Updated: Jan 9, 2021
I'm a failure, I'm unloveable, I'm worthless, I'm helpless.
Do any of these sound familiar? These are the lies we tell ourselves daily, these are the lies we believe. And when we listen to them long enough they become our reality. Have you spent way to much time becoming a victim to your thoughts? I know I have. I have spent many of nights awakened by anxiety as a result of these lies. These lies shape our thinking, our emotions, and the way we respond to the world around us affecting our decisions, behaviors and our relationships. This toxic way of thinking changes our perception of who we are and what we are actually capable of producing a false reality where our distorted reasoning actually seems to make sense! Though you may not have chosen your current circumstance you do have a choice in how you think about it. We have a choice to choose what we think about, where we focus our energy and what we live for! The key is to interrupt the negative thoughts when they arise preventing them from continuing their normal path of a downward spiral. When we think new thoughts we physically alter our brains, we make healthier neural connections, which make new pathways, and overtime these new pathways become permanent routes that can change everything for us! Where out attention goes our neural firing flows and neural connection grows. We ultimately become what we choose to believe! That's why it's so important we learn through mindfulness how to become more aware of our thought process. Once we become aware of the negative thought we can take notice and interrupt it's normal negative flow and choose to instead forge a new pathway. one that is filled with hope and the truth of who we are and what we are truly capable of. There are different methods of doing this ultimately it's whatever you find works best for you and is most applicable for your life but here are a few options.:
*When you have thoughts of hopelessness or victimhood arise try to simply acknowledge your thoughts but instead of ruminating on them and allowing them to then take a downward spiral write down or say three things you are grateful for in your life.
*When you have thoughts that tell you your not good enough, that your not worthy of love, that you're not capable to achieve your goals... interrupt those thoughts acknowledge them but replace them with truth with affirmations. Make a list of truths ahead of time about yourself and keep it somewhere you always have access to perhaps the notes on your phone. This may be a difficult task for you to do as you may not feel these truths about yourself yet as you have been believing lies about yourself for so long. But write them down anyways. Things like I am loved, I am capable of achieving my dreams, I am talented, smart and strong, etc. There are many apps and websites that can give you a list to choose from that make it personal for you. Whatever it is write them down and when you have those lies creep up telling you your not good enough, your not loved, your not capable, stop and take out your notes and repeat your affirmations. It's okay if you don't feel what you are saying as eventually you will as you build new neurological pathways.. Trust the process.
*When you have thoughts spiral out of control due to feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or a loss of control in a situation, ask yourself why you are feeling that way? What lies are you telling yourself that are making you feel so overwhelmed? Acknowledge those lies and take back control of the situation by shifting your minds out of that negative pathway you have created and into a path of stillness instead. Create a detour in your brain by creating space in that moment by stopping and taking a series of long deep breaths in and out or if time permits set a timer for 5 minutes and try to meditate or pray. The goal is to calm your mind and your body and in time by developing this habit you can stop your mind from spiraling out of control.
*Sometimes depression can cause us to have thoughts of isolation. Whether it's lies we tell ourselves that "no one will understand", "no one is going to enjoy being around me," or more of a deep feeling of fear that says "if others discover who I truly am they won't like me, because I don't even like me right now." In those moments we need to identify what we are telling ourselves that's causing us these feelings of isolation. If it's thoughts such as "No one will understand or relate to what I'm going through" we need to acknowledge this as a lie we've been telling ourselves. No one has said this to you this is a lie you formulated rooted in your own fears and insecurities. Then instead of following through with isolating yourself shift your mindset to community. Create a new step, a new pathway in that moment. Instead of crawling back under the blanket reach out to a friend, a family member, a church, a support group, or maybe a running group whatever it looks like to you the point is do the opposite of isolating! Send a text or make a phone call and make a plan to be surrounded in community. Perhaps your new pathway is a combined pathway of repeating affirmations reminding yourself you are loved then reaching out and connecting with someone or a group. At first you won't feel like going but after creating a new pathway of community it's only time before you look forward to going!
*If you have feelings of worthlessness and purposelessness, ask yourself why do I feel this way? Identify what the lie is that you have conditioned telling yourself that are producing these feelings and acknowledge that how you feel doesn't define who you are. Then instead of spiraling down that rabbit hole of negative feelings about yourself you usually do choose to instead create an action plan! Evidence shows that helping others can also benefit our own mental health and wellbeing. It can reduce stress, improve our mood, self esteem and our happiness. Also, it gives us a sense of purpose. We have a tendency to think that our purpose should look and feel as big as the accomplishments of great men and women who have achieved great things. But the truth is most of those people didn't know those accomplishments were their purpose in the beginning. It was through simply following their heart and doing what felt right to them one step at a time that their purpose gained clarity as they took those steps! So when you are feeling with out purpose or feeling you have nothing to offer reroute those thoughts with a call to action! Start small, look around you what is a small thing you can do today to help someone else. Maybe it's helping your niece with her math, or maybe mowing your elderly neighbors yard, or offering to get someone's groceries. Whatever the act keep it simple at first then overtime perhaps through one step at a time you too will discover your purpose. Or perhaps the discovery will be that your purpose is simply doing what you can with the resources, talents and skills you have each day for those around you. "Helping one person might not change the whole world, but it could change the world for one person."
There are plenty of lies we tell ourselves in fact sadly to many to address on this blog. But I hope this gives you a starting point and an idea of how we can utilize mindfulness for our thoughts. While we may not be able to take every thought captive in every situation we face every day, we can learn to take 1 thought captive and in doing so affect every other thought that follows. You can't control circumstances that surround you but you can control your thoughts about it. You have a choice.