidence makes me feel insecure. Right after I typed that I thought, well now it is going to seem like I just want attention or something. Like I am weak. I hate that. I am not weak.
I had a thought, and I also had a response to a thought. I felt bad for feeling bad.
What a vicious cycle.
I have been practicing mindfulness and meditation to help me with this vicious cycle of thinking. Mindfulness is a lifestyle, as well a practice that lasts a lifetime.
Mindfulness allows me to take the thought, “I feel like I am not good enough” and simply acknowledge it, rather than responding to it and jumping into a pressure-filled cycle.
Again, it is a practice. It is something I am working on to help with the many thoughts that come and go through out the day. It will never be perfect.
Sometimes, people will respond to their unwanted thoughts by quickly changing them. This is also an option. It works for many people. However, I am focusing on a mindfulness approach and explaining why it works best for me.
I am good at ignoring difficult things. I can brush a negative thought aside like it is a little bug I want to sweep off the table. I have been doing that for a lot of years. I am also good at ignoring hurtful behavior in important relationships. I can easily sweep it away with the negative thoughts.
This is also a vicious cycle. It temporarily keeps the pressure off, but this cycle will lead to dysfunction. If I put my energy into changing my thinking too much, I can ignore important feelings that I need to process. I can also put far too much pressure on myself to “fix” myself.
For me, mindfulness works best for my unwanted thoughts. I can allow them to be validated if necessary. I can take the unwanted thought and let it be, without judgement. I do not have to “fix it.” It is just a thought. I can let it come and let it go.
This has worked better for me than cognitive behavior therapy, or other thought-changing techniques. It is so important for us to find out what works for us. After all, we do A LOT of thinking. What we do with all that thinking is pretty important. And yeah, even when I am a licensed therapist, I will still need to work through my own thoughts! Everyone does!
I decided that I am going to let my thought on not being good enough simply be a thought. Thoughts come and go. They are not truths. They change. Also, it is okay that I feel down sometimes. It is okay to feel less than perfect. The feeling will change.
What works best for you to manage your mind?