One of the true joys I have discovered throughout my life has been found when I am able to take the time necessary to step back, pause, and clear away the daily clutter of a highly imbalanced routine. When that opportunity arises, I am usually able to access the depth of reflection necessary to uncover any primary factors causing disruption and unhealthy emotional overload. Of course, this comes with a need to prioritize the invaluable time needed to reflect in such a way. If we are able to do so in order to access such clarity, we can begin to engage in deep reflection often leading to newfound coherent epiphanies to arrive at inspirational potential for positive change. What we are talking about here is our daily thought patterns.
Thought patterns develop over time, becoming habit-forming. Think about that for a moment. If we think about something in a certain way for long enough it will eventually become our memorized unconscious response moving forward. And we all know how challenging habits can be, to form or break. With that said, let’s break it down further. As referenced in my previous blog entry, our thoughts literally possess emotional movement. If you notice, when we fall into a negative thought pattern our entire being will emotionally sink, moving in a downward trajectory. That downward movement and energy usually yields a physical response (stress, anxiety, headaches, sadness, sleep loss, etc) as well. However, there is hope! The same goes for when we engage in a positive thought pattern. When we seek positivity, our entire being will emotionally move upward, rising into a bright and hopeful trajectory. This is often conveyed through physical responses of smiling, laughter, and increased energy.
Knowing that our thought patterns evoke powerful emotional movement, what can we do to train our minds to become the healthy, productive, meaningful thinkers we are capable of? Just like learning to play an instrument or mastering the fundamentals of a favorite sport, we must literally engage in intensive mental training exercises to master the skills to shift our current pattern. Consider the following suggestions I’ve learned throughout my personal and professional lives to shift the direction of your thinking today:
SELF-TALK: As we move about our daily lives, all of us engage or adhere to some form of self-talk. We are referring to those conscious every-day thoughts at the forefront of our mind, with variations of emotionally-driven daily narratives such as “I could never sing like that” or “they won’t think I’m good enough” or “what if my speech stinks"? It’s important to be aware that these surface-level/conscious thoughts are often the consequence of deeper unconscious beliefs/distortions we have come to believe as a result of people or factors influencing our thinking somewhere along the way. To shift the distorted direction of our thinking we must commit to becoming intentionally aware of our self-talk, and consistently replace negative thoughts with positive, accurate thoughts. It may feel unnatural to begin, but if we create a consistent habit, it will become our permanent unconscious pattern.
POSITIVE AFFIRMATIONS: Positive affirmations are emotionally supportive or encouraging words & thoughts. These are of vital importance to every child as they formulate a healthy self-concept. Every day, write down 3 positive things that either occurred throughout your day and/or about yourself. With consistency over time, this will transform your thought pattern from reviewing all that you feel guarded and negative about, to one where you are seeking the positive in every situation, about everyone you can. Again, this will lift you up rather than weigh you down.
POSITIVE IMAGERY: More commonly referred to as visualization, positive imagery is the internal process of imagining, visualizing, or seeing ourselves accomplishing what we set out to do, with ideally successful outcomes. Imagery is the creation of an internal video where you see yourself doing something perfectly from start to finish. This could be any performance such as playing a musical instrument, singing, a class presentation, or a sports skill. It is also useful for practicing a social interaction or asking someone out on a date. To begin, 1.) picture the setting and 2.) become acutely attuned to that place with all of your senses (sight, sound, smell, taste, feeling). Then 3.) picture yourself executing the desired action, step by step, to perfection. If there are mistakes that occur, it’s ok. Pause, rewind, and do it over the right way. Once complete, practice this positive imagery “video” in a quiet place for 10-15 minutes each day.
There are other ways to redirect the movement of our thinking, such as staying connected with others to provide a variety of perspectives, but I thought these three achievable suggestions can provide a nice starting point. Remember, as is the case with mastering any physical skill or habit, we must intentionally commit to daily mental practice with consistency. Just as our negative patterns evolved out of repetition into an eventual habit, so too will these positive thought patterns as they transcend the old, providing greater inspiration, meaning, and purpose for your life. Take ACTION, expand your mind, and remember that negativity drains our energy, while positivity increases it, lifting us up!
*If you continue to struggle & need additional support, reach out to your local mental health agency or healthcare provider. Be sure to say something to someone!