Has this ever happened to you? You wake up from a dream and you have a hard time deciding if it truely WAS a dream or if it really happened?
Just like a dream, thoughts are powerful and they can be deceptive. It’s easy to interpret our thoughts as reality and truth. In fact, thoughts are so powerful, that over time, they might dictate who we are and how we act. And it is these thoughts and self-stories that can allow us to excel or limit us.
The Power of Negativity
In order for humans to evolve, our brains focus on survival. Our brains are information gatherers, paying attention to situations that may cause harm so we can avoid those situations in the future.
For example: Why do you wear a seatbelt?
- Your brain has been flooded with images and messages about what can happen in a car accident if you don’t wear a seatbelt.
- You know if you don’t wear a seatbelt, you could get a fine.
This focus on negative experiences and situations (the fear of) influences you to repeat that behavior (wear a seatbelt) to ensure survival.
On the other hand, this focus on survival means we’re more likely to remember the negative experiences in our life rather than the positive ones.
Where the Problem Lies
Focusing on negative experiences and situations can save our lives and ensure evolution. That was great when we were running from tigers and bears. Now, this negative focus can perpetuate stress, depression, anxiety, disordered eating, and other concerns.
The Power to Retrain our Thoughts
Although our thoughts may seem very real, they are not always reality. We have the power to retrain our mind to view thoughts as they are: thoughts.
You are not your thoughts.
The thoughts your mind produces are simply thoughts and it is up to you to act on those thoughts or let them be. When we accept all thoughts as truth, especially if the thoughts are critical or negative, they can cause ongoing harm and pain.
You Are Not Your Thoughts
The first step to retraining your thoughts is to acknowledge that you ARE NOT your thoughts. You are the thinker. The thinker cannot be the thought. When your mind produces a thought, you are not that thought. You, in fact, are the observer, and you have the power to accept what is being observed or to deny it.
Practice Observing Your Thoughts
To help understand the difference between you and your thoughts, practice stepping back from your thoughts.
- Notice the thought: I am thinking that I should just quit now.
- Restate the thought: My mind is telling me that I will fail.
- Observe the thought: I’m observing the thought that I should quit now because I “always” fail.
- Relate to the thought: The memory of that sinking feeling the last time I tried something new is coming to mind.
- Reframe the thought: I am feeling nervous and anxious about the unknown as I take my first steps trying something new.
When we choose a new way to relate and respond to our thoughts, we can begin to see the difference between ourselves (the thinker) and the thoughts. We can begin to see how we have the power to act on the thought or move past the thought.