Recently talking to a client made me realize how easily we tend to berate and demean every thought we get. Even if it means something to us, we tend to belittle it because even though in our minds its driving us really frustrated, we aren’t wired to accept and run with it.
Recently so much has been spoken about mindset and positive thinking that it really can get exhausting after a while. With so many advises and concepts on mindset, it can become extremely overwhelming to say the least about what we think.
In my experience I’ve come to realize just how little importance and value we give to our thoughts. Sometimes we operate by the thoughts of other people without really weighing in on the effect it has on our lives. We keep battling with our thoughts, asking if these thoughts are good or bad? - “Am I supposed to think this way?” – this slowly becomes the normal question. We often conclude by saying, “if these thoughts are bad, then there must be something seriously wrong with me.”
4 ways to really understand your thoughts instead of running away from it -
#01 - Become aware – Instead of judging your thoughts, try to become more aware of it. In recent times, I’ve noticed that we’ve become so afraid if our thoughts that we try as best as we can to avoid what we assume are bad thoughts. Avoiding thoughts is not only unhealthy but extremely chaotic as well. Let’s assume there’s this one thought that keeps popping up in your head. For e.g., let’s say you think, “I’m not happy for this person. They don’t deserve this and I’m not happy they’re achieving this” – This thought by your definition is a bad thought. But the minute this thought comes into our mind, we try to suppress it. We force ourselves to think exactly the opposite of that thought. By doing this we’re not only suppressing the thought but also the feelings and emotions attached to it. But, when you bring this thought to your awareness, it helps you dig deeper. Which instead also reduces your anxiety, worry, guilt and shame.
#2 - Reflect on it – Reflection of thoughts is seriously not an easy process. It’s painful to say the least. I also understand why most of us prefer to shun it away instead of understanding it. But personally speaking, reflecting on my thoughts has helped me face most of my terrors. Sometimes our environmental conditioning has a huge impact on the way we think or the way we perceive our thoughts. Sometimes it’s our experiences that tend to create these doubts about our thoughts. Sometimes we tend to discard our thoughts calling it petty or stupid. But our thoughts bear some weightage and importance. It’s a sign. It’s a message. If there’s a thought that just refuses to leave from your conscious, it means you need to spend some time on it. Reflection is a great tool in my opinion. It’s extremely scary, yes, to look at our thoughts as is, could be very scary but it’s very effective.
#3 Express it – Have you heard of a concept called as the “Thought Dump”? What it really means is to let all our thoughts out in a flow on paper. Even if it doesn’t make sense. Even if it is grammatically incorrect. Even if you’ve used an abusive language. Its fine. Thought dump is the most effective way to express your thoughts without feeling violated or vulnerable or judged. Sometimes it’s not about understanding it as much as just letting it all out. It’s like a mental cleanse and release. Letting go of the toxic. Sometimes the feeling of freedom is temporary but it’s essential in the moment. Since what you express is in private it also allows you to be honest with yourself. The more you practice this the more you find a way to connect with your thoughts and the more you feel balanced and grounded.
#4 Re-frame – I see more and more people labelling their thoughts as good and bad. I’m not completely against it but what if we were to label our thoughts as healthy v/s unhealthy? When we label our thoughts as good and bad, we start to question our personality and morality. If we have thoughts of jealousy, envy, anger then we fall in “I’m a bad person” category. If we force ourselves to think positive then we fall in “I’m such a good person” category. This way we’re sending a message to our brain that no matter what thoughts relating to anger, jealousy, envy are bad thoughts. Eventually this line of thought and belief automatically blocks our growth in our personal and our professional life. When you take the same thoughts and re-frame them as unhealthy – that’s something you can work on. Bad is more of a dead-end. A way to say there’s no hope for this thought.
Choose a method or a way that you most relate with. If you feel like using these as 4 steps to understand your thoughts you could do that as well. These methods are kind of known and heard of but it doesn’t hurt to go over them again and use them in situations that follow.
Next time you have a thought, try to pause and think about the reason it’s popping up in your life. Focus on how to understand it instead of trying to get rid of it or running away from it. Trying to spend time to mindfully understand these thoughts do not really mean that you’re getting conscious. It ideally means that you’re getting more mindful about your thoughts. Be kind and patient with yourself. The thoughts that you’re trying to escape are here to change the way you perceive your life.
I hope this article helps you to mindfully understand your thoughts.